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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

Mamanithar C.Jeyaratnam Eliezer

Prof C.J.Eliezer was honoured by the Federal Government with the Order of Australia and, in 1997 was awarded Tamil Eelam's highest national honour of "Maamathithar" by the Leader of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Pirabaharan.


With Universities and with Mathematics - A Long Love Affair
Valedictory Address by Professor C.J.Eliezer
to Trobe University, Melbourne, December 1983

I have had a long innings as a University Academic. It is just over 45 years ago when, after completing an honours degree, I started lecturing at the University in Colombo, under an appointment similar to that of the present tutorship at La Trobe but with more lecturing duties.

Since then I have moved along a long road which has taken me to several countries and universities. I had an early fancy that every 5 years or so I should change my place of work and every 20 years my profession. Things have not quite worked out that way, but I have had in all 8 years in Cambridge, 13 in Ceylon, 9 in Malaysia and nearly 16 at La Trobe  - with sabbaticals in Princeton Institute, University of Chicago and Matscience in India.  So in 4 continents, I have worked with hundreds of colleagues, sat in thousands of committees, worked on hundreds of research problems; taught tens of thousands of students, given tens of thousands of lectures, marked hundreds of thousands of examination scripts.

My family and I have lived, among and enjoyed the friendships of people of various cultures, different nationalities, many language groups, and all major religious persuasions. We have found it easy to do so because of our upbringing where we learnt to repeat an ancient Thamil couplet of 2nd century B.C. (Puranaruru ):

All the world is my homeland
All its people my kinsfolk.

Now reaching that age when formal professional life terminates and one looks back and reflects, two things about that professional life stand out: One is that I have been lucky to have as a abject one which is demanding and absorbing, one with a long history and which has profoundly influenced mankind and its ways, a subject which continues to grow and bring new surprises, a thing of beauty, elegance. intellectual challenges and emotional satisfaction, and occasionally, in those lucky moments, wild emotional, thrill.

The second matter of luck for me was to work in universities in various stages of development, when much of the university world was expanding into a world wide community which valued and promoted a liberal education, and intellectual activity and growth, in an atmosphere of academic freedom where universities are not subject to political control or made instruments for particular power groups. At the same time universities have been moving towards a determination not to be isolated from the world at large. I was lucky to work in Universities when they were committed to the twin concepts of Autonomous University and a Responsible University.

Thus the two worlds — the Mathematical world and the University world became early in life my professional loyalties, which with the passing of the years have mellowed into professional loves. This is the background to the title of my address.

I had occasion about a year ago to speak on the Mathematical Sciences in Perspectives at the inauguration of the Institute of Fundamental Research in Sri Lanka (1982). I think that a summary of what I said then would be useful as introduction today.

School Mathematics

I am going to begin with some early history. In this audience, there are many mathematicians. I am going to suggest that every one here is or was a mathematician. Some would immediately disclaim that description. At school — one learnt about numbers and arithmetic. Later one learnt Geometry, with its theorems, construction and proofs. All that was good mathematics. How much lasting influence these had on each of us, we cannot really tell, not without psychoanalysis and study of the sub conscious . I would suggest that those  influences were great, despite what our conscious memories may suggest.

Some say of their school mathematics that they hated it. Bernard Shaw in his usual style had some pungent words. When late in life Karl Pearson convinced him of the use of statistics, he exclaimed that he realised only then that at school, instead of being taught mathematics, he had been made a fool of —  with those x's, y's and other nonsense.

Early History

It is useful to recall the in the early history of man both numbers and geometry were integral parts of those processes which quickened human activity and led on to the beginnings and developments of what we call civilisation. That is, the origins of mathematics are intermingled with the origins of civilization. Certain evidences of our past have been buried in the debris of ancient cities or buried within ancient languages. In recent times archaeologists and linguists have combined to dig out information and to make interpretations. The picture they give is fascinating.

Human activity quickened at the end of the last Ice Age. As temperatures began to rise, there was more fruit in the trees, and more fish in the streams. More food led to more population, which then began to cluster together for safer and better living, in villages than cities. The first cities emerged 10,000 years ago. However, the cities that came up about 5,000 — 6,000 years ago, on the banks of some great rivers, showed two new features: the invention of the wheel and development of writing. In Sumeria, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, in Egypt on the banks of the Nile, in India in the Indus Valley, and in China near the Yangtze and Hwang-Ho, cities developed and human evolution had reached a new phase.

The analysis of ancient languages has shown that in every major language, number words were an integral part of the evolution of that language. The words for the numbers were an integral part of the evolution of that language....

Before I conclude, I feel I ought to add some personal comments on these interests, and how l came by them. In Ceylon I had seen very good teachers and I had begun to like Mathematics —but it was in Cambridge when my interests took definite shape.

Cambridge had a famous School of Mathematics then. There were 4 Professors, Hardy, Littlewood, Dirac, Eddington — what a great combination, with many distinguished staff members also.

In older times in Cambridge, every one who entered the University first did the Maths Tripos Part I. Thereafter one either changed to other subjects like Theology, Medicine, Law, or continued with Maths. A certain element of this was still there in my Cambridge days. 'Those who continued on with the Maths did at the end of 3 years the Maths Tripos Part II a prestigious and most demanding examination. Till recent times most of the Maths staff in British Universities would be drawn from those who had done this course. The pass list was arranged in order of merit. The best group among them were called Wranglers.

The one who came first was called Senior Wrangler. He was much honoured in British Educational life. At the graduation ceremonies of every year it was the Senior Wrangler who got his degree first. Incidentally the one who came last, but passed, got the Wooden Spoon in the same ceremony. There used to be quite keen competition for both top and bottom places.

A few years before I got to Cambridge, the system of issuing the pass list in order of merit had ceased. There still continued an old custom where the results of this particular Tripos were read out by the Chairman of Examiners at the Senate House at a time and date prescribed by Statute. I recollect that during my year, I went along with other friends from Christs to "learn the worst" as we could say.

A story is told of Lord Kelvin famous mathematician over 100 years ago. He was Thomson in his younger days. He loved sleeping in so instead of going to the Senate House himself he sent a College servant to find out the results. Thomson still in bed as the man returned asked him "Who came second ?". The memorable reply was "You Sir".

To proceed with my story. It was by a chance circumstance that Professor Dirac agreed to supervise me for the Ph.D. He usually did not take on students. The Faculty Board had informed me 3 months earlier that they would let me know who my supervisor would be — and I had not heard, and the Academic Year was almost starting. Then one morning I had a letter from Professor Dirac in his very neat handwriting. It went something like this: As I am appointed your supervisor, you must come up and see me sometime. I lecture Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays at 10. The best time to catch me is immediately after a lecture.

I saw him at the earliest opportunity. That is how I got started. The succeeding years were great times. Concentrated delights, frustrations, foolishness, errors, lucky guesses or ideas that worked — all made up the Ph.D. years and later the Fellowship and lecturing years.

Thoughts on Education

After 45 years as an academic, I feel I could say something about the learning process, at any rate in the mathematical field. First, one has to have a passionate and desperate desire to understand something, to formulate a problem, narrow it down and concentrate upon it. Days, weeks, months, maybe, and result is often frustration and temporary abandonment. Then a period of incubation when the subconscious is at work. Then unexpectedly comes illumination.

To take a homely example. I try to recall something and my memory does not oblige, however hard I try. Then some time later, perhaps the next day or so, I am not thinking of the matter at all, and the answer pops up. In scientific matters, those moments of illumination are the landmarks of discovery. The day Archimedes was at his bath, and ran through the streets of Syracuse, clad only in the rapture of a new discovery, should be celebrated as the first recorded version of a great moment of human emotion and illumination.

 It is said of Ramanujam that he would go to sleep thinking up some difficult problem, and the next morning he would wake up with a proposition in the theory of numbers or some long series expansion. When asked to explain how the proposition came to him, he would say that his Mother Goddess had explained it all to him in a dream. We may paraphrase and say that the subconscious was active during his sleep.

In the fourth stage of the learning process, one recasts the results and systematises it. Thus, the four stages are : concentration, incubation, illumination and systematisation.

Einstein was once asked whether his life had been of great thrills with all those discoveries. He said that when he was thinking and concentrating hard, it was pain and anguish. The pleasure came later after a new idea triggered, or when one realised the scope of what one had done.

So education without the pain of concentration and effort is no education . at all. It is a fashionable trend nowadays for organised education to skip all the difficult things, and go through the motion with easy things. As parents we get concerned that whereas, education should be concerned with thought development, there is a temptation in schools to go in for thought elimination devices. Even in this age of gadgets and machines, the human being is the most intricate and exciting of all machines, and it has the further merit that it is about the only one that can be mass produced by unskilled labour with comparative little expense and so much more pleasure.

Soon after the last War, the New Maths became the vogue, especially by the persuasion of American professors of mathematical education. They said it will bring mathematics within the reach of all — a most laudable objective. Over the years it has not quite turned out that way. In some countries, they have taken advantage of the language precisions of new maths to teach the contents of the old in -the new language. In some other countries the time for Mathematics has gradually dwindled and the contents have suffered.

I often wake up with a bad dream —with the image of the grin of the Cheshire Cat. In the story, the grin remained, while the cat disappeared. My bad dream is about the New Maths where the newness like the grin remains, and the contents like the cat have gradually disappeared. I say it was a bad dream. I hope it has little relation to the facts.

John Adams the historian has said : There are two educations. One teaches us how to live, the other how to make a living. We need to keep these perspectives in balance.

Any thought on the future of universities ? First, about University Mathematics. I indicated before that Mathematics being an Abstract Art, there is the danger of it becoming isolated from the rest of Academia. In the 19th or early 20th centuries, mathematics made great impact on philosophy, science, education etc. Nowadays they are too isolated.

There is the need for abstract mathematics, which is essential for long term perspectives. There is also the need to be in touch with the real world. These two aspects have to be kept in balance. While this is a matter of worldwide concern, I am confident that here at La Trobe the balance could be kept, and Mathematics will continue to prosper.

It is very pleasing that University education is now available  for so many more students than they were 45 years ago With expansion however came also some problems.

I refer to one change that has come about in universities. When I joined the staff there were very few Ph.D's, but now that is the norm. This is a very good thing, since academics are able to continue research, despite the pressures of other duties, having benefited by the earlier period of intense research activity for the Ph.D. But this Ph.D. cult also encourages narrowness. Whereas a teacher of a subject should see it in its wholeness, the Ph.D. area often tends to take over.

I believe that student needs and subject progress require from staff a balanced approach.

I think also that while we love our special worlds and love the University world, we overlook that we are in the total world of life and living and cannot escape the demands, the joys and sorrows of the wider world. Universities were centres of great liberal human values, which spread to all corners of the world. Universities are homes-of Good Causes, even if lost causes. Our world can have in it so much sadness and savagery. 'Every man for himself" the elephant said, as he danced among the chickens.

Many of us know of C.P. Snow and the Two Cultures. He was a fellow of the same College and so I knew him quite well. He died a couple of years ago. When I visited Cambridge soon after, I found that the Urn containing his ashes is kept on a pedestal on the edge of the old swimming pool at Christ, where there or four previous Urns from 2 to 300 years are also kept. A verse on the plinth attracted my attention. It may have been with C.P. Snow's approval or his wish. It is from a Jewish Father of 2000 years ago, Hellier the Elder. It goes:

If I am not for myself, who am I ?
If I am for myself alone,
whoam ? If not now, wHen ?

Mamanithar Award - 1997

C.Jeyaratnam Eliezer, mathematician and untiring worker for social justice and human rights was awarded Tamil Eelam's highest national honour of "Maamathithar" in October 1997.

Professor Eliezer holds doctorate degrees from both Cambridge and London Universities and served as Professor of Mathematics and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Ceylon. He was awarded the Charles. L. Mayer award from the National Academy of Science and was also Fellow of Christ College, Cambridge.

He was the Founder of the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations - AFTA

The English translation of the citation (dated 19 October 1997) by Vellupillai Pirabaharan, Leader of Tamil Eelam to Professor C J Eliezer conferring the Title of "Maamanithar" read:

My dear Prof. Eliezer,

        I have great pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of our liberation movement and of the Tamil nation, my sincere appreciation and grateful thanks for the tremendous services you have rendered, over the years, for the furtherance of our national liberation struggle. We also salute you for your unique and illustrious achievements in the academic sphere which has done our nation proud.

        Despite being a long time resident of Australia, you have always been conscious of the fact that you are a son of Tamil Eelam and have displayed a rare degree of patriotism and a sense of belonging to the Tamil nation, which have motivated you to render invaluable service to the cause of national liberation and freedom for our people. Having recognized the reasonableness of our cause, you have given expression to the aspirations of our people and justified our struggle for self determination. You have been a relentless campaigner for justice to the Tamil nation and have been making innumerable representations to the highest levels of Australian Government.

        You have been relentless in your pursuit of the right to self determination for the people of Tamil Eelam so as to ensure that they live with freedom and dignity. You have been campaigning with utmost courage and conviction for the attainment of this noble objective. We salute you as a great man and a noble patriot.

        According due recognition and honour to great men of service is part of Tamil culture. In keeping with this rich tradition, I have immense pleasure and pride in conferring on you the title of "MAAMANITHAR", the highest national honour of Tamil Eelam, in recognition of your patriotic service to the cause of national freedom.

        Please accept my highest regards and best wishes for your future well being and continuation of your good work.

 Yours sincerely,
   (signed) V. Pirabaharan
 Leader
 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam


Award Citation in Tamil


 


Obituary, Tamil Coordinating Committee, Australia 10 March 2001

"மாமனிதர்" பேராசிரியர் கிறிஸ்ரி ஜெயம் எலியேசர்

தமிழீழத் தேசியத் தலைவர் வே. பிரபாகரன் அவர்களால் தமிழீழத் தேசத்திற்கு அப்பால் முதன்முறையாக தமிழீழத்தின் உயர் விருதான "மாமனிதர்" என்ற விருது வழங்கிக் கௌரவிக்கப்பட்ட பேராசிரியர் எலியேசர் அவர்கள் கடந்த சனியன்று (10.03.01) அன்று மெல்பேண் அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் தனது எண்பத்திரெண்டாவது வயதில் காலமானார்.

தமிழருக்கு உலகில் பெருமை வாங்கித் தந்த புகழ்பெற்ற கணித நிபுணரும் தமிழ் தேசப் பற்றாளருமான மாமனிதர் பேராசிரியர் கிறிஸ்ரி ஜெயம் எலியேசர் அவர்கள் ஒரு சிறந்த பண்பாளராகத் திகழ்தார்.

1918 ம் ஆண்டில் தமிழீழத்தில் பிறந்த பேராசிரியர் கணிதவியலின் னுழஉவழச ழக ளுஉநைnஉந பட்டமும் பெற்று கணித மேதையாக திகழ்ந்த நாட்களில் இவருக்குக் கிடைத்த சர்வதேச விருதுகள் பலلل இவரது பெயரிலேயே 1948 வெளியிடப்பட்ட "எலியேசர் தேற்றம்" கணிதவியலில் இன்றும் பிரயோகிக்கப்படும் தேற்றமாகும்.

இவர் ஜெனீவாلل வியன்னாلل மும்பாய் நகரங்களில் ஜக்கிய நாடுகளிள் சார்பாக "அமைதிக்காக அணு சக்தி" என்ற தலைப்பில் விசேட உரை ஆற்றவும் அழைக்கப்பட்டார். இவர் உலகின் பல்வேறு நாட்டுப் பல்கலைக் கழகங்களில் பணிபுரிந்து மலேசிய பல்கலைக் கழகத்தில் பேராசிரியர் பட்டம் பெற்றிருந்தார். அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் மெல்பேண் நகரில் டுயவுசழடிந பல்கலைக் கழகத்தில் பேராசிரியராக பணிபுரிந்த காலத்தில் அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் வாழும் தமிழ் சமுகத்திற்கும் இவர் ஆற்றிய பங்கு அளப்பரியது.

1978 ம் ஆண்டில் விக்ரோரிய இலங்கைத் தமிழ்ச் சங்கத்தின் ஆரம்பத் தலைவராக பதவியேற்று இங்கு குடியேறும் தமிழர்களுக்கு ஆணிவேராக உழைத்தது மட்டுமல்லாமல் 1983 ம் ஆண்டில் இலங்கையில் தமிழர்கள் இனப்படுகொலைக்கு உட்படுத்தப்;பட்டபோது முழுமூச்சாக அம்மக்களின் விடிவுக்காக உழைத்தவரும் ஆவார். 1984 ம் ஆண்டின் அவுஸ்திரெலிய தமிழ் சங்கங்களின் சம்மேளனம் அமைக்கப்பட்டபோது அதன் தலைவராகவும் பதவியேற்றார்.

இவர் அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் வாழும் தமிழ் மக்களுக்காகவும் கணிதத்துறைக்கும் ஆற்றிய சேவையைப் பாராட்டியும் அவுஸ்திரேலிய அரசின் அதி உயர் விருதான "
Order of Australia" எனும் விருது 1996 இல் அவுஸ்திரேலிய அரசாங்கத்தால வழங்கப்பட்டது.

தமிழீழத் தேசியத் தலைவரின் வழிகாட்டல் மீதும் لل போராட்டத்தின் மீதும் அசையாத நம்பிக்கை கொண்டு அதற்காக தொடர்ந்து குரல்கொடுத்து வந்தார் பேராசிரியர் எலியேசர். 1997 ம் ஆண்டு தமிழீழத் தேசியத்தலைவர் மேதகு வே பிரபாகரன் அவர்களால் " மாமனிதர் " விருது பேராசியருக்கு வழங்கப்பட்டது முதல் முறையாக இவ் விருது தமிழீழத்துக்கு அப்பால் வாழும் ஒரு தமிழருக்கு வழங்கப்பட்டது இங்கு குறிப்பிடத்தக்கதாகும்.

தயவு செய்து பேராசிரியர் அவர்களின் நினைவாக நாம் வெளியிடவுள்ள சிறப்பு மலருக்கு உங்கள் அனுதாபச் செய்திகளை அனுப்பி வைக்கவும்.

மின்னஞ்சல் முகவரி -
eelamurasu@optushome.com.au தொலைநகல் 10 61 3 9440 7367
தொலைபேசி 10 61 40309 5073


A Tribute by Brian Senewiratne, Brisbane, Australia, 10 March 2001

 It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Professor Eliezer on 10.3.2001. I have known him for exactly half a century. In 1951 I entered the Science Faculty in Colombo to do a degree in Zoology. Eliezer had just returned after a distinguished career in Cambridge, England, to take up the Chair of Mathematics. He was in his 30's, the youngest person to be ever appointed to a Chair in that University. It says something of his prestige and ability. Eliezer was probably the biggest "catch" of the University of Ceylon, as it then was. 

I came into contact with him in the activities of the Student Christian Movement of which he was a strong supporter. Some three years later I entered Cambridge University to do Medicine. As a young 'Fresher' I was invited to meet the Vice-Chancellor for a 'Welcome tea'. "And where do you come from, young man?" I said "Ceylon". "Ah", he exclaimed, "that's where Eliezer came from". I told him that the comparison must end right there to avoid disappointment! I said that Eliezer was in a different league and that it was like comparing Frank Worrel with the local village cricket captain because they both came from the same country.  Many years later when I wrote a booklet on the 1983 Massacre of Tamils, he offered to write the Foreword. I was delighted and honoured, not that what he said about me was true!

We met again, in New York in the mid 1980's. It was, I think, the 4th Eelam Conference which I was invited to address. Eliezer was in the chair at that massive gathering of Tamils, non-Sri Lankans and the saner members of my community, the Sinhalese. 

After the meeting we decided to do a world tour to explain to the uninformed what the current struggle was all about. He was delighted to have a Sinhalese with him, I was elated to have someone of Eliezer's calibre supporting me. Since then we have been in close contact despite the distance that separated us in this vast country.

A couple of months ago I was invited to address a meeting in Melbourne to deal with some irresponsible journalistic crap on the Tamil Tigers that had been aired on Australian TV. I knew Eliezer was unwell and never expected to see him at that lengthy meeting. I had just sat down when Eliezer appeared and sat in the next seat.

He invited me home the next day and we spent some two hours chatting. He said, "One question that has always puzzled me is why you did not enter politics". I said that too many of my family had done so and been responsible for creating the present mess. His response, "That is just the reason why you should have helped to sort out the mess!" The Tamils, the saner Sinhalese and all lovers of Sri Lanka have lost a great figure. 

Although in the past few years he has been too frail to play an active role, his sheer presence and support were enough to sustain those of us who have been in the struggle to enable Tamils in Sri Lanka to live with dignity, equality and safety in the country of their birth.  Eliezer will be missed. 

It is said that no one is irreplaceable. I don't believe this. Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe, Bishop Leo Nanayakkaraya, Vijaya Kumaratunge and now, Professor Eliezer, are irreplaceable. There can be no fitting memorial to him than to carry forward the struggle to free the Tamil people from domination by a Sinhalese Government and Sinhalese extremists, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, hell-bent on crushing, not the LTTE, but the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka. 

  

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