b.3 October 1908 d.27 February 1970
OBE(1956) MRCS LRCP(1932) MB BS Lond(1933) DTM&H Eng(1934) MD(1949) MRCP(1960) FRCPath(1962) FRCP(1966)
Gerald Henry Cooray was bom in Panadura, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the son of Henry Cooray, a Government medical officer, and his wife Pusethi Sudhira, daughter of Charles Frederick Sudhira Jayawickrema, a Government interpreter in the Law Courts. After a brilliant school career at the Royal College, Colombo, he came to England to study medicine at King’s College Hospital where he qualified with the Conjoint in 1932, taking his MB BS the following year. On his return to Ceylon he worked in the Department of Health. In 1946 he was appointed Lecturer in Pathology in the University of Ceylon. In 1949 he obtained the MD (London) by thesis, for which he was awarded the coveted Gold Medal in Pathology and became the first and only Ceylonese to win this award. He was appointed Professor of Pathology in 1953, as successor to Professor W.A.E.Karunaratne. In 1960 he was awarded the MRCP for his published work and was elected FRCP in 1966. He was awarded the OBE in 1956.
His achievements were many, and he held the highest office in several scientific and professional bodies in Sri Lanka: President of the Ceylon Medical Association, President of the Ceylon Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the Ceylon Cancer Society. He served on many international committees and as a member of WHO Expert Advisory Panels on Cancer Diagnosis and Control, for one of his main interests was oncology. He had numerous publications to his credit on diverse medical topics and was engaged on research till the time of his death.
In 1937 he married Mallika Leelawathie, daughter of Arthur Vincent Dias, a planter. They had one son and two daughters.
Professor Cooray was a serious man, the personification of everything that was correct. A man of integrity, outspoken, truthful and honourable, he was deeply religious and devoted a good part of his time to Buddhist activities. He excelled as a teacher and his lectures were always eagerly awaited by students and staff. In spite of his forthright ways, he was liked by all. Extremely fair in all his actions he never failed to tell his juniors what he thought about them, so that they had ample opportunity to mend their ways. He was essentially a family man and derived a great deal of happiness from his grandchildren.
He was one of the outstanding medical men in Ceylon and played a large part in the modern development of the Medical School in Colombo, which celebrated its centenary in 1970, and he was an international figure in the field of cancer pathology. He will be remembered not only for his achievements but also for his fairness to all those who had the good fortune to work closely with him, for his courteous ways and, above all, as a teacher ‘par excellence’.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
[Lancet, 1, 528]
(Volume VI, page 117)
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