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Biographical entry Thambugala, Ranjithsingha Lakshman (1924 - 1997)

MB BS Ceylon 1948; MB BS London 1951; FRCS 1959: FCSSL 1993.

28 July 1924
Kalatuwawa, Ratnapura, Sri Lanka
13 October 1997
General surgeon


Ranjithsingha Lakshman Thambugala was a general surgeon in the Sri Lanka Government Health Service. He served in many parts of the country and ended his career as a general surgeon at the General Hospital, Colombo. He was born on 28 July 1924 in a mansion in Kalatuwawa in the Ratnapura district of Sri Lanka. His father was Percy Richard Thambugala, a surgeon and obstetrician at the General Hospital in Kandy. His mother was Jane Martha Kalatuwawa, who managed her estates, growing tea, rubber, coconut and rice.

Ranjithsingha's paternal great-great-great-grandfather was Molligoda Adigar, the first adigar (prime minister) and commander in chief of the armed forces of the Kandyan Kingdom. In 1815 he entered into a secret agreement with Sir Robert Brownrigg, the British commander, to allow the latter's forces to enter the Kandyan Kingdom unopposed and capture Sri Wickrema Raja Singha, the last king of Kandy, who was an unpopular, tyrannical ruler. As a result, the British annexed the Kandyan Kingdom and the whole island of Ceylon became a British colony.

Ranjithsingha was educated at Trinity College, Kandy, where he excelled in his studies and was a school prefect. He entered the University of Ceylon (the only university in the country at that time) in 1942, and graduated MB BS with second class honours in 1948. In 1950 he started studying at the West London Hospital Medical School and graduated MB BS in 1951.

He worked at the Lambeth Hospital, London and the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton in 1952 and 1953. For postgraduate studies he was at Liverpool University and the Postgraduate Medical School of London. He worked under Ian Aird in 1959. In 1969 he returned to the Postgraduate Medical School of London, where he was a research assistant to Richard Welbourn, the professor of surgery, until 1971. In 1970 he was awarded the Hazel Clifford postgraduate studentship by the University of London. He also received a Wellcome grant for research.

In Sri Lanka he was a consultant surgeon in general hospitals at Batticaloa, Panadura, Ratnapura and Kalutara for short periods, and consultant surgeon at Colombo North Teaching Hospital for seven years. He ended his public service as a consultant surgeon at the General Hospital Colombo from 1976 to 1984. During this period he was a teacher and examiner for undergraduates and postgraduates at the University of Colombo.

After retirement he worked as a consultant surgeon at the accident service of the General Hospital Colombo for ten more years, to help manage the casualties during the northern insurrection.

He was a council member of the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka, and a member of the International Society of Surgery, representing Sri Lanka.

He published on various surgical topics, especially on techniques of surgery, in the British Journal of Surgery, The Lancet and the Ceylon Medical Journal, among other publications.

At school he took part in cricket, hockey, tennis, rugby and swimming. He played rugby for the University of Ceylon.

Ranjithsingha was well-known as a doctor who was totally dedicated to his patients, so much so that he did not engage in private practice outside his working hours at the government hospital. His patients and their relatives appreciated his kindness and empathy. He was a soft-spoken gentleman who respected by every person who met him, be they rich or poor, senior, peer or junior.

In 1961 he married Hemantha Goonaratne. They had two children, a daughter (Aruni Sharanthi) and a son (Guyan Milanda), who are medical doctors living in Australia. Ranjithsingha Lakshman Thambugala died on 13 October 1997. He was 73.

Lucian Jayasuriya

The Royal College of Surgeons of England