Anti-racism chief given knighthood

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A LEADING anti-racism campaigner has been knighted in the New Year’s Honours.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, president of the Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council, was previously awarded an OBE in 2003.

Appointed as Scotland’s first and only black professor in 2011, he is also a prominent charity fundraiser.

Now Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, Sir Geoffrey was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica, in 1940, before moving to London to join his mother in 1955.

In 1958, he landed a role at the University of London and, living close to the immigrant community, often aided those who struggled with reading and writing.

Having encountered difficulties in applying to university as there were no general provisions for new immigrants, he finally managed to gain a degree in Botany in 1964, and was offered a PhD place at Edinburgh University the same year.

Ever the hard worker, Sir Geoffrey gained his PhD in less than three years, and went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship before joining the Research Foundation of the British Brewing Industry in Surrey.

During this period, he successfully made millions of pounds for the brewing and distilling industry thanks to his development of the abrasion process, which radically changed the malting procedure.

By 1977, Sir Geoffrey had vacated his position as senior scientist and moved to Heriot-Watt University as a lecturer.

In 1985, he gained his DSc (Doctor of Science), a rare research degree among British scientists.

Sir Geoffrey has now lost count of his publications on cereal grains, but has produced at least 150 scientific papers.

He has also produced many PhD and MSc students from different parts of the world.

In 2008, he became the fourth and only European to be honoured with the America Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) Award for distinction in scientific research and good citizenship.

He moved to Penicuik in 1977, where he still lives today with his wife. He has two daughters and a son. Sir Geoffrey’s exploits have been rewarded locally – in 2002 he was awarded the Good Citizen of Edinburgh award, which is handed out occasionally by the city council for exceptional contribution to community work and race relations.

A decade later, he was given the Freedom of Midlothian.

Away from work, his hobbies include reading, listening to pop music and travelling.

On being given a knighthood, he said: “There are many factors. You have got some ability and you do some hard work but at the end of the day, it is [thanks to] the people who worked with me and my mother, who put up with me and looked after me. She would have been over the moon.”