Essays of A Lifetime + Memoirs of Osmund Jayaratne
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Essays of A Lifetime
Author – Carlo Fonseka
Publisher – Godage Publishers
First Edition 2016
Carlo Fonseka (b. 1933), Colombo University’s high-profile medical physiologist from 1962 to 1989, was thrust into the limelight in 1970-1971 by his controversial investigations into ritualistic fire-walking. Postulating a testable biophysical hypothesis for the traditional religious ritual of fire-walking, he publicly demonstrated experimentally that professed non-believers in divine intervention could profanely consume token amounts of pork and alcohol (taboo for religious fire-walking devotees) and walk barefoot across fire-beds, similar to those used for ritualistic fire-walks at Kataragama, without sustaining burns. The implication is that the immunity of fire-walkers from burns required no divine intervention. The experiments received worldwide publicity in the late 1980s when Sir Arthur C. Clarke collaborated with Carlo Fonseka in a programme on fire-walking in his popular television series Strange Powers.
During his doctoral research years at the University of Edinburgh (1964-1966) he carried out (collaboratively) experiments that demonstrated the pattern in which the pituitary gland secretes Growth Hormone. The published findings came to be cited in standard medical textbooks. A person of wide interests (philosophy, religion, medical ethics, music, cinema, literature, left-wing politics, and health economics), from 1988 to 1990 he was a Senior Fellow at the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University in Helsinki, Finland. His book titled Towards a Peaceful Sri Lanka (1990) published by the United Nations University won the serious attention of the highest echelons of the political authority in Sri Lanka in the early 1990s. From 1991 to 1998 he was the Founder Dean and guiding light of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya, which became one of the most productive medical schools in the country.
Briefly initiated into Sinhala music as a schoolboy at St Joseph’s College, Colombo, by Sunil Santha in 1948, he has composed popular songs (lyrics and melodies) as an avocation. One number “Raththaran Duwe” became a massive hit, and is regularly sung at weddings when the bride goes away. The compact four-line dirge sung by Nanda Malini he composed for the concluding scenes of Tissa Abeysekera’s award-wining film Viragaya (1987) earned critical acclaim for its poignancy and appositeness.
An accomplished public speaker, the televised speech he delivered in February 1988 at the spectacular funeral of Vijaya Kumaratunga, the assassinated film idol, charismatic politician and husband of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, is an item of local political folklore. The longest-serving member in the history of the country’s University Grants Commission until 2010, he has been nominated to several statutory boards, commissions and councils. In 2007 he was appointed Founder Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol. In 2012 he was appointed President of the Sri Lanka Medical Council and still serves in that position.
A committed popularizer of science, a prolific writer of popular newspaper articles, a veteran radio broadcaster and an engaging television talk-show personality, Carlo Fonseka has been an ubiquitous presence in the educational, medical, scientific, cultural and political life of the country during the past few decades.
– The Publisher –
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Memoirs of Osmund Jayaratne
Author – Osmund Jayaratne
Publisher – Godage Publishers
First Edition 2004
This autobiography is an amazing accomplishment. Despite having lost his sight several years ago, Osmund Jayaratne has been determined to record for posterity his active and brilliant life in politics, physics and academia. Written with the assistance of interviewers, transcribers, editors, researchers and publishing staff, along with his wife Joyce, this book is a vivid account of Osmund Jayaratne’s dynamic life and visionary dreams in his own words. It covers Osmund’s early life in a conventional family, his years of student activism, his Left politics, participation in important theatrical productions and his career as a distinguished Professor of Physics. The book is also an important contribution to the Left history of Sri Lanka and includes fascinating details about the politics and political leadership of the time.
Osmund Jayaratne’s life has been full of achievements. At the University he had a distinguished career, in Physics. His interests were compounded by the attractions of Marxist scholarship. This brought him into the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, and through this into the hurly-burly of political activism. Winning a seat in the Colombo Municipal Council (1953), he proved a devoted, efficient and popular representative of the people. Then he pursued a doctorate in cloud physics in London, where he also became active in the 4th International. After teaching at Peradeniya University, in the 1970s the United Front government appointed him as President of the (Colombo) University Campus, capping a lifetime of achievement
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