Plus - Appreciation

Cambridge salutes a brilliant and affable Lankan academic

Professor George Dissanaike

This obituary appeared in the ‘Association Newsletter and College Record 2009’ of Downing College, University of Cambridge.

George Alexander Dissanaike died on July 4, 2008, shortly after his 81st birthday. He was Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of Peradeniya (formerly, the University of Ceylon) and a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physics, Sri Lanka.

He was also a past President of the Institute of Physics. George entered the University of Ceylon as an undergraduate in 1945. After graduating with a BSc degree in Physics in 1949, he was awarded the Ceylon Government University Science Scholarship for postgraduate studies at Cambridge.

George came up to Downing in 1950 as a research student in experimental nuclear physics. He had fond memories of Downing.

He represented the College in Badminton, and turned out for the second team. George spoke of having to use ten blankets to keep warm in the winter, and had vivid memories of the rationing just after the war. The College Kitchen staff used to give him an extra egg because he was from the tropics and needed additional energy to keep warm.

George obtained his PhD from the Cavendish Laboratory in 1953. On hearing of George’s death, his former PhD supervisor, Professor Burcham FRS, wrote to say, “George was one of my most able research students and collaborators. I also distinctly remember his deadpan humour and excellent command of the English language.”

Ceylon won her independence from Britain in 1948, and George belonged to a generation of Ceylonese academics who chose to return to their country to play a part in the development of her university system which was, incidentally, inextricably linked to Oxbridge. In fact, George’s association with the Sri Lankan university system spanned over 60 years.

Nevertheless, he also periodically held visiting professorships or faculty appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of South Carolina, and the Universities of Cambridge and Surrey. George’s publications covered nuclear physics and energy; the scattering of light, sunsets and air pollution; and science education.

He also published several papers on physics and biology, together with his parasitologist brother, Prof. Stanley Dissanaike, DSc (London). Many tributes were received after his death, of which the following are just two: Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale, FRS and Astronomer Royal (1991–95):

“... a very fine man; a thinker and a very good physicist. His wise guidance will be missed by all – and there were many – who knew him.”Professor Anthony French, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA: “... an excellent scientist, a wonderful man and one of my oldest friends.”George’s wife, Vijayalakshmi, lives in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and his son, Gishan, is a senior academic at the University of Cambridge.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Plus Articles
‘We haven’t forgotten you’
Giving them back their childhood
Put family first in order to empower our women and serve our children -- Letter to the editor
Unfinished road bothers residents and users -- Letter to the editor
Speed rules: Give a thought before they hit the road -- Letter to the editor
Admiralty hydrographic charts were reliable -- Letter to the editor
Time for road patrols to reign in offenders -- Letter to the editor
Mapping the life of a fine man and outstanding Surveyor General -- Appreciation
Six years on -- Appreciation
Uncle’s commitment to profession and family life was exceptional -- Appreciation
Cambridge salutes a brilliant and affable Lankan academic -- Appreciation
Corals under bleach attack
Mamma Mia, they are here!
Now it’s venomous five
Bringing out the child in everyone
Jayantha’s evolving expressions
Two brothers on creative journey once again
Entertaining, pleasing to the eye and high quality dancing
Mediterranean marvels this May
Charms of Chaaya now in Trinco
Sri Lanka going for a hat-trick gold medal at Chelsea flower show?
Revisiting the simulated flights of days past
Nine lives of Tiger Supremo
One monk’s mission to build haven for ailing monks
Guide to self-improvement and ways of combating self-crippling beliefs
Those were the days of Vimto, Aspro and Blanco
Moon and other men with bees in their busy bonnets
Children building bridges of friendship across the divide
2 comedies to lighten up your evening
People and events


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2010 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution