- Prof. Manthri Ramasamy
Manthri was always joyful, positive and caring
Manthri Samaranayaka entered Visakha Vidyalaya in 1954, after a year at Ladies College.
Daily Mirror - Thu Mar 26 2003
in many activities in junior school, such as Brownies and oratory, and an
innately warm heart, helped her form many lasting friendships at an early age.
time the little Brownie became a Girl Guide and finally a Ranger.
1964 she received the Juliette Low friendship award to spend six weeks at a Girl
Scout International Round-Up in California where she created a strong impression
and made many friends.
father, the late A.D.H. [a former Government Examiner of Questioned Documents]
and her late mother Susila [well known Buddhist social worker] recognized
Manthri's exceptional gifts and provided the required support and encouragement.
her later school years Manthri was elected President of the Science Association,
the Debating and English Literary Society and the Buddhist Society. She was also
an active Netball player and a talented actress. Recognizing her abilities,
Visakha was selected to be Head Prefect. When she left school, Manthri carried
away the Junius Jayewardena memorial prize for the best prefect, the Helena
Wijewardena prize for leadership, the OGA prize for the best Visakhian and the
Adrian De Abrew Rajapakse shield for the best all round student.
satisfied in doing science, Manthri entered the University of Colombo Science
Faculty and graduated with First Class Honours in Zoology in 1970. She then
joined the Department as an Assistant Lecturer.
1972 Manthri obtained a prestigious Commonwealth scholarship and went to the
University of Cambridge to research for a PhD degree under the supervision of
Dr. Simon Madrell, FRS.
worked on the physiological mechanisms of the desert locust, authoring several
sole-author publications as a graduate student, and obtaining a PhD in 1975.
was among the first batch of female students at Churchill College, Cambridge as
it became a co-educational College despite strong resistance from the
at Churchill, she met and married Ranjan Ramasamy, a graduate student at Christ'
College, Cambridge. After her PhD, Manthri worked at the Strangeways Research
Laboratory in Cambridge for 2 years with Professor Abercrombie, FRS.
then travelled extensively with her husband and daughter (Maheshi Nirmala was
born in 1977 in Colombo) combining being a mother and wife with a career in
science. A particularly productive scientific period was spent as a Staff
Scientist at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology [ICIPE]
in Kenya, where she made several pioneering contributions on the physiology of
the Tse-Tse fly [that spreads African sleeping sickness or trypanosomiasis].
Later at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, she
initiated equally important studies on blocking the transmission of viruses and
malaria parasites to mosquitoes.
was strongly attached to her parents and siblings [Anula, a physician, who was
also a Head Prefect at Visakha and Hemanatha, a banker], school, Sri Lanka and
the many friends here. Even whilst working abroad, she returned frequently to
Colombo, met all her friends, former teachers and helped establish a network of
Visakhians in many countries. She was therefore overjoyed to return in 1989 to
the Institute of Fundamental Studies [IFS] in Kandy where she was to remain
until the end.
the IFS, she transformed mainly empty rooms into an Animal House and a working
laboratory of Entomology. Her many papers on mosquito-malaria parasite
interactions, based on work done in her IFS laboratory, are published in
well-known entomology journals and constitute landmark scientific discoveries.
She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and a member of the
American Society for Entomology. A dedicated and loyal group of graduate
students, pre-university students and technicians attached to her laboratory
contributed in no small measure to these achievements.
did not canvass for appointments and distinctions and perhaps therefore lost out
on due recognition of her achievements and contributions to science to some
greatest satisfaction came from helping others and was she was happiest to see
some of her former students and colleagues doing well in their careers. She was
also happy to help her old school progress in many ways, being actively involved
in OGA activities [briefly as President], producing plays at school [Fiddler on
the Roof] and delivering the Susan George Pulimood Lecture [in 1995].
her illness, Manthri continued her science at the IFS as a full Professor, to
the end, although she faced great difficulties in the process.
outstanding recent contribution was to work with one of her PhD students [now a
lecturer] in solving a long-term puzzle regarding the identity of the mosquito
that transmits malaria in Sri Lanka.
her work, only subspecies B of the predominant malaria transmitting mosquito
Anopheles culicifacies had been identified in Sri Lanka.
the problem was that subspecies B [which could only be distinguished from other
subspecies by examining stained chromosomes in a microscope] was well known to
be a very poor vector of malaria in India. Manthri and her student Surendiran
solved this puzzle by showing that there were two subspecies in Sri Lanka,
termed B and E, that only differed in a minor aspect of the Y sex chromosome of
the mosquito. They showed that subspecies E was responsible for malaria
transmission in Sri Lanka and that this was more resistant than B to the
research and teaching, Manthri's contributions to science extended to
participating in the work of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of
Science, first as Sectional President and later as General Secretary.
is therefore very appropriate that Professor Uma Coomaraswamy, the President of
SLAAS during Manthri's tenure as General Secretary and the Vice-Chancellor of
the Open University should deliver the first Professor Manthri Ramasamy memorial
oration on 17 February, 2003 at 5 pm on the occasion of Manthri's birthday.
would be a fitting occasion to celebrate her life, which was always joyful,
positive and caring of others, until she was taken away for higher things on
January 18, 2002.
- A colleague