Dr. Bert Achong
- Clinical Pathologist

"A great Trinidadian scientist." -Prof. Courtenay Bartholomew, UWI.

Bert Geoffrey Achong was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on December 6th 1928. He was an outstanding student, who copped the Jerningham Medal Gold for top performance in Higher School Certificate Examinations in 1946 and also won the St. Mary’s College science scholarship.

Achong studied medicine at the University College in Dublin, Ireland, obtaining his MD in 1953. He specialised as a clinical pathologist at Lambeth Hospital in London, England. Dr Achong then joined Sir Anthony Epstein, a leading researcher in viruses associated with cancer at the Bland Sutton Institute at Middlesex Hospital, where he made some very important discoveries.

Dr Achong’s training in electron microscopy was a major contribution to Sir Epstein’s research team which was made up of himself, Sir Epstein and Dr Yvonne Barr. In 1964, when conducting studies on in vitro cultivation of Burkitt’s lymphoma (an African childhood tumour) he was able to produce electron micrographs which pinpointed particles of a virus of the herpes family. This virus then became known as the Epstein - Barr virus or EBV. Since that time, the EBV has been associated with two forms of human cancers and is also considered as ‘the favoured explanation’ of chronic fatigue syndrome. Therefore this team, of which Achong was an integral part, improved scientific understanding of and progress in several areas of medical research.

Apart from this major breakthrough discovery, Dr Achong also discovered another virus while examining human cancer cells in 1971. This virus, at the time termed a “Foamy Virus” belonged to the family of retroviruses (viruses which contain RNA as the hereditary material in place of the more common DNA) and was the first example of this type of infection in man.

Dr Achong wrote several scientific articles on his discoveries and also authored and edited books in his area of research. Key among these was a book co-edited with his team leader, Sir Anthony Epstein, The Epstein-Barr Virus. He lectured for many years in the Department of Pathology at the University of Bristol in England. He was known to be a dynamic presenter who had a gift for inspiring students, making difficult subjects seem straightforward and making his subject area very exciting.

Achong was bestowed with the Doctorate in Science (DSc) and the Doctorate in Medicine by the National University of Ireland and was also a Foundation Fellow of the Pathology Faculty of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and Fellow of the Royal College of Pathology, England. Though he did not work in the Caribbean region, Dr Bert Achong maintained a deep seated loyalty to his home of Trinidad, visiting it as often as he could. He will always be recognised as one of our region’s gifted sons.

Dr Bert Geoffrey Achong passed away at the age of 67 on November 20th 1996.


Web Links:


Selected Publications:
  • Achong, B. G.; Mansell, P. W. A.; Epstein, M. A. and Clifford, P. (1971) "An unusual virus in cultures from a human nasopharyngeal carcinoma." J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 46:299-307

  • Achong BG, Mansell PW, Epstein MA, Clifford P. (1971) An unusual virus in cultures from a human nasopharyngeal carcinoma. J Natl Cancer Inst. 46: 299-307.

  • Achong, B.G. (1973) Proceedings: EB virus and other diseases J Clin Pathol 26: 988.

  • Epstein, M.A., Achong, B.G. and Barr, Y.M. (1964) Virus particles in cultured lymphoblasts from Burkitt’s lymphoma. Lancet 1: 702-3.

  • Epstein, MA, Barr YM, Achong BG. (1965) Studies with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. 4:69-82. Wistar Institute Symposium Monograph.

  • Epstein, M.A., Achong,B.G., Barr,Y.M., Zajac,B., Henle,G., and Henle,W. (1966) Morophological and virological investigations on cultured Burkitt tumor lymphoblasts (strain Raji). J. Natl. Cancer Inst., 37: 547-559.

  • Epstein M.A. and Achong, B.G. (1973) The EBV virus. Ann Rev Microb 27:413-36

  • Epstein, M.A. and Achong, B.G. (1979) The Epstein-Barr Virus. New York: Springer-Verlag.

  • St. Mary’s College, Trinidad

  • University College, Dublin, Ireland


Doctorate in Science and Doctorate in Medicine, National University of Ireland.

  • Fellow, Pathology Faculty of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

  • Fellow, Royal College of Pathology, England

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