Julian A. Banzon, outstanding scientist, scholar, professor, and biophysical chemist, was born in Balanga, Bataan on March 25, 1908. His parents were Manuel S. Banzon and Arcadia Arca.
After obtaining the degree of Bachelor of Science in chemistry at the University of the Philippines in 1930, he was immediately hired as assistant instructor at the Up College of Agriculture. He served there for one year before being promoted to instructor in agricultural chemistry in the same college in 1931. As a UP pensionado, he began pursuing graduate studies at the Iowa State university in the United States in 1937, and consequently obtained a doctor of philosophy degree in biochemistry (minor in micro-biology), in 1940. His doctoral dissertation was about the “fermentative utilization of cassava.”
Upon his return to the Philippines, Dr. Banzon was named assistant professor in agricultural chemistry at the UP College of Agriculture, teaching as such until 1951. From 1951 to 1955, he concurrently occupied three positions: associate professor, associate chemist, and assistant head of the Department of Agricultural Chemistry. In 1956, he received the ICA Type A grant for his study on the use of radioisotopes in agriculture. Two years later, he accepted his appointment as chief scientist of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission. He marked a milestone in his career in 1960 when he became the first director of the Philippine Atomic Research Center. At the end of his term in 1963, he was given a plaque of appreciation for his exemplary leadership and service by the PAEC.
He returned to the UP College of Agriculture, where he served as professor and chairman of the department of agriculture chemistry from August 1, 1963 to March 24, 1970. Subsequently, from March 25, 1970 to June 30, 1972, he was the officer-in-charge of the division of food science and technology at the UP in Los Baños. He wound up his career in science and education as professor of food and science technology from July 1972 to March 1973, when he retired from the Up College of Agriculture.
Renowned in the field of chemistry, Dr. Banzon gained recognition for his notable researches on the Philippine coconut and other indigenous materials as “renewable sources of chemicals and fuels.” He pioneered in the study not just of the coconut, but also of the sugar cane, in the Philippines, and produced the first authoritative work on the derivation of fuels, specifically ethyl esters, from these two crops. Moreover, he developed new and scientific methods, such as the chemical extraction of surplus coconut oil, in place of the more commonly used physical process.
On July 14, 1959 he was awarded a certificate of merit for “Outstanding Research Work on Extraction of Coconut Oil” by the office of the secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Other awards he received included a plaque as outstanding chemical graduate given by the UP Chemical Society of the Philippines, bestowed by the society itself in 1972, and the PHILSUGIN award for research, given by the Crop Society of the Philippines in 1976. In 1978, the Professional Regulation Commission conferred on him the “Chemist of the Year” award. Two years later, he was given the Distinguished Service Award by the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines, Incorporated, and in 1986, the state university honored him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Dr. Banzon was frequently invited to attend scientific conferences all over the world. In 1960, he participated in the meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and in the general conference of the same year, held in Vienna, Austria. In October of the following year, he attended the Fourth Japan Conference on Radioisotopes, convened in Kyoto, Japan. He was, likewise, at the IAEA’s Study Group Meeting on the Utilization of Research Reactors, which took place in Bangkok, Thailand from December 17-21, 1962. He was also a
Philippine delegate to the 11th Pacific Science Congress held in Tokyo, Japan in August 1966, as well as to the 12th Pacific Science Congress held in Canberra, Australia, in August 1971.
Aside from teaching at UP Los Baños, Dr. Banzon also served on the university committee in agricultural sciences and on several ad hoc committees. He was a member of various organizations, including the Society for the Advancement of Research, the Sigma Xi of Iowa State University, the Radioisotopes Society of the Philippines, and the Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture (UP Los Baños Chapter), which he served as president. He likewise served as chairman of the division of chemical and pharmaceutical science of the National Research Council of the Philippines and as member of the board of directors of the Chemical Society of the Philippines, from 1972 to 1973.
On July 9, 1981, together with Dr. Clare Baltazar, an entomologist, and Dr. Armando M. Dalisay, an economist, Dr. Banzon was named a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology. Later, from 1985 to 1988, he served as member of the NAST executive council.
In July 1986, he was conferred the title of National Scientist by President Corazon Aquino for his outstanding contributions in the field of chemistry in the Philippines. It was a tribute he had long deserved.
Dr. Banzon was married to Vicencia Fernandez, by whom he had 10 children. He died on September 13, 1988 at the age of 80.