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British Industrial History

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Alfred Lewis Jones

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Alfred Lewis Jones (1849-1909), a Liverpool business man and shipowner, provided the necessary funds for the establishment of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1898.

The increase in the volume of trade between Britain and the West African coast in the latter half of the nineteenth century resulted in a dramatic increase in patients suffering from tropical diseases such as malaria arriving in Britain. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph Chamberlain, was prompted to appeal for the provision of special instruction in Tropical Medicine for doctors employed in the Colonial Service. Alfred Lewis Jones answered his appeal at the Annual Dinner of the students of the Liverpool Royal Southern Hospital on 12 November 1898. Recognising the serious threat posed by such diseases not only to the wider community but also to his employees and to his shipping line's profits, Jones proposed to contribute £350 per annum for three years to the study of Tropical Medicine. His offer was accepted by William Adamson, the President of the hospital. Proposals were drawn up to form a Committee for the running of the Liverpool School of Tropical Diseases, later to become the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and the School was formed.

Born in Carmarthenshire in 1845, Jones served an apprenticeship to the managers of the African Steamship Company in Liverpool from the age of twelve, and by the age of twenty-six had risen to the rank of Manager. He decided to strike out on his own in 1875, setting up his own profitable shipping line in Liverpool under the name Alfred L. Jones and Co.

c.1881 he was offered a managerial post by Elder Dempster and Co in Liverpool, which he accepted on condition that he could purchase a number of shares in the company. By 1890 he had, by further share purchases, acquired full control of the company and went on to make it a great success.

1884 Jones, by now the controlling partner of Elder Dempster and Company, introduced the banana to the British mass market, and did everything possible to popularize the fruit and make a market for it.

1889 Introduced the first ship's refrigerator in the West African trade, and was largely responsible for the development of the Canary Isles and West Indies banana trades.

Alfred Jones turned his attention to other routes and took over the Dominion Line's trade between the Bristol Channel and Canada.

1898 Took over the Canadian Beaver Line.

1901 Jones was knighted in 1901. He took a keen interest in Imperial affairs and his role in the founding of the Liverpool School of Tropical Diseases was testament to this. He possessed territorial interests in West Africa and financial interests in many companies engaged in opening up and developing that part of the world.

When he died in 1909 he left several large charitable bequests; one was the sum of £10,000 to the School for the erection and equipment of a research laboratory in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The Sir Alfred Lewis Jones Laboratory was completed and opened in 1922, a fitting memorial to the man who had played such a pivotal role in bringing the School into existence.


Obituary 1909 [1]

. . . the head of the Elder Dempster Steamship Co, died in his sixty-fourth year.

Sir Alfred was born at Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, . . . [more]



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