The Amazon River city of Manaus has begun three days of official mourning for the death of a beekeeper. He was the beekeeper, research scientist, geneticist, educator, and political activist, Dr Warwick Kerr. The mayor of Manaus declared the tribute and the city’s two million residents were reminded of the man who worked tirelessly to improve the welfare of the people of the rainforest and all of Brazil.
Most people will know of Dr Kerr for bringing Africanized genetic stock to Brazil to replace the less-adapted European bees which were not doing well in the tropics. His work resulted in a vast increase in Brazil’s honey production (from 15 million to 110 million pounds per year). I wrote about Dr Kerr on Saturday, the day he died, but as we take one last look at Professor Kerr’s life, I will share part of his family’s official statement. I received it from Warwick Kerr’s granddaughter and I have copy-edited it just a bit. The granddaughter, Dr Priscilla Kerr, also sent photographs, so I am sharing two of them here.
Our family communicates with extreme regret the passing of our father, Prof. Warwick Estevam Kerr, an active citizen and one of the great bee specialists of the world. Prof Kerr was the first scientific director of FAPESP (Foundation of Amparo, a member of the state of São Paulo, Research of the Amazon), and a Rector of State University of Maranhão. He graduated from ESALQ (higher school of agriculture Luiz de Queiroz – USP), where he also taught genetics, was founder of the biology departments of the Faculty of Philosophy, Science and Letters of Rio Claro – state university São Paulo, the University of Rio de Janeiro. His Department of Biology of the Federal University of Maranhão contributed markedly to the development of the Institute of Genetics and Biochemistry of Federal University of Uberlândia, among numerous academic endeavours.
He was a good man. He was also president of SBPC (Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science) and of the Brazilian Society of Genetics, a member of ABC (Brazilian Academy of Sciences), a member of the 3rd World Academy Holder and the first Brazilian scientist to be elected as a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). There was great recognition of his academic production. He was always involved with research that yielded advances in the management and advancement of bees.
Today, Africanized Honey Bees are very important in the production Brazilian honey, and he always acted under the principle of sustainable management between teaching, research and extension, constantly seeking to establish relations with the population and social movements, to transfer knowledge and research results to them directly.
His political convictions earned him two arrests during the military dictatorship established in 1964 and he was under constant surveillance by the dictatorial security bodies at that time. His generous spirit from an early age made him embrace the idea of a socialist utopia, acting by building a fair and egalitarian society where science and other knowledge are at the service of the majority of the population. Warwick Estevam Kerr died in Ribeirão Preto at the age of 96 from respiratory arrest, 9 a.m., September 15, 2018.