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IESL Ray Wijewardene Memorial Lecture 2019

IESL Ray Wijewardene Memorial Lecture 2019

The annual Ray Wijewardene Memorial Lecture for the year 2019 was held at the Wimalasurendra Auditorium of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka (IESL) on Wednesday, 4th September 2019.  U.D. Jayawardene, General Manager/Chief Executive Officer of LTL Holdings delivered this year’s lecture on the topic ‘Transforming local engineers into global entrepreneurs’.

The memorial lecture was organized jointly by the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka and Ray Wjewardene Charitable Trust, a  charitable organization established for the promotion of the vision and ideas of Late Dr. Ray Wijewardene . The lecture was preceded by the traditional lighting of the Oil Lamp and garlanding of the portrait of Late Dr Ray Wijewardene by the President of the IESL,  Eng. (Prof.) T.M. Pallewatta. The Late Dr. Ray Wijewardene Memorial Lecture was first held in 2011 and this is the 9th lecture of its kind to hold. Welcoming the capacity audience that attended Eng. (Prof.) T.M. Pallewatta described the Late Dr. Ray Wijewardene as a person who excelled in many human endeavours.  Prof. Malik Ranasinghe, Chairman of the Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust briefed the audience about  the work that the Trust is involved in promoting the vision and ideas of Late Dr. Ray Wijewardene.

Brief Introduction…

Ray Wijewardene, also known as Renaissance Man of Sri Lanka and upon whom, in 2008, the IESL conferred its highest award of Eminence in Engineering for excellence in the profession, ,  and  whose 95th  birth anniversary we are commemorating today needs little introduction.

Philip Revatha (Ray) Wijewardene was born in Colombo, Ceylon, on 20 August 1924. He had his primary and secondary education at Ladies’ College, Colombo, and St Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. He proceeded to Peterhouse College, Cambridge University, UK, where he studied three branches of engineering -- aeronautical, mechanical and agricultural. He also earned qualifications in business administration from the Harvard Business School, and later received honorary degrees from universities in the UK and Sri Lanka.

Well known for his twin passions; agricultural machinery and aeroplanes his interest in tropical farming in particular led to the design of the two-wheeled hand tractor in 1955; the invention changed the scope of farming, and was soon mass produced by Landmaster in Nottingham, UK. While this is Ray’s most famous contribution to date (alongside the light aircraft he built with motor engines as a hobby) his other accomplishments are testament to a life lived to the fullest.

Ray dedicated the rest of his life to researching and promoting ecologically sustainable agriculture, and later, renewable energy technologies. As a world authority on tropical farming systems, Ray worked for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the early 1970s as Head of Agricultural Engineering at the Mechanization and Automation Research Centre (MARDI), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He then spent nearly five years as Head of Agricultural Engineering and Research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria.

During this time, he pursued a large number of improvements and innovations to help small farmers in the developing world to grow more food without high external inputs. In particular, he promoted a technique called Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT), originally developed in the Philippines. This involved terracing of land, use of leaf mulch, and re-introducing perennial trees into rain-fed farming.

Returning to Sri Lanka in 1980, he continued experimenting with rain-fed farming and agro-forestry on his coconut estate in Kakkapalliya, in the North-western Province. He also did field tests for dendro thermal power, the generation of electricity from firewood. This technology is now increasingly being used by industry. He also introduced inter-cropping gliricidia with coconut, vastly increasing coconut yields.

For decades, Ray worked closely with Sri Lanka’s business, research and policy communities. He held various appointments as Chairman of the Tea Research Board, head of the Inventors Commission and a member of several public sector bodies concerned with agriculture, science and technology. He was Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa from 2002 to 2007. The government of Sri Lanka awarded him the highest national honours of Vidya Jyothi (Luminary of Science) and Deshamanya (Pride of the Nation) for distinguished public service.


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Published Date: 2019-10-21 13:54:06