Allen Abraham Ambalavanar Memorial Gold Medal Award in Physics - University of Jaffna
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Allen Abraham Ambalavanar Memorial Gold Medal Award in Physics

Allen Abraham Ambalavanar Memorial Gold Medal Award in Physics

First Gold Medal awarded on December 06 2019

To honour the late Allen Abraham Ambalavanar, a Gold Medal award has been established in Physics with the funds donated by the descendants of Allen Abraham. It is worth to note that, this is the first Gold Medal award established in the 45 years’ history of the Department of Physics. This Gold Medal will be awarded each year to the top ranking student in the Physics advanced course units (Levels 3M & 4M of the third and fourth years respectively) of the special degree programme. Dr.A.Wijayaratnam (grand-son of Allen Abraham) coordinated with Dr.K.Vignarooban (Head / Physics) and the descendants of Allen Abraham to establish this award. A total of LKR 910,000 has been deposited in the account of the University of Jaffna to continue this award annually. In the convocation held on December 6, 2019, this Gold Medal was awarded for the first time to Ms.K.H.Dhulakshi Dhammika Kumari.

Ms.K.H.Dhulakshi Dhammika Kumari

Ms Dhammika Kumari receiving the first Gold Medal from the Chancellor

Ms.K.H.Dhulakshi Dhammika Kumari was born in 1993 at Kurunegala. She received her primary education from Sri Sumangala National College in Wariyapola (1999 – 2009) and the secondary education from the Royal College, Wayamba in Kurunegala (2010 – 2012). She entered the Faculty of Science of the University of Jaffna in 2014 and studied Physics, Applied Mathematics and Pure Mathematics in her first and second years of study. Then, she was selected to follow the special degree programme in Physics. She graduated in June 2018 with a First Class Honours degree and ranked one among Physics special students in that batch. She was the only First Class holder in that batch of Physics special students. Apart from Allen Abraham Memorial Gold Medal, she received two other memorial prizes as well in the convocation. Based on her best performance in the undergraduate programme, she was selected as one of the students from Sri Lanka to participate in the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Summer Studentship programme, which was conducted for a period of two months (June – August, 2018). After her graduation, she initially worked as a Demonstrator at the Department of Physics and currently working as an Assistant Lecturer.

Allen Abraham Ambalavanar – BA, FRAS (1865 – 1922)
(Compiled by Dr.A.Wijayaratnam)

Allen Abraham Ambalavanar

Allen Abraham Ambalavanar was a Professor of Mathematics and Tamil at the Jaffna College. He was interested in astronomy and taught astronomy to the undergraduate students. When the Halley’s Comet appeared in 1910, he made some calculations and according to the publications in the 1985 Jaffna College Miscellany, his predictions with regard to the time and appearance of the comet turned out to be the most accurate. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of England on November 10, 1911. He was the first Ceylonese to be elected to that society. Allen Abraham was born in 1865 at Karainagar and his birth name was Subramaniar Ambalavanar. He lost both his parents during a cholera epidemic when he was 11 years old. He had his early education at a ‘Thinnai School’ in Karainagar and was taught by a Brahmin teacher, Karthigesu Aiyar. In 1881, he was admitted to the Aid Training School in Tellippallai. During this time, he became a Christian. Once he finished the two-year course there, he was admitted to Jaffna College to follow the five-year course. It was during this time at the Jaffna College that his intelligence and skills were noted. He was always the first in all the classes and won the first prize in all the subjects. He finished the five-year course obtaining First Class. He was then appointed as a Lecturer at Tellippallai Training College.

In 1891, he was appointed Professor of Tamil at Jaffna College. He passed the Madras Matriculation in 1889 and later the F.A. of the Calcutta University in 1893 followed by the B.A. privately from Jaffna itself. His performance at the B.A. examination is said to be unique. In 1894, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics as well. During this time, Jaffna College was affiliated to the Calcutta University and was preparing students for the F.A. and the B.A. examinations. Allen Abraham was at that time their only teacher in mathematics and astronomy. Allen Abraham was responsible for commencing the London Inter-Arts in 1920 and later the London Inter-Science classes. When the Halley’s Comet appeared again in 1985, there was renewed interest in Sri Lanka and Jaffna College released a special supplement of the Jaffna College Miscellany, 1985 – ‘Allen Abraham and the Halley’s Comet’. The two articles by A.Kathirgamar, the Principal, Jaffna College and T.Visvanathan, Head of the Department of Science were published in the Ceylon Daily News and the Island Newspaper in December 1985.

Telescope used by Allen Abraham Ambalavanar

Allen Abraham took a keen interest in astronomy from his young days and it became his hobby. He has published several articles and encouraged the study of astronomy in the elementary classes. He used a very simple telescope of about five and a half feet in length to do all his observations and calculations. The telescope and some of his tracings of the original calculations were in the Jaffna College library but when the government took over Jaffna College, they were handed over to the University of Jaffna along with several books. Unfortunately, the telescope is not available in the university anymore. It is also sad that a collection of Allen Abraham’s books, journals and his publications which were kept by one of his sons (Abraham Aruliah) at his home in Chundikuli, Jaffna were destroyed completely when his home got damaged during the disturbances in Jaffna.

Allen Abraham was not only a great mathematician and an astronomer, but was also a great Tamil Pundit and a talented musician. He has composed Tamil Christian songs (lyrics), some of which are currently in the Tamil Christian worship books. He was a lay preacher in the local church and also could sing Hindu Thevarams with great devotion and clarity. Allen Abraham was eloquent in both Tamil and English and was much sought after to be the interpreter whenever a foreign dignitary visited Jaffna. It is said that he would be so quick and fluent in his interpretation that the attention of the audience would be more focused on him than on the guest speaker. He had four children – James Ambalavanar Kanagasunderam, Jane Nallamma (Tambyah), Rose Rasamma (Arumainayagam) and Abraham Aruliah. Allen Abraham died on the July 9, 1922 due to complications following diabetes. At his funeral, Rev. John Bicknell, Principal, Jaffna College and J.V.Chelliah, a colleague of Allen Abraham gave the funeral orations. Rev. Bicknell in his oration stated that there will never be anyone to match his greatness in knowledge, teaching capability, considered advice and the modesty displayed throughout his life. The funeral hearse was drawn by the senior students of Jaffna College from his home to the cemetery.