Professor K N Seneviratne

Kirthi Nissanka Seneviratne was born on November 22, 1929. He died, prematurely, on August 10, 1986, succumbing to a massive heart attack at the age of 56.

K.N.S. was a doctor, physiologist, scientist, scholar, educationist, administrator (national and international) volunteer army captain and university don – all rolled into one.

Biography

K.N.S. was the second of the three children of Dr. Robert and Laura Seneviratne. Having qualified as a doctor in the Ceylon Medical College, Dr. Robert Seneviratne went to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland where he became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh. Years later his son K.N.S. was also to tread the same path to Edinburgh where he acquired not only a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, but also a charming, highly educated and accomplished Scottish lass called Alison Alexander as his life’s partner. She was the daughter of the Senior Physician in the Teaching Hospital of the Edinburgh Medical School.

A brilliant student, K.N.S. was an alumnus of Royal College Colombo where he had won the Arunachchalam Prize for General in 1946 and 1947). University of Ceylon and the University of Edinburgh. At Edinburgh, his Ph.D supervisor was Professor David Whitteridge FRS, who was at that time, the last surviving direct pupil of the famous Oxford Professor of Physiology, Nobel laureate and Neurophysiologist, Sir Charles Sherrington OM. Thus KNS had an impeccable academic pedigree. K.N.S. was a superb lecturer who taught abstruse neurophysiology without a scrap of paper. Students hero – worshipped him.

Professional career

K.N.S. was a world class neurophysiologist i.e. a scientist who specializes in the study of the brain and nerves. He joined the Department of Physiology of the Colombo Medical School as a Demonstrator in 1957 and ended up as Professor of Physiology before he was 40. He was specially chosen by the government to establish the Institute of Postgraduate Medicine in 1974. It transformed itself into the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. (PGIM). This was perhaps his most significant and lasting contribution to medical education in our country. In 1981, he joined the WHO as a Regional Adviser and worked enthusiastically until his sudden death in 1986.