2021 Winner

Sir Godfrey Palmer

First black professor in Scotland who discovered a key brewing process and has been a powerful voice in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sir Godfrey Palmer, known as Geoff, was born in Jamaica but moved to the UK at the age of 15. His dressmaker single mum Ivy Larmond-Palmer was part of the Windrush generation and saved up for four years to get the £86 for his ticket.

She would later become a victim of the Windrush scandal and faced deportation. Her son had a plaque placed in George Square Garden at Edinburgh University to commemorate her life.

Despite being assessed as educationally subnormal at his first school, Sir Geoff’s cricket skills earned him a place at Highbury County Grammar School. He went on to a degree in botany at the University of Leicester. 

He discovered the barley abrasion process, subsequently adopted by the UK’s biggest breweries, and became Scotland’s first black professor in 1988. He is now emeritus professor in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University as well as their new chancellor. He won the equivalent of a Nobel prize for brewing in 1998.

During the last year Sir Geoff has been a powerful voice in the movement for change prompted by Black Lives Matter, after many years as a human rights activist including campaigning for a reinterpretation of the Melville Monument in Edinburgh honouring Henry Dundas.

Sir Geoff said of his award: “I consider this award a great honour, not just for me but for all the people who supported me throughout my life.  It means so much and it feels fantastic to be recognised for all my work.”