Amirthalingam, born on 29thApril 1903,
was the youngest son of Chellappah and Meenachchi of
Urumpirai and a brother of Suntharalingam M.P.
After a brilliant school career, he obtained the B.Sc
Degree with Honours and proceeded to Cambridge where he
got his Doctorate in Zoology.
He was Director of Fisheries in the Andaman Islands for a
short time. Returning to Ceylon he held the post of Asst.
Marine Biologist in 1938, and Director of Fisheries in
1941. He was also Lecturer at the Ceylon University
College for some time. Later he proceeded overseas and
held the post of Professor at the University of Sudan for
a long time, before retirement. He passed away on 21st
January 1982. (from S.Arumugam's Dictionary of Biography of the
Tamils of Ceylon - published here with
"I searched for some information
on marine biologist Amirthalingam in the internet and
located two funny items. One was a news story published
in the Ceylon Daily News (June 7, 1999) authored
by Paneetha Ameresekere, which reported the Diamond
Jubilee Celebrations at Rahula College, Matara, where
President Chandrika Kumaratunga had delivered a speech.
Strangely, she has cited the name of scientist
Amirthalingam, probably without knowing anything about
his reputation. To quote,
"She [President] said that in
the 75 years of Rahula College's existence this
Buddhist school's second principal was a Tamil, Hindu
called Dr. C.Amirthalingam. This shows that at that
time the people did not differentiate a person
according to his race or religion."
If we analyze Chandrika's remarks,
the corollary reveals something which is obvious to all
Tamils now. "At that time the people did not
differentiate a person according to his race or
religion". But now, people indeed are differentiated
according to his race or religion in Sri Lanka!
The second point which Chandrika
didn't bother to elaborate or acknowledge was the fact
that during the colonial era, scientists of the caliber
of Amirthalingam also contributed a lot to the science
education of Sinhalese children in the southern Sri
Lanka without rancor or rabid parochialism.
It is also well known that the
spiritual father of Eelam campaign, Chellapah
Suntharalingam (the elder brother of Amirthalingam)
served as a vice principal of Buddhistic Ananda
College, Colombo, during its incipient
The second item, which I located
in one of the internet postings was funny indeed. In an
entry related to a first collection of a bony fish
named, Notobranchius virgatus, in Sudan in 1965,
Dr. Amirthalingam (who was then affiliated to the
University of Khartoum) is identified as "the late
Pakistani C.Amirthalingam". It will be a miracle to
find a Pakistani scientist having such an Eelam
Tamil-Hindu name 'Amirthalingam'. But this is how,
information is transmitted in the internet these days,
replete with errors and omissions.
This should sound as a wake-up
call for the younger generation of Eelam Tamils living
in the diaspora, that they have a responsibility in
their shoulders to study and correct errors of omission
and commission which glut the ether medium