Mr. Arnoldo Ventura

Arnoldo Ventura

Dr. Arnoldo Khaleel Ventura has been the Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister of Jamaica on science and technology since 1989. Prior to this, he studied human viruses, especially those circulated by arthropods or arboviruses, and those modified as vaccines for children. He researched the natural history and pathogenesis of viruses in the Caribbean, including dengue and those causing encephalitis infections in man and animals. These investigations required the determination of the role of birds and their ectoparasites in viral transmission.

Through these studies, he discovered two new genera and six new species of bird mites. He also discovered a new group of viruses that was circulating in birds without showing overt symptoms in them. He was also the first to uncover the viruses that caused dengue fevers in Jamaica using a novel tissue culture technique, which led to easier diagnosis, treatment and prediction of the outcome of the disease in the Caribbean. Dr. Ventura has also been credited with the development of tissue culture methods for the identification and recovery of viruses.

Working in depressed communities in different countries, sparked Dr. Ventura’s desire to find workable solutions to social equities and economic imbalances. He surmised that the power of science could be a useful tool in this quest. He became an avid student of the use of conventional and advanced technologies (such as those dealing with alternate energy, food and feed, communication, and limestone mining) for this purpose.

In Jamaica he promoted programmes in agro-biotechnology long before this technology became popular for poverty eradication. He also was among the first to advocate policies and implementation plans for the development of Jamaica’s scientific and technological infrastructure and its management. He encouraged both the media and private citizens to develop a greater awareness of science and technology and packaged information for varied audiences using the medium of television and newspapers. He also published booklets on scientific methods for wide dissemination.

Dr. Ventura is well known internationally for his work in the promotion of science and technology for economic development, and recently held the post of Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) in Geneva. He is the current President of the Inter-American Committee on Science and Technology (COMCYT) in Washington.

Arnoldo Ventura was born on 16th November 1937 in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended the Windward Road Government Primary School and Kingston College. He grew up in a loving family and considered himself privileged to have had good parents and attentive relatives. During his childhood he admired and enjoyed the trees, birds, bees and butterflies, which often frequented the shrubbery in his yard. His inquisitiveness led him to love and understand the wonders of nature. His parents encouraged his inquiry and his fascination to learn and inquire. He enjoyed reading, being outdoors, walking, fishing, swimming, and playing football and cricket. He also wrote poetry and prose for relaxation.

His favourite subjects in school were the sciences and despite regular bouts of respiratory illness and dyslexia, he performed well academically and secured a Jamaican Government Exhibition Scholarship in 1957. He pursued his Bachelor of Science degree at the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) at Mona. His zoology teacher inspired him and led him to find the answers to the questions that he pondered on while growing up. He became fascinated with understanding the linkages between man and nature. He continued his postgraduate education at UCWI obtaining a Master of Science degree.

His virological work gained him exposure to the then emerging field of arbovirology, and through a US Public Health Fellowship, he was able to pursue his doctoral degree at Cornell University in 1963.

While studying for his postgraduate degree, he developed an interest in how viruses wielded their influence in human beings, especially the unborn child, birds and insects. His studies in virology, which begun at this level, were not his primary focus initially, but they offered the opportunity to understand their interaction in nature, which was always an area of keen interest. Later he joined teams working on organ transplantation where viruses can be fatal.

For the period, 1969-1977, Dr. Ventura worked as a researcher and professor of virology at both at the University of the West Indies and the University of Miami. From 1981 to 1989 he lectured at Cornell University in New York, Florida International University, Nova South-eastern University in Florida, and El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City. During this period he was active in studies and professional activities in Africa and Asia. When he returned home in 1977 he became the Executive Chairman of the Scientific Research Council of Jamaica. He wanted to merge his basic scientific training with development issues and his new position gave him the opportunity to develop science and technology policies for the island to aid in the eradication of poverty.

During the period 1997 to 1981 he also held various national and international posts, which included memberships on boards of technological statutory bodies in Jamaica and Advisor to multilateral bodies and governments. He also performed consultancies, evaluations and surveys on techno-economic and industrial development worldwide and played a prominent role in the second major global conference on Science and Technology for Development, held in Vienna in 1979.

Dr. Ventura has gained many accolades, including the Silver Musgrave Medal (2002), Order of Distinction (Commander) for the development of science and technology in Jamaica (2001), the Visionary Achievement Citation from the Wyndham Hotel Chain (1993) and Centenary Medal of the Institute of Jamaica (1980).

Dr Ventura advises young people, “that if you read a lot and study the Sciences, you will have rewarding careers,” adding that one should not be, “deterred by the permissive values what you presently see around you, and get into professions only for the money.” He states that “scientists don’t make a lot of money, but the excitement, pleasure and satisfaction are so rewarding that it is a feeling than you cannot experience in any other profession.” He lives by the philosophy that: “Science allows us to better understand that life is a privileged and short interaction with each other, and a learning, respectful and joyful relationship with the environment. Once we understand this, we can make the world a better place.”

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