Lives of the fellows

Panagodage Bertram Fernando

b.5 December 1900 d.9 June 1965
OBE(1950) LMS Ceylon(1924) MB BS Lond(1931) MD Lond(1951) MRCP(1932) FRCP(1952)

Bertram Fernando was born at Galle, Ceylon, the youngest son of P. M. Fernando, a plumbago merchant, and Caroline Wickramtunga. On his mother’s side he was related to the Hon. George E. de Silva, Minister of Health in the first Parliament of independent Ceylon, and on his father’s side to Dr H. M. Peiris, medical superintendent of the De Soysa Maternity Hospital, Colombo, and to J. P. C. Chandrasena, first professor of chemistry in the University College of Ceylon.

He was educated at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, Colombo, and in 1918 was awarded the Government scholarship to the Medical College. In 1930, after service in the Government Health Department, he did post-graduate work in London and won the University College silver medal in pharmacology at the second M.B., B.S. examination.

Soon after his return home he became visiting physician to the General Hospital, Colombo, the teaching hospital of the Medical School, and in 1936 the first professor of medicine, continuing in this office when the faculty of medicine was established in the new University of Ceylon in 1942. In the meantime he had written an account of the malaria epidemic of 1934-5.

His interests were varied. He wrote on rheumatic disease, childhood tuberculosis, worm infestation, nutritional disorders of children, and liver diseases. He was able to show that in Ceylon cirrhosis was caused mainly by diets deficient in protein and that coconut oil, used extensively in cooking, was probably the main agent in coronary atherosclerosis.

A brilliant clinician, he was a kind and considerate teacher, stressing the necessity of detail in history-taking and physical examination. He was dean of the medical faculty on several occasions and vice-chancellor in 1958. For these services to medical education he was appointed O.B.E, in 1950. He was also interested in the education of the masses and, with his wife, its principal for many years, founded the Girls’ School, Anula Vidyalaya. He retired in 1959.

In 1923 he married Nancy, daughter of David Fernando, a tea-planter, of Peradeniya, Kandy. They had five sons and three daughters.

Richard R trail

[Brit.med.J., 1966, 1, 865-6.]

(Volume V, page 128)

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