Faculty staff attended to Prof. (Eng.) R. H. Paul 36th Memorial Oration

D. S. Sampath attended Prof. (Eng.) R. H. Paul 36th Memorial Oration on 9th Feb 2017 at Wimalasurendra Auditorium, Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka, Colombo. This was organized by Electrical and Electronic Engineering Sectional Committee of IESL. Lecture was delivered on the topic of ‘Enabling Power systems of the future” by Eng. (Prof) Kithsiri M Liyanage, Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya.

More information can be found here.

When we strive to make our electricity generation more and more greener, and consequently when we are concerned about producing sufficient local engineering talents to take up these challenges, it would be appropriate to remember the personality, who laid the foundation for the electrical engineering education in the country and was instrumental in setting up the industries that could give the right opportunities for the electrical engineering graduates to practice in the country, the late legend Eng. (Prof.). R.H. Paul. It is no exaggeration to pronounce him as the father of electrical engineering education in Sri Lanka, considering the enormous services that this son of the soil has rendered to the motherland in pioneering to set up the electrical engineering education in the country.

Born on 9th February 1904, Prof. Paul was an extra ordinarily bright student, who received his B.Sc. (General) degree from University of London, with First Class Honours, through the University College, Colombo, at the very young age of 20. He was awarded the Coomaraswamy Prize for Physics and Ceylon Government Engineering Scholarship for further studies in the United Kingdom. He joined the University of Cambridge and obtained his Mechanical Sciences Tripos with First Class Honours in 1928, the first Sri Lankan to achieve this distinction. After an apprenticeship with the Metropolitan Vickers Electric Company, Manchester, which would have set the stepping stone for all his industrial exposure for his future professional activities, he returned to the country in 1930.

He joined the Ceylon Technical College, Colombo, the only institution offering courses in engineering in the country at that time, as a Lecturer. However, he did not limit himself for mere lecturing, but realizing the need for advancement of engineering education in the country, worked tirelessly to develop higher level electrical engineering courses and establish laboratory facilities at the Ceylon Technical College. His hard work paid-off when the University of London recognized the Ceylon Technical College, in 1942, as an institution to prepare students for its prestigious B.Sc. (Engineering) external degree programs. It was those improvements he brought about to the curriculum and laboratory facilities that were largely attributed to the above recognition. With no surprise, he was appointed as the first Professor of Electrical Engineering of the College. He was then made the director of the College the post that he held from 1944 to 1949. He was also the Registrar of Patents at the same time.

In 1950, when the University of Ceylon established its Faculty of Engineering, Prof. Paul was one of its founder members and was the natural choice as its first Professor of Electrical Engineering, the position he held until his retirement in 1968. Prof. Paul once again displayed his professionalism as an academic, in developing the courses of study in Electrical Engineering, planning and establishing the laboratory facilities for the programs and training the technical staff for the faculty, both at its temporary facilities in Colombo as well as when it was shifted to the permanent facilities in Peradeniya, later. The legacy of the spacious and well planned electrical engineering laboratory complex of the Peradeniya Engineering faculty stands as the testimony for his professionalism and futuristic planning, in developing the concept for the same. Thus, he successfully met the challenges vested on him to produce academically sound and technically skillful set of electrical engineers to shoulder the post-independence needs of Sri Lanka. By the time of his retirement, the faculty of engineering had produced about 130 electrical engineers and the department had earned the recognition and prestige internationally.

Despite of all the infrastructure shortcomings to do research as well as the heavy burden of developing those facilities, courses of study and heavy teaching schedules, Prof. Paul was still able find time to produce scientific papers of international repute, published overseas. One such paper, published in the Journal of Institution of Electrical Engineers, UK, became the evidence of his research capabilities when it earned him the Institution’s Overseas Premium in 1944.

Prof. Paul was a respected electrical engineering academic as well as a successful engineering practitioner. The government sought his valuable service on various occasions. He was appointed a member of the Commission on Broadcasting and Information (1965) and the Advisory Board of Technical Education (1966), to name a few. He extended his support to the Department of Electrical Undertaking which later became the Ceylon Electricity Board, towards developing the electrical engineering industries in the country.
His natural interest in upholding the status of engineering profession in the country and all his efforts in realizing the same was well recognized and adored when the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka elected him as its President in 1968, for which he was undoubtedly deserved. He was also the Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, UK and was its Overseas Representative in Sri Lanka, from 1964 to 1978. He was a founder member of the Sri Lanka Association for Advancement of Science and he served as its General President also in 1945.

Prof. Paul passed away in 1978 at the age of 74. He sacrificed all his potential opportunities in the greener pastures of the United Kingdom for his motherland and remained in Sri Lanka to lay foundation and build an illustrious profession in electrical engineering for his countrymen. He was committed and worked relentlessly for the cause. He was equally concerned about both the academic development and professional practice of electrical engineering graduates passing out from the department. He believed in the application of the engineering knowledge and its capabilities in uplifting the standards of living in this country and strived to realize those broader goals at large, at the expense of his personal goals. Thus he became a lasting role model for all the engineers in the country serving in various public and private sector institutions, who trace their ancestry in profession to the late Professor. The University of Ceylon conferred the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) on Prof. Paul posthumously, at its convocation in 1980, in recognition of the yeomen service of Prof. Paul.

The Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka (IESL) honours this celebrated past member and one of its Past-Presidents with a long tradition of an annual Eng. (Prof.) R.H. Paul Memorial Lecture series, delivered by a senior electrical engineering academic, on the date of birth of the late Professor.

(36th memorial oration will be delivered by Eng. (Prof.) Kithsiri M Liyanage at 1715 hrs on February 9 on ‘Enabling Power Systems of the future’ at the Wimalasurendra Auditorium, IESL,120/15, Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 07)
Organized by – Electrical and Electronic Engineering Sectional Committee.