Internationally recognized African-Canadian scientist is celebrated
By McGill Reporter Staff
The Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, last week recognized the national historic significance of Ernest Melville DuPorte, whose scientific research propelled Canada into the forefront of parasitology.
“Dr. Ernest Melville DuPorte’s contribution to the study of insects and their critical economical roles in the destruction of crops and forests as well as their role in the transmission of diseases to humans and livestock have been recognized world-wide,” said Minister Prentice. “He is still today recognized as one of Canada’s greatest insect morphologists.”
E. Melville DuPorte was born on the Island of Nevis, British West Indies and attended Macdonald College in 1911, where he remained for the next 70 years. In the early 1920s, he became the first person of African descent to teach at McGill.
DuPorte’s achievements in entomology are numerous. He spearheaded the establishment of the Institute of Parasitology at McGill’s Macdonald Campus, which still today works worldwide with governments and agro-producers to eradicate plant, animal and human parasites. He had taught more than half the practicing entomologists in Canada by the time of his retirement in 1957, led the university’s Entomology Department, and published the Manual of Insect Morphology, which is now a classic text book.
Despite his achievements, recognition came slowly. It was only through extreme perseverance that he was able to break through racial barriers and achieve international stature in his profession.
“I had always hoped that many more Canadians would be able to learn about the long history of Blacks in Canada and their outstanding contributions in the face of great adversity,” said Dr. Dorothy Williams, historian, author and proponent for DuPorte’s designation. “Ernest Melville DuPorte’s life exemplifies this dichotomy of being Black in Canada. Outstanding scientist, scholar and a teacher of repute, DuPorte was a Canadian pioneer and I hope that his commemoration will spur Black youth to excel further in whatever endeavours they choose.”
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada regarding the national historic significance of places, people and events that have marked Canada’s history. Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites that make up the rich tapestry of Canada’s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries.