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


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