Saturday, November 26, 2011

Teacher par excellence and gentleman by nature - by Kumar David

Published in

There is no one mould into which all great men fit; some are remembered for an achievement or a contribution that changed the world, others for the influence they had on those who came in touch with them, still others for style, or honour, or for a job well done over a lifetime. In the narrower ambit of academic pursuit there are scholars who make valued contributions, wonderful teachers, and still others who make their students who and what they are. Then there are men for all seasons; they stand before a class with passion and erudition, they elucidate with limpid clarity, and outside class they are men of unmistakable honour, remembered not only till they shuffle off this mortal coil, but rather till those who sat in their classrooms, once upon a time, remain among the quick.

Everard Frederick Bartholomeusz, born on December 30, 1920 in Ceylon who died in the US on October 22, this year, Freddie to his colleagues and Batho to an ever appreciative retinue of students, was one of them. Those who had the privilege of schooling in the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Ceylon in the 1960s supped on the finest academic fare offered, by any university, at any time, in this country. Devotees of other disciplines, or from other vintages, may incline to say otherwise, but it is unlikely any can win the unanimous acclaim that this proposition will score among those who were there at that time.

There were giants and there were men of many colours; Professors E.O.E. Pereira and Robert Paul were giants, respected like no other across the nation’s engineering space. It is said that when Paul spoke to the Bursar on the telephone, the latter stood up at the other end of the line to say his, “Yes Sir.” Was Mahalingam (Dr, not yet Prof, in my time) more brilliant or more precise? Then nearer my age, there was brave Alagiah Thurairaja, blue-eyed boy of the academic record-books and founder of a research culture in the Faculty, who I am proud to call friend, colleague and comrade. There were others, colourful, bright, larger than life, but I have to return to my theme, Batho, who latched perfectly into this setting and its intellectual ethos. Batho’s claim to fame, apart from personal rectitude, was that his students, probably without exception, would name him as the best teacher they ever had.

Brilliant record

Batho was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Darley Road, and then took a First in Mathematics at the London University External BSc degree in 1942. He read for a PhD in Cambridge and graduated in 1955 in which year he also married Evelyn. Sometimes Evelyn would ride up to Sampson’s Bungalow on the pillion of Batho’s scooter to the admiring but shaded eyes of Batho’s students. They had two children, both boys.

Batho was promoted to founder Professor of Engineering Mathematics in 1965. He left Sri Lanka for Zambia in 1974. He chatted to a very junior me: “Kumar, I decided to look for a job overseas the day they introduced media-wise standardisation into university admissions; I knew my boys would never be given a fair chance.” Batho was a Burgher and he was also sensitive to broader issues of ethnic discrimination after 1956, which again raised its ugly head after 1970.

An essential aspect of Batho’s method was that his was a course in engineering mathematics, not mathematics, and his department was Engineering Mathematics. I have worked in several universities in many continents and found it difficult to get this concept across, especially when as a Head or a Dean I favoured bringing the teaching of mathematics to engineering students closer to home. It is not that teaching must be done by engineers, Batho and his successor Prof. Samuel graduated in mathematics; it is to do with the mind-set. Batho and Sammy bridged the gap skilfully by immersing themselves in an engineering culture. In class, they never slacked on formal mathematical rigour, and it was more than simply using engineering examples as illustrations, it was about academic identity.

This brings me to another matter. I am often asked about my interest in Marxism and politics. Most people assume that my background is in political science, or economics or maybe history. And this presumed paradox extends beyond my case to many engineers drawn to political theory, social and environmental issues and even active politics. The question often asked is: ‘How come so many of you engineering types have got into this trying to change the world business?’ Apart from the obvious reply that all men and women should be concerned about the world they live in, there is a deeper and truer answer. Those most fit to change the modern world are those who stand at the intersection of engineering and political science, the cross roads of science and sociology. Without an ambidextrous aptitude it is not possible to make programmatic sense in modern times.

Professors Thurairajah, R.H. Paul, Mahalingam and Batho grasped the social and political meaning of their times. I will not say that those of us engineers who came to politics did so because of these associations, there were much stronger influences at work outside, but it would be correct to say we enjoyed these interactions. Batho was not political in the usual sense of the term, but moral responsibility propelled him inexorably into the affairs of the university community. University reform proposals – sometimes wise and sometimes not, government interference bent on curbing academic freedom or breaking up legitimate student activity, and the customary quota of student unrest, would find Batho concerned and involved. Maybe drafting staff position papers; maybe wading into the thick of troubles where the respect he commanded enabled him to pacify anger; that was Batho. Unfortunately, everywhere, such interventions became tense and less productive in the context of 1971 and thereafter because it didn’t stop there. Now in Sri Lanka we live in an age of moral and social autism and the university ethos and community have decayed in proportion.

Manners are never enforceable and Batho’s life was proof of it; his gentlemanly disposition came entirely naturally and from the inside. “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world: This was a Man!”

-Kumar David


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you and Goodbye Prof. Bartholomeusz by Vickramabahu Karunaratne

(Published at:

All of us who were students of Batho in the Faculty of Engineering Peradeniya were deeply affected when we got the following message from his son Brian.

“After a lifetime spent in the unselfish devotion to the interest of others Prof. Frederick Bartholomeusz peacefully went to his rest today, October 22nd 2011, at the age of 91 surrounded by his family and friends who deeply loved him. Prof. Bartholomeusz was someone who valued himself by the success and achievements of his family, friends, colleagues and most of all, his precious students. By that measure, and by his own estimation, he was an immeasurably wealthy man! He profoundly touched the life of everyone he encountered on four different continents and his friendship, wisdom, and guidance will be deeply missed.”

That exactly depicts the character of the man who not only taught mathematics to us but also gave of the best of western culture. It is he who compelled me to go into mathematics after graduating as an electrical engineer. As a partner in his department I got the opportunity to listen to his version of human ethics and culture. He emphasized the need of commitment to human ethics in politics. A simple mistake in courtesy could develop into a huge political problem, he explained. How true it is.

He was not a genius, no one made that claim, but he was the real master. Batho would not venture into teaching a subject in mathematics without becoming a master in that section. He will enter the class room like a guide who knows not only the route but also every turn and all the by ways. No question could put him in disarray. He will take your hand and will guide you into the problem, step by step.

Batho was convincing

Batho never took no for an answer, if he was convinced that he was in the right track. He thought that mathematics was the best for me and that was the end of the discussion. Then he convinced me that I should go to Cambridge, where he did his higher studies. As a revolutionary I thought that London is the best place for me, the magnificent city which gave recluse to both Marx and Lenin. What about the library, still probably the best in the world. What about Manchester then, the birth place of proletarian campaigns for universal franchise, centre of the strike of cotton workers where Engels wrote about the condition of workers? Prof. did not object to my political commitments. He was a large man who could accommodate others interests and commitments. With his genuine shrewdness he came out with a list of revolutionaries of various kinds who studied at Cambridge. Newton, Russell, Darwin, Keynes and even famous communist spies were there. He made me speechless and I was bundled up and sent to Cambridge. I am so grateful to him for pushing me in the right direction.

He belonged to the elite of burghers in Lanka who gave their life to improve the culture and social practice in this society. This line starts with , I believe, Dr Christopher Elliott, who was the owner of the “Ceylon Observer” in 1846. Elliott was accused by the Governor of Ceylon, Viscount Torrington of “touring the country in an assumed capacity as a redresser of grievances and encouraging dissatisfaction among the Ceylonese”. Thus he took the first step in the struggle of 1848. Though much is said about Puran Appu and Gongalegoda Banda, very little is said about the struggle that started in Colombo in 1848.

In addition to Prof Bartholomeusz three other burghers come to my mind as people who influenced my life and also served the country in their own field.

Pieter Keunaman, in spite of his coalition politics remained a committed socialist and a friendly cultured person, always ready with good advice.

Prof E O E Pereira led engineering education at the university level. He was the Dean of the Engineering Faculty in our time.

I met Tony van der Poorten in 1967 when we invited him for a lecture at the Arts theatre at Peradeniya. He was sharp and logical, and was able to push a number of us to study Marxism seriously.

The Memorial Service

I attended the Memorial Service for the late Prof. Bartholomeusz held at St. Phillip Nehri’s Church, Colombo on 10th of November. I met some of my batch mates after a few decades! It was a moment of sorrow and joy. Batho was a loyal Christian with a powerful sprit that took my self, an unrepentant non believer, almost before the god that he believed in. Thank you Batho, I feel that you are still here.

-Vickramabahu Karunaratne


Saturday, November 19, 2011

A rendezvous with Professor E Frederick Bartholomeusz (Batho) - Maximus Jayantha Anandappa

(First published at:

Professor Munidasa P Ranaweera’s recent glowing tribute to the late Professor Everard Frederick Bartholomeusz (1920-2011) titled "Engineering Mathematics Professor, a Great Mentor and Lifelong Inspiration" prompted me to add this personal note on "Batho" as we all affectionately called him during our university days.

The distinguished Founder Professor of Engineering Mathematics at the University of Peradeniya who passed away on Oct 22 in Phoenix, Arizona in US was a livewire of engineering education and was one of the brilliant lecturers instrumental in maintaining the very high standards that the Faculty of Engineering was renowned for during the heyday or the golden age of Peradeniya. Prof Batho was an essential part of the Peradeniya university landscape and the campus teaching culture. His concern for student welfare was legendary.

Mine is not a studied tribute or a eulogy to Prof EF Bartholomeusz. These are thoughts that came to my mind the moment I heard that the great man, the great teacher is no more. This short note is based on just one fortuitous meeting that I was destined to have with "Batho" as a student. This meeting is like a snapshot of the quintessential "Batho" and what he stood for as a teacher and a mentor.

To me "Batho" was the epitome of the ideal professor- eloquent, stylish, well mannered and charismatic for his age even though he had passed 50 during our time. With his well groomed beard and moustache he was almost like a character from a book. The way he paraded on the podium during lectures explaining a knotty problem or a complex principle with passion and simplicity and then how he rushed towards the blackboard to write his notes neatly was a sight to behold. In addition to be renowned for clarity, his lectures were also like an enthralling lesson in English language.

Ironically this rendezvous with Prof Batho would have never taken place, had I continued my studies in the Faculty with the same vigour and interest I had when I did my ALs. My interest in Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy and Evolution were supplanted by my passion for literature and the works of the Great Russian masters had taken the centre stage. I spent a fair bit of time devouring the great masterpieces and even tried my hand in writing fiction in Sinhala, luckily without success. This passion for literature continued through my university tutelage, very strongly in the first three years. Engineering bored me. Also shaped by certain personal circumstances, I was dreamy, wistful and pensive. My heart and mind were elsewhere. I considered myself homesick and waited for the slightest diversion however empty or trivial- to take me away from the books.

In the second year (1973), though I generally attended lectures, my interest had waned considerably. However there were a few exceptions. I did not mind attending Prof Mahalingam’s lectures because he made Theory of Machines and engineering look so easy. I was drawn to "Batho’s lectures for a different reason. Usually seated in a back row, I admired the way he expressed himself, his idiosyncratic gestures and his command of English. At times it was like watching an episode of a drama. His lectures on Classical Mechanics which included the Conical Pendulum in our third year (1974) were something that I vividly remembered for a long time.

During the 2nd Year which led to the Part 1 examination, I did the absolute minimum with regard to the coursework and in preparing for the examination. I was naïve and eager to believe what the seniors used to say: "Part 1 Mathematics is something that you do not have to worry. "Batho" is very lenient and reasonable- if you do well in other subjects and have touched a bit of mathematics, "Batho" will "push" you in the exam". A very convenient comforting thought in deed. I built my strategy to pass Mathematics on this plan and was sure that it was going to work.

Being convinced that leniency of Prof Batho is the way to get through Mathematics I did well in other four or five subjects. When the exam time came despite my poor record on submitting home tutorials or attending the class tutorials, I had the audacity to study (really the "last minute cram") just one section (Matrices and Determinants) out of six or seven possible sections from which you would be tested. I went for the examination, convinced that whatever I would score in this single section which I did not master anyway, will be good enough to secure a pass. I did not then realize that I was stretching my luck a bit too much.

I am sure I did quite well in other subjects. Not surprisingly when the results were released I was "referred" in Mathematics. Prof Batho’s leniency theory had not worked. I had no choice but to make up my mind to do the repeat examination which was due in mid year during the vacation. I continued with the normal business of going for third year lectures when word spread that Prof Batho had wanted to personally meet all the students who had either failed the Part 1 examination or got referred in Mathematics.

No one dared to disobey Prof Batho. One day during the mid morning tea break, I plucked up courage and strolled up to the entrance of the staff room located in the upper floor of the Faculty main office to meet Prof Batho. I cannot recall who met me at the door. Whoever it was undertook to go in to the staff room to announce my arrival. After a few agonising minutes, Prof Batho appeared at the door walking quickly as he always did. I think he had his usual cigarette in his hand. While approaching me he was looking at me intently with a serious but a concerned expression. For a moment I even thought he looked worried. Without saying anything, he guided me to the corridor by taking a few steps so that we would not obstruct the entrance. Possibly he also wanted to ensure that the conversation took place in "private". Then he bent his head towards me indicating that he was ready to listen to me. More than 37 years gone, with no diaries kept, I can not requote our conversation verbatim, but what he said left such an indelible impression in me I can vouch that our conversation did not deviate much from what is quoted below:

"Sir you had wanted to meet those who got referred in Part1 Mathematics and I am one of them" My tone must have been submissive.

Still with that "worried" or concerned look, he started talking in a measured tone: "I recall I passed (conceded a pass) every one who had scored about 30 marks in Maths, if they had passed other subjects. There was another category of students- those who scored less than 30 marks but had attended the lectures and had done the home tutorials. I passed all of them too". He paused for a while and then said more emphatically: "And there was another- a third category- those who scored only around 20 marks but had submitted their class tutorials, home tutorials and attended the lectures. I passed all of them too". With that he touched his forehead with his palm to express regret and exclaimed in a rather dramatic fashion gesticulating with both hands as if he was in the lecture room: "There must have been something terribly wrong with my teaching".

He looked genuinely upset when he uttered the last sentence and it cut deep into me. Whether it was my moment of vanity or stupidity or naivety, I managed to offer these words more with the intent of "comforting" him: "Sir to be honest, I went for the exam without studying Maths at all. I am sure I can get through in the repeat examination. I promise I will study seriously for the repeat examination"

Surely he must have been relieved. I vividly remember his parting comment: "Once you sit the repeat examination can you come and tell me how you fared?"

I made it a point to study all the topics, and sat the repeat examination in the vacation and did quite well.

After answering the repeat examination, keeping my rendezvous with Batho I made a re-appearance in the staff room and happily announced "Sir I did my repeat examination and I think I did well to score enough marks; to get 60 or 70 marks"

This meeting showed the concern and the genuine respect Prof Batho had for his students- there was not a word of blame or even a hint of dissent in his tone. On a similar situation, at best most lecturers would indulge in saying the obvious about the wisdom of studying. Some would even scorn or belittle you with sarcasm. Widely regarded as the best lecturer then, his humility and self awareness was such that he was even prepared to concede that his lecturing may not have been good enough as I could not score even 20 marks! What a way to comfort a student! Thinking now he was like the forgiving father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. I am sure it is this very humane way of dealing with the students and his father like affectionate approach that made "Batho" a cut above the rest and made him such an endearing person to the student. A pity that this great man had to soon leave the Faculty in search of greener pastures in Zambia denying us the opportunity of further association.

Prof Batho belonged to a bygone generation of academics and teachers now almost extinct. Others of the same ilk were Prof EOE Pereira, Prof A Thurairajah and Prof S Mahalingam - all different and contrasting personalities but great teachers in their own right. EOE had just retired before our time and we were not fortunate to study under him, but we have heard of his deeds.

Prof Batho interacted with the students seamlessly with tact, finesse and grace. His social upbringing naturally gave a western outlook to his conduct, mannerism and speech. These traits though appealing also had the potential to alienate him from those who were not nurtured in these values. The majority of the students were not from that background. "Batho" had broken this barrier effortlessly even though he probably never spoke a single word of Sinhala or Tamil. The warm words of affection and regard added by former students on the Online Memorial to him bear testimony to this.

While walking briskly in the corridor whether he was trying to make eye contact with you with that sincere or somewhat worried look in his face, or whether when he was gesticulating impressively and passionately on the podium as part of a lecture, there was no question that every student regardless of his social standing was simply drawn to "Batho". He was by far the most loved lecturer during our time.

Quoting Shakespeare:

"To gild refined gold,
To paint the lily
To throw a perfume on the violet
To add another hue unto the rainbow
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess"

Trying to describe Batho with adjectives or superlatives is a similar excess.
We were indeed fortunate that we were his students.

By Maximus Jayantha Anandappa (1972-75 Batch)


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eulogy - Professor E. F. Bartholomeusz by Munidasa P. Ranaweera

Engineering mathematics professor, a great mentor and lifelong inspiration
(First published at:

Professor E. F. Bartholomeusz, Founder Professor of Engineering Mathematics at the University of Peradeniya, passed away on October 22 in Phoenix, Arizona, in the US. He was one of the most respected academics at the University of Peradeniya, and was a great teacher, much loved by all of his students. He touched the lives of everyone he encountered all over the world. He will be deeply missed.

Everard Frederick Bartholomeusz was born on December 30 1920. After his secondary education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, he followed the London University External degree courses and obtained a BSc (mathematics special) degree with First Class Honours in 1942.

Later he obtained an MSc (mathematics) degree from the same university. In 1950, he joined the newly established Faculty of Engineering, University of Ceylon, as an Assistant Lecturer, and in 1952 he proceeded to the UK to do research at the University of Cambridge.

In Cambridge, he worked in the famous Cavendish Laboratory, associating with top researchers, such as G. I. Taylor. His research was on surface waves, dealing with reflection of long waves at a step, the reflection of plane waves at a submerged barrier, and the general motion of a fluid in a damping medium under gravity.

He obtained his PhD in 1955, and his seminal paper, “Reflection of Long Waves at a Step”, was published in 1958 in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society and referenced in the Encyclopaedia of Physics.

In 1955, he married Edith in Cambridge and returned to Sri Lanka to become a Senior Lecturer attached to the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Peradeniya (then University of Ceylon) and was in-charge of teaching Engineering Mathematics.

He was appointed Professor and Head of the newly created Department of Engineering Mathematics in 1965. He held these two posts till 1974, when he left the University of Peradeniya to become Professor and Head of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Zambia. He spent 16 years in Zambia before moving to the US.

When the Department of Engineering Mathematics was created in 1965, it had only two cadre positions; a professorship and an assistant lectureship. So the only tenured member in the Department was Prof. Bartholomeusz, and he had to develop the new department single-handed. This he did admirably with great care, foresight and dedication.

Professor Bartholomeusz was one of the most respected and admired teachers of the faculty. He was a master in the classroom and he had the ability to retain the attention of all his students on any lecture topic, however complex or abstract. It was a pleasure to listen to his fluent and precise delivery style and the students knew what note to take down because they were carefully dictated or neatly written on the blackboard, in the form of Chapter 1, Section 1, Sub Section 1.1 etc.

He always related mathematics to engineering, and used examples from engineering practice to illustrate the application of mathematical methods. He would teach a very powerful method of analysis and say that applying it to solve a simple problem where simpler methods are available is “like using a battle axe to crack an egg”. Disturbing him in class was considered a cardinal sin. Many of his students, including myself, consider him the best teacher they ever had.

While handling a very heavy undergraduate teaching load in his department, he continuously updated the syllabi with the most current topics, and also conducted postgraduate courses for his junior staff. One of his favourite postgraduate courses, which I had the good fortune to follow, was on the Mathematical Theory of Elasticity.

In addition to his academic contribution to the Faculty, he also contributed immensely to its welfare. One of his most noteworthy contributions was the setting up of the Faculty Canteen. He was the driving force behind it and he played a pivotal role in formulating its management structure and extending its services to provide quality food as well as stationery and drawing instruments at low prices. Thanks to his efforts, the Engineering Faculty Canteen is the best run and maintained canteen in the Peradeniya University today.

Prof. Bartholomeusz had an excellent rapport with students and he considered it very important for a teacher. He had a well balanced view of the things happening in the university and in the world, and his advice was often sought by students, staff and administration, to tackle tricky situations.

In appreciation of his long, dedicated and outstanding service to the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty Alumni Association (PEFAA) felicitated him in 2007.

He leaves behind Edith, his loving wife of 56 years, and his sons Brian, Geoffrey and Michael. All three sons have PhDs and work in the US. Professor Bartholomeusz would have been 91 this year.

“Few like them for all the time
All like them for a few time.
Rarely comes the category
All like them for all the time.”
Professor Bartholomeusz was one of the rare people who falls into the last category. May he rest in peace.

Prof. Munidasa P. Ranaweera


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rebellion, Repression and the Struggle for Justice in Sri Lanka - The Lionel Bopage Story

The Lionel Bopage Story (written by Michael Cooke)


This biography looks at the post-independence history of Sri Lanka (from 1948 on) through the eyes of one of its prominent left wing activists – Lionel Bopage.

Sri Lanka is an example of a country that has paid a terrible price for the failure to convert its ethnic diversity into a wider national loyalty.

It is scholarly study that looks at how the elite who mainly resided in Colombo dominated all the major parties on the island. They played with the fire of ethnic rancour at the expense of national unity to stay in power; whilst ignoring the economic disparities their policies engendered.

The book looks at this failure and its consequences through Lionel’s own story.

His life has been filled with exciting and terrible events: imprisonment and torture, an insurrection which left between 5,000 and 10,000 people dead, communal violence and Lionel’s resignation from the post of general secretary of a major left-wing party because of its opportunistic fanning of resentment against the Tamils. He and his family were forced into exile because of a suicidal war between the state and his ex-party in the late 1980s, a war which resulted in over 40,000 deaths.

It is also the story of Lionel’s enduring marriage to Chitra, who, when he first met her, was a nun. The biography discusses their life in Australia and Lionel’s attempts to reconcile members of the Tamil and Sinhala communities here, attempts which have sometimes been rewarded and which sometimes have engendered bitter resentment.

The book puts the current issue of war crimes into a historical context. The covering up of atrocities and the killing and jailing of dissidents have been constant features of the country’s modern history.

Yet the story has a basic optimism. Despite the violence and the suffering, Lionel attests to an unconquerable hope that he and those like him might bring people together, redressing communal grievances and bringing about genuine power sharing in Sri Lanka.

Extracted from Michael Cooke's blog:

To order the book in Australia, please contact Michael on mobile: 0403 412 773 - or by e mail on: In Australia a book will cost AUD 25.00 (postage will be additional).

In Sri Lanka copies can be purchased from major bookshops including Vijitha Yapa. A copy costs SLR 1600.00. See the following link:

Editors note: Lional Bopage is a graduate of the Peradeniya Engineering faculty.