Malaysia: Unity Government?


August 12, 2015

Gotch Ya, Najib

Malaysia: Unity Government

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com/blog/malaysias-mahathir-razaleigh-teaming-up-to-sink-najib/

Malaysia’s deteriorating political situation has driven two once-implacable foes – former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his onetime rival for UMNO party leadership Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah – together to try to form a unity government to remove current Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“There is a leadership crisis in Malaysia and the consensus is that only one candidate can end it,” said a longtime friend of Razaleigh who played a role in setting up a meeting between the two figures. “That is Ku Li [Razaleigh’s nickname], the only solution. The question is how to put together the mechanics of how it is to be done.”

Sources in Kuala Lumpur say Najib has dug in his heels and refuses to entertain the idea of stepping down voluntarily. It is believed that he has threatened to bring down other politicians and officials with him if he is forced out.

Friends and associates of Razaleigh have been trying for weeks to persuade him to join the effort to oust Najib. But the fact that the former enemies within the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) would seek common cause is an indication of how deep Malaysia’s political and economic crisis has become.

Dr M and Ku LiCan they form Unity Government

Mahathir and Razaleigh met Tuesday, August 11, the source said, adding that the biggest hurdle with be forcing a vote of no-confidence in the parliament.

The two believe they would have unanimous support from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, which holds 89 of the 222 parliamentary seats although some Parti Islam se-Malaysia votes would be questionable after the fundamentalist Islamic party split earlier this year. Attempts to reach Pakatan officials were unsuccessful.

Parliamentary dysfunction

The ruling Barisan Nasional holds 132 seats, but UMNO has only 88 of them. A general election is not due until April 2018 – unless events overtake Najib’s defenses.

“The Parliament is dysfunctional in that the speaker [Pandikar Amin Mulia] is not a democratic speaker,” said the source, a constitutional lawyer. “He controls parliament on behalf of the ruling coalition instead of being a neutral speaker.   He won’t allow a vote of confidence on an incumbent Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of the people.”

However, with rank-and-file sentiment growing restive in the face of a financial scandal linking Najib to irregularities in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad investment fund, some of the component parties in the BN could be open to changing horses. The Malaysian Chinese Association, for instance, has grown disenchanted with UMNO’s increasing embrace of fundamentalist Islamic views and Malay-first rhetoric. Christian parties in East Malaysia could also be up for grabs.

How much real clout the two elderly politicians have is unknown. Although Razaleigh, 78, has retained his seat in Parliament, he has been out of a leadership position since 1987, when he challenged Mahathir for the premiership and lost in a battle that split UMNO and guaranteed their enmity. Mahathir, 90, remains a more potent force, but he has been attempting to bring down Najib for more than a year, largely without traction.

Declining fortunes

However, the economic situation may play as much of a role as politics in forcing the issue. Global Risk Insights, the international risk rating agency, warned on August 12 that the 1MDB scandal has “shattered business confidence in Malaysia” and that the government has been distracted as a result from dealing with economic issues like the impact of falling global oil prices on oil-dependent Malaysia’s government debt. Household debt is climbing.

The ringgit, having fallen through the psychologically important RM4:US$1 barrier, is one of the globe’s worst performing currencies. The raid on the currency from global traders appears to be picking up speed, with the ringgit weakening to RM4.25 to the US dollar before the central bank used enough reserves to drive it back down to RM4:03. Banks have begun to limit retail withdrawals to RM3,000 and currency traders say there is a shortage of foreign currencies as people seek safer havens in the dollar.

In the meantime, Najib may be losing his grip on UMNO. He still has the loyalty of a large number of the 191 divisional cadres, mostly through vast payments that provide them with electoral resources and jobs between elections, but the grass roots are another matter.

An extraordinary video went viral earlier this week, for example, of a young woman going postal on Najib during an UMNO women’s wing gathering in Langkawi, accusing Najib in a screeching voice of having “urinated on the 3 million UMNO members. He needs to be sent for medical treatment.” The video has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

Sleazy trail

BERSIH, the reform NGO, has ordered what it hopes will be a massive rally for August 29. Mahathir is urging people to attend and has suggested they bring water bottles to mop up the tear gas. The Police have threatened to block the rally.

The focal point of the whole mess is 1MDB, which was set up as a state-backed investment fund in 2009 with the advice of Jho Taek Low, the young Penang-born tycoon and friend of the Najib family. In the intervening years, the fund, as a result of what appears to be extraordinarily bad management, has run up debts that by some estimates have reached RM50 billion, an unknown amount of that unfunded.

Najib in anxiety

In early July, the Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal reported that US$680 million was transferred from unknown sources through a complex web of transactions to Najib’s personal bank account at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur prior to the 2013 general election. Sarawak Report has released graphic details on the flow of millions of ringgit through banks, companies and government agencies linked to 1MDB into accounts held by Jho Low, as he is known, and other accounts.

Najib has said the money was not for his personal use, leaving others to hint that it came from Middle Eastern sources to be used in the 2013 election. But sources have told Asia Sentinel that at least RM1billion flowed out from Najib’s accounts overseas. Neither the source of the money nor its final destination is clear. Certainly, given the relatively small amounts needed to fund electoral races in Malaysia, it would seem impossible to spend such a huge amount

On his blog, Che Det, Mahathir ridiculed the idea that the money came from unknown Arab sources, saying “his claim that Arabs donated billions is what people describe as hogwash or bullshit. Certainly I don’t believe it and neither can the majority of Malaysians if we go by the comments on the social media. The world had a good laugh.”

 

A Malaysian Editor’s Tribute to India’s 11th President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam


August 7, 2015

A Malaysian Editor’s Tribute to India’s 11th President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

by Dorairaj Nadason Executive Editor. The Star

http://www.thestar.com.my

http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Why-Not/Profile/Articles/2015/08/07/The-passing-of-a-great-statesman-Dr-APJ-Abdul-Kalam

Kalam and Corruption

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was not a politician, but he was a true leader of men and a great success story. He was a poor kid who became a role model for leaders around the world.

THE VVIP walked to the stage to loud applause, flanked by the hosts. He passed the speaker’s podium. And stopped in his tracks. There, before him, were two rows of seats with a special chair in the centre for him, comfortable cushions and all.

The man flatly refused to move unless the chair was removed.“Get me a chair just like the ­others,” he demanded.The hosts were flustered. They rushed around before deciding to remove the comfortable chair and place one of the other chairs there instead.

Placated, the VVIP walked over, raised his hands to the crowd and sat. And the crowd rose as one to give Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Kalam  a standing ovation.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who died on July 27, was that kind of man – a humble leader who always consi­dered himself one of the millions of ordinary Indians.

He was no ordinary man, though. He has even been compared with Mahatma Gandhi, the man behind India’s independence and the great movement called satyagraha (passive resistance) and ahimsa (non-vio­lence).

Like Gandhi, he owned precious little but for most Indians of today, he was the most precious thing in the country. He was scientist, philosopher, poet, leader, teacher, medical researcher, missile man – and, above all, the People’s President.

When Dr Kalam was made President, he went into Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, with two bags of clothes. Five years later, his tenure done, he left the palace – with the same two bags.

Kalam and Love of Books

Aides tell of how he used to wear the same few coats and shirts – some were frayed – although he was asked to buy new ones. To his death, he owned little. He had some 2,500 books, a wristwatch, six shirts, four trousers, three suits and a pair of shoes. He did not own property. Not even a fridge, TV, car or air conditioner.

He survived on the royalties from his books – he authored four of them – and his pension. He did not believe in accepting money from anyone. And his penchant was in driving this message home to the youths of India.

Abdul-kalam

“If you know your father bought that car with money that he did not rightfully earn, tell him that you will never sit in the car. And stick to your words,” he said.He wanted them to walk or cycle rather than ride in a car bought with ill-gotten wealth.

He said if society was to be fighting corruption, there were three key people who could make it happen – the father, the mother and the teacher. And he was the teacher.

He told youths to dream, not idle dreams, but dreams that would  come true. Dreams, he said, are not what you see when you are asleep. They are what keep you from sleeping.

He was a devout Muslim – the son of an imam – but also a man who embraced all religions.

Born in Rameshwaram, an island in the southernmost tip of India, he grew up with the famed Ramanatha Swami temple towering over him. His best friend was Ramananda Shashtri, the son of a Hindu priest.

For great men, he said, religion was a way of making friends. “Small people make religion a fighting tool,” he said. And he lived up to his doctrine.

During his visit to Malaysia, he walked the street of harmony – Jalan Kapitan Keling – in Penang. At St George’s Church, he stood in front of the cross and recited a prayer. At the Kuan Yin temple down the road, he prayed with joss sticks in his palms. Then, he walked over to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple where he paid his respects.

As he stepped out to loud Indian traditional music, the crowd mobbed him. He took the mike and told the crowd in his native Tamil language to recite after him his favourite mantra. And, with a fervour seldom seen there, they chanted:

If there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character;

If there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home;

If there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation;

If there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.

Then, it was over to the Kapitan Kling mosque where he was ­greeted by the imam. He planted a tree – tree-planting to stop global warming was another great drive of his – and then joined a congregation of fellow Muslims in zohor prayers.

It was a lesson in harmony, on Harmony Street.He may have been the man behind India’s killing machines, its rockets and bombs. But he was a man who loved every soul as his own. The only sad thing is: he was never an elected leader, one who could have made a difference in politics and policies. He was just a titular head of state.

But Dr Kalam died every inch a statesman, and as a role model for those in public life throughout the world. Even in death, he left a ­memorable legacy. Don’t declare a holiday on my death, he said.

“If you want to remember me, work an extra day,” he said.In Jaipur, not only did they not have holiday on the day he died, all civil servants came back to work last Sunday to honour his words.

Dr Kalam may not have wanted a holiday upon his death but there are days for him. In Switzerland, May 26 – the day he visited the country – is World Science Day. And his birthday on Oct 15 is World Students Day. He was a teacher to his last breath.

 

The Malaysian National Higher Education Blueprint: Stopping the Rot ?


July 8, 2015

The National Higher Education Strategic Plan 2 : Malaysia’s global reach : a new dimension

Abdullah, Nur Anisah and Abdul Rahman, Shukran (2011) The National HIgher Education Strategic Plan 2 : Malaysia’s global reach : a new dimension. Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ISBN 9789833663927
[img] PDF ( The National HIgher Education Strategic Plan 2020 ) – Published Version
Download (450Kb) | Preview

Abstract

Phase II of the National Higher Education Strategic Plan to continue tis agenda to strengthen its foundation and effectively strategize to ensure the successful implementation of planned agenda. PSPTN II Malaysia’s Global Reaach: A New Dimension is an additional policy document to PSPTN Phase II (2011-2015) aims to explore the global engagement reach through specific strategy, that is the use of soft power.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled Keywords: Higher education, strategic plan, Malaysia
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Kulliyyahs/Centres/Divisions/Institutes: Kulliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences > Department of Business Administration
Depositing User: Dr Nur Anisah Abdullah
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2013 17:38
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2013 17:39
URI: http://irep.iium.edu.my/id/eprint/6854

The Malaysian National Higher Education Blueprint: Stopping the Rot ?

by  Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Some months earlier when asked about the state of higher education in the country, I had used black humour to emphasize the point that one of the main causes was our “constipated academics” who should be the first to raise the red flag on the many problems besetting the sector, in particular that of low standards of teaching and research, but who have failed to do so.

“They cannot or will not get it out” was my explanation. Perhaps I was too unkind as the National Education Blueprint is now finally out. This report is the outcome of several years of work apparently involving over 8,000 to 10,000 people.

Among those intimately engaged in the Blueprint were over 90 Higher Learning Institutions (HLI) chairmen, vice-chancellors, and chief executives; 450 HLI staff; more than 25 members of national education councils and over 50 senior “thought” leaders and professors.

National_Higher_Education.pdf

So what has this eminent body of higher education professionals come up with? Has there been an honest and critical appraisal of the state of our higher education with realistic strategies and reforms put in place to rectify the problems? Or are our academicians caught in a web of denial and setting up false hopes and unachievable targets, thus setting the stage for a massive let-down.

Here’s a reminder of some of the major problems in our universities today. They include:

– the low standard in English language proficiency.

– the deficiency in thinking and problem solving skills.

– mindsets and value systems that are closed and are not exposed to challenge or high standards, and unable to cope with diversity.

– poor communication skills; and low mastery of rigorous discipline and socially relevant or market-driven knowledge.

These problems are found in both public and private sector higher learning institutions.

The Ministry of Education’s data show that 27% of private university graduates cannot find employment after graduation with a lower figure for public sector graduates.

Unemployment for private university graduates is higher than for public universities where the unemployment rate is 25%. By comparison nationally unemployment is around 3%.

Also when employed, the return on both private and public investment is low as shown by the finding in the Blueprint that 45% of all graduates in employment earn salaries of less than RM1,500 per month.

External validation of the dismal state of our higher education comes from a number of international ranking systems of universities. For example, the Universitas 21 Report ranks higher education in 50 countries across four categories: resources, environment, connectivity, and output.

Despite the country’s significant investments in higher education – we ranked 12 out of 50 in terms of resources invested – we were almost at the bottom of the list in terms of outputs (44 out of 50).

Low academic ranking amongst world universities

 It is not just the products of our universities that are scraping the bottom of the international barrel. The lecturers and researchers are similarly of poor standard.

Almost every year now, various international ranking systems – the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities – find our universities unlisted in the top highly regarded universities – whether in terms of research output, quality of teaching and learning, or with other key indicators of academic excellence.

As an example, no local university made it to the list of 100 top universities in The Times Higher Education University Ranking for the Asian region in 2014.  And the trend overall appears to be going backwards rather than forward.

What makes it doubly distressing is that a disproportionate share of public resources has been deployed to support and maintain a system that is sliding in standard.

According to the Blueprint, the annual total expenditure on higher education is equivalent to 7.7% of annual government expenditure while the ministry’s expenditure on higher education alone is 5.5% of annual government expenditure. This is, according to UNESCO benchmarking, the highest among Malaysia’s peers – developed Asian economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan), ASEAN neighbours (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore), and countries with comparable GDP per capita (Chile, Mexico).

Blueprint– Transformation?

The blueprint is touted as the road map for higher educational development for the next ten years, leading to a higher education system that aspires to “rank amongst the world’s leading educational systems and that enables Malaysia to compete in the global economy.”

Brave rhetoric; even braver objectives.The answer to this question will not be known for some time. But in a sector where leadership is in the hands of a craven group in both public and private sector; where the driving force is about saying little, doing less and placing self-interest and personal benefit above all else; where it is impossible to remove the deadwood and non-performing teachers and researchers that populate the universities; and where the policy making and implementing agencies place racial or profit-making concerns uppermost in theirs and the national agenda; the public is right to be seriously skeptical that the Blueprint will have made any difference to our higher education system when we review its outcome several years from now.

Malay Language Nationalists defend Bahasa Malaysia as Medium of Instruction


June 26, 2015

COMMENT: Both GAPENA and Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka have a vested interest to preserve Bahasa Malaysia as the sole medium of instruction in our schools and universities. At least the Dewan has now acknowledged the importance of the English. In doing so, they realize that English is the language of diplomacy and commerce. GEPENA remains adamant.

I do not understand the need to have a law to enforce the use of Bahasa Malaysia and why make English a second language on the  false assumption that by using English, we will make Malaysians less Malaysian and the Malays less Malay. It has again to do with UMNO politics of xenophobia .We want Malaysians with a global mindset and multilingual proficiency to compete and excel in the 2st century world.

Ghazali_Shafie_(crop)I remember in the 60’s (Tun) Ghazalie Shafie, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs saying to my colleagues and I at one of our Friday prayer meetings that as  far as he was concerned English would remain the language of Malaysian diplomacy and in his Ministry we should read, write and speak English. He ,however, insisted that we use Bahasa Malaysia in our official dealings with our counterparts in the civil service and government agencies.

When I joined Bank Negara after leaving the Foreign Ministry in 1965, Governor (Tun) Ismail Tun Ismail Mohd Ali-2nd BNM GovernorMohamed Ali decided that we could use English internally but we had a duty to observe the ruling from the Government to use Bahasa Malaysia as the national language for official communication with the civil service.

Not just that. Governor Ismail set up a Bahasa Malaysia unit to oversea the implementation of  this directive. He did it in compliance with a directive, not  with a language law because he felt it was the right thing. to do. It was also the time when Bank Negara started to issue the Bahasa and English language versions of its Annual Report and Quarterly Economic Report. That tradition has continued to this day. I am proud to say that Bank Negara officers of the present generation are among the most proficient in the use of English and Bahasa Malaysia.

samdech-hun-senLet me say something about the Cambodian approach on the teaching of  Khmer language and English in their schools and universities. Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen is a champion of Khmer Language,  arts,  and culture. When he was growing up, Cambodia was still under France and French was the official language. But he was educated in a Buddhist temple and served as a pagoda boy. He learned to read, write and speak Khmer. There were French schools which catered for the elite.

With the formation of the Royal Government in the early 1990’s, Samdech Hun Sen saw the value of English if Cambodia were to network in ASEAN and engage with the rest of the world. He decided to use English in public schools with Khmer as a medium of instruction. At the same time, he allowed private schools to use English as medium of instruction. and encouraged enterprising Cambodians to set up language schools to teach Mandarin, Korean, Japanese. French and other languages. At university level, courses are taught in  Khmer and English.

UC PresidentAt the University of Cambodia, its President Dr. Kao Kim Hourn(left) made a far sighted decision to offer courses at undergraduate and graduate levels in both languages. At the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, courses will mainly be in English at the postgraduate level The university’s Language Development Center offers programmes for enhancing English language writing and speaking skills  to all students.

In short, because Cambodia practises multilingualism, parents are given  freedom of choice in their free market driven economy.  By adopting this open education policy, Samdech Hun Sen  who himself speaks Khmer, English and Vietnamese, is encouraging his people to be internationalists, without making them less Cambodian and less patriotic. –Din Merican

Malay Language Nationalists defend Bahasa Malaysia as Medium of Instruction

by Bernama @www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Latiff-Bakar2The Federation of National Writers’ Association (GAPENA) Chief 1, Abdul Latiff Bakar said that the time has come for the government to have a law which could act against agencies, departments and local councils which fail to uphold the national language in their official affairs.

“We have brought this matter up many times, but there has been no development. For now we can only comment but if there is a law, any party which refuses to obey it (upholding the national language) can be punished,” he said.

He also urged the Education Ministry to make it compulsory for the senates of institutes of higher learning to observe the regulation to uphold the national language in their administrations.

“As educational institutes, they have a big responsibility to uphold the Malay language and not just chase rankings,” he said as a panelist at the forum “Challenges of the National Language in the Era of Globalisation” here today.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), Awang Sariyan said that the DBP would conduct a language audit on six public universities in a move to ensure that universities in the country abide by the regulations. He added that the DBP had so far audited 37 of the 149 local councils in the country in a move to award star ratings for councils that used Bahasa Melayu in their official dealings.

“From the audit we conducted, the usage of Bahasa Melayu in official matters including advertisements is still unsatisfactory. However, there are some local councils which we give five stars, including the Shah Alam City Council,” he said in the forum.

He said the ranking was one of the initiatives taken by the government to encourage local councils to uphold Bahasa Melayu.

DBP chairman Dr Md Salleh Yaapar said the education system should retain Bahasa Melayu as its medium of instruction and its usage was not the reason for the weak command of the English language among students.

“We acknowledge the importance of English and are not opposing it…other languages can be used including English, but this is not an excuse for replacing Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction in schools,” he said.

Portrait of a Beautiful Mind: George Fitzgerald


June 22, 2015

Portrait of a Beautiful Mind: George Fitzgerald

by J J O’Connor and E F Robertson

George_Francis_FitzGeraldThe function of the University is primarily to teach mankind. .. at all times the greatest men have always held that their primary duty was the discovery of new knowledge, the creation of new ideas for all mankind, and not the instruction of the few who found it convenient to reside in their immediate neighbourhoodGeorge Francis FitzGerald

George Francis FitzGerald was a brilliant mathematical physicist who today is known by most scientists as one of the proposers of the FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction in the theory of relativity. However, this suggestion by FitzGerald, as we shall see below, was not in the area in which he undertook most of his research, and he would certainly not have rated this his greatest contribution.

George FitzGerald’s parents were William FitzGerald and Anne Frances Stoney. His father William was a minister in the Irish Protestant Church and rector of St Ann’s Dublin at the time of George’s birth. William, although having no scientific interests himself, was an intellectual who went on to become Bishop of Cork and later Bishop of Killaloe. It seems that George’s later interest in metaphysics came from his father’s side of the family. George’s mother was the daughter of George Stoney from Birr in King’s County and she was also from an intellectual family. George Johnstone Stoney, who was Anne’s brother, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and George FitzGerald’s liking for mathematics and physics seems to have come mainly from his mother’s side of the family.

William and Anne had three sons, George being the middle of the three. Maurice FitzGerald, one of George’s two brothers, also went on to achieve academic success in the sciences, becoming Professor of Engineering at Queen’s College Belfast. George’s schooling was at home where, together with his brothers and sisters, he was tutored by M A Boole, who was George Boole‘s sister. It is doubtful whether Miss Boole realised what enormous potential her pupil George had, for although he showed himself to be an excellent student of arithmetic and algebra, he was no better than an average pupil at languages and had rather a poor verbal memory. However, when the tutoring progressed to a study of Euclid‘s Elements then George showed himself very able indeed, and he also exhibited a great inventiveness for mechanical constructions, having great dexterity. He was also an athletic boy yet he had no great liking for games.

Miss Boole prepared her pupils very well for their university studies. She noticed one remarkable talent in her pupil George, that was his skill as an observer. Many years later FitzGerald, clearly thinking of his own youth, wrote:-

The cultivation and training of the practical ability to do things and to learn from observation, experiment and measurement, is a part of education which the clergyman and the lawyer can maybe neglect, because they have to deal with emotions and words, but which the doctor and the engineer can only neglect at their own peril and that of those who employ them. These habits should be carefully cultivated from the earliest years while a child’s character is being developed. As the twig is bent so the tree inclines.

FitzGerald certainly showed that he had acquired the ability to learn from observation, experiment and measurement. He entered Trinity College Dublin at the young age of 16 to study his two best subjects which were mathematics and experimental science, and he was soon putting the training he had received at home to good use. At Trinity College, FitzGerald [8]:-

… attained all the distinctions that lay in his path with an ease, and wore them with a grace, that endeared him to his rivals and contemporaries.

It was not an undergraduate career devoted entirely to study, however, for FitzGerald played a full part in literary clubs and social clubs. He also continued his athletic interests, taking to gymnastics and to racquet sports. In 1871 he graduated as the best student in both mathematics and experimental science. He won a University Studentship and two First Senior Moderatorships in his chosen topics.

The aim of FitzGerald was now to win a Trinity College Fellowship but at this time these were few and far between. He was to spend six years studying before he obtained the Fellowship he wanted, but during these years he laid the foundation of his research career. He studied the works of Lagrange, Laplace, Franz Neumann, and those of his own countrymen Hamilton and MacCullagh. In addition he absorbed the theories put forward by Cauchy and Green. Then, in 1873, a publication appeared which would play a major role in his future. This was Electricity and Magnetism by Maxwell which, for the first time, contained the four partial differential equations, now known as Maxwell‘s equations. FitzGerald immediately saw Maxwell‘s work as providing the framework for further development and he began to work on pushing forward the theory.

It is worth noting that FitzGerald’s reaction to Maxwell‘s fundamental paper was not that of most scientists. Very few seemed to see the theory as a starting point, rather most saw it only as a means to produce Maxwell‘s own results. It is a tribute to FitzGerald’s insight as a scientist that he saw clearly from the beginning the importance of Electricity and Magnetism. Maxwell‘s theory was for many years, in the words of Heaviside, “considerably underdeveloped and little understood” but a few others were to see it in the same light as FitzGerald including Heaviside, Hertz and Lorentz. FitzGerald would exchange ideas over the following years with all three of these scientists.

During the six years he spent working for the Fellowship, FitzGerald also studied metaphysics, a topic which he had not formally studied as an undergraduate, and he was particularly attracted to Berkeley‘s philosophy. His liking for metaphysics and his deep understanding of the topic combined with his other great talents in his future career. He won his Fellowship and became a tutor at Trinity College Dublin in 1877. This was not his first attempt at winning a Fellowship, rather it was his second since he failed to win a Fellowship at his first attempt. At Trinity College he was attached to the Department of Experimental Physics and soon he was exerting the greatest influence on the teaching of the physical sciences in the College.

In 1881 John R Leslie, the professor of natural philosophy at Dublin, died and FitzGerald succeeded him to the Erasmus Smith Chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. At the time of his appointment he gave up his duties as College tutor, a role in which he had been extremely successful, to concentrate on his duties as a professor. One of FitzGerald’s long running battles at Trinity College Dublin was to increase the amount of teaching of experimental physics. He soon set up classes in an old chemical laboratory that he was able to obtain for his use, and he gathered round him colleagues who would help in the practical aspects of the subject. As is so often the case in universities, however, he was restricted in the progress he could make from a lack of funds.

In a lecture which he gave to the Irish Industrial League in 1896 FitzGerald emphasised his lifelong belief in practical studies:-

The fault of our present system is in supposing that learning to use words teaches us to use things. This is at its best. It really does not even teach children to use words, it only teaches them to learn words, to stuff their memories with phrases, to be a pack of parrots, to suffocate thought with indigestible verbiage. Take the case of experimenting. How can you teach children to make careful experiments with words? Yet it is great importance that they should be able to learn from experiments.

However, practical applications are built on theoretical foundations and FitzGerald fully understood this. In his inaugural lecture on 22 February 1900 as President of the Dublin Section of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, he spoke of how electricity had been applied to the benefit of mankind during the nineteenth century. Behind a practical invention such as telegraphy there was a wealth of theoretical work:-

… telegraphy owes a great deal to Euclid and other pure geometers, to the Greek and Arabian mathematicians who invented our scale of numeration and algebra, to Galileo and Newton who founded dynamics, to Newton and Leibniz who invented the calculus, to Volta who discovered the galvanic coil, to Oersted who discovered the magnetic actions of currents, to Ampère who found out the laws of their action, to Ohm who discovered the law of resistance of wires, to Wheatstone, to Faraday, to Lord Kelvin, to Clerk Maxwell, to Hertz. Without the discoveries, inventions, and theories of these abstract scientific men telegraphy, as it now is, would be impossible.

We should also look at FitzGerald’s idea of the purpose of a university since it was, like his other educational beliefs, the driving force in how he carried out his professorial duties. He believed that the primary purpose of a university was not to teach the few students who attended but, through research, to teach everyone. He wrote in 1892:-

The function of the University is primarily to teach mankind. .. at all times the greatest men have always held that their primary duty was the discovery of new knowledge, the creation of new ideas for all mankind, and not the instruction of the few who found it convenient to reside in their immediate neighbourhood. … Are the Universities to devote the energies of the most advanced intellects of the age to the instruction of the whole nation, or to the instruction of the few whose parents can afford them an – in some places fancy – education that can in the nature of things be only attainable by the rich?

As can be seen from the quotations we have given from FitzGerald’s writing, his interest in education went well beyond the narrow confines of his own department. It was not merely a theoretical interest for, true to his own beliefs, he took a very practical role in education. He was an examiner in physics at the University of London beginning in 1888 and he served as a Commissioner of National Education in Ireland in 1898 being concerned with reforming primary education in Ireland. As part of this task he travelled to the United States on a fact finding tour in the autumn of 1898. As one might have expected, his aim was to bring far more practical topics into the syllabus of primary schools. At the time of his death he was involved in the reform of intermediate education in Ireland and he also served on the Board which was considering technical education.

In 1883 FitzGerald married Harriette Mary Jellett. She was the daughter of the Rev J H Jellett, the Provost of Trinity College and an outstanding scientist who had been awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society. It was through his personal friendship with Jellett, and also their joint scientific studies, that FitzGerald got to know Harriette. Although the couple had been married just under eight years at the time of FitzGerald’s death, they had eight children during this time; three sons and five daughters. FitzGerald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1883 and, like his father-in-law, he was to receive its Royal medal. This was in 1899 when the prestigious award was made to FitzGerald for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially to optics and electrodynamics. Lord Lister, presenting the medal, said [3]:-

His critical activity pervades an unbounded field, enlivened and enriched throughout by the fruits of a luxuriant imagination.

We should now examine the research for which FitzGerald received these honours.

Beginning in 1876, before he obtained his Fellowship, FitzGerald began to publish the results of his research. His first work On the equations of equilibrium of an elastic surface filled in cases of a problem studied by Lagrange. His second paper in the same year was on magnetism and he then, still in the year 1876, published On the rotation of the plane of polarisation of light by reflection from the pole of a magnet in the Proceeding of the Royal Society. He had already begun to contribute to Maxwell‘s theory and, as well as theoretical contributions, he was conducting experiments in electromagnetic theory. His first major theoretical contribution was On the electromagnetic theory of the reflection and refraction of light which he sent to the Royal Society in October 1878. Maxwell, in reviewing the paper, noted that FitzGerald was developing his ideas in much the same general direction as was Lorentz.

At a meeting of the British Association in Southport in 1883, FitzGerald gave a lecture discussing electromagnetic theory. He suggested a method of producing electromagnetic disturbances of comparatively short wavelengths:-

… by utilising the alternating currents produced when an accumulator is discharged through a small resistance. It would be possible to produce waves of as little as 10 metres wavelength or less.

So FitzGerald, using his own studies of electrodynamics, suggested in 1883 that an oscillating electric current would produce electromagnetic waves. However, as he later wrote:-

… I did not see any feasible way of detecting the induced resonance.

In 1888 FitzGerald addressed the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in Bath as its President. He was able to report to British Association that Heinrich Hertz had, earlier that year, verified this experimentally. Hertz had verified that the vibration, reflection and refraction of electromagnetic waves were the same as those of light. In this brilliant lecture, given to a general audience, FitzGerald described how Hertz:-

… has observed the interference of electromagnetic waves quite analogous to those of light.

After his appointment to the chair, FitzGerald had continued to produce many innovative ideas but no major theories. For example despite his ideas on electromagnetic waves he had not followed through the research and the final experimental verification had been achieved by Hertz. The reason for this is perhaps best understood with a quotation from a letter which FitzGerald sent to Heaviside on 4 February 1889 (see for example [1]):-

I admire from a distance those who contain themselves till they worked to the bottom of their results but as I am not in the very least sensitive to having made mistakes I rush out with all sorts of crude notions in hope that they may set others thinking and lead to some advance.

Although FitzGerald is modestly talking down his contributions in this quotation, the comment he made about himself is essentially correct. O J Lodge [9] gives a similar, but fairer, analysis of FitzGerald’s work:-

… the leisure of long patient analysis was not his, nor did his genius altogether lie in this direction: he was at his best when, under the stimulus of discussion, his mind teemed with brilliant suggestions, some of which he at once proceeded to test by rough quantitative calculation, for which he was an adept in discerning the necessary data. The power of grasping instantly all the bearings of a difficult problem was his to an extraordinary degree …

Again Heaviside wrote (see for example [8]):-

He had, undoubtedly, the quickest and most original brain of anybody. That was a great distinction; but it was, I think, a misfortune as regards his scientific fame. He saw too many openings. His brain was too fertile and inventive. I think it would have been better for him if he had been a little stupid — I mean not so quick and versatile, but more plodding. He would have been better appreciated, save by a few.

Finally we should examine the contribution for which FitzGerald is universally known today. There had been many attempts to detect the motion of the Earth relative to the aether, a medium in space postulated to carry light waves. A A Michelson and E W Morley conducted an accurate experiment to compare the speed of light in the direction of the Earth’s motion and the speed of light at right angles to the Earth’s motion. Despite the difference in relative motion to the aether, the velocity of light was found to be the same. In 1889, two years after the Michelson-Morley experiment, FitzGerald suggested that the shrinking of a body due to motion at speeds close to that of light would account for the result of that experiment. Lodge [9] writes that the idea:-

… flashed on him in the writer’s study at Liverpool as he was discussing the meaning of the Michelson-Morley experiment.

Lorentz, independently in 1895, gave a much more detailed description of the same kind. It was typical of these two great men that both were more than ready to acknowledge the contribution of the other, but there is little doubt that each had the idea independently of the other. The FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction now plays an important role in relativity.

Sadly FitzGerald died at the age of only 49 years. Maxwell, whose work had proved so fundamental for FitzGerald, had died at the age of 48 while Hertz died at the age of 36. In fact in 1896 FitzGerald had reviewed the publication of Hertz’s Miscellaneous Papers for Nature after Hertz‘s death. Four years later, in September 1900, FitzGerald began to complain of indigestion and began to have to be careful what he ate. A few weeks later he complained that he was finding it difficult to concentrate on a problem. His health rapidly deteriorated and despite having an operation the end came quickly.

W Ramsay, on hearing of FitzGerald’s death wrote (see [8]):

We should also look at FitzGerald’s idea of the purpose of a university since it was, like his other educational beliefs, the driving force in how he carried out his professorial duties. He believed that the primary purpose of a university was not to teach the few students who attended but, through research, to teach everyone. He wrote in 1892:-

The function of the University is primarily to teach mankind. .. at all times the greatest men have always held that their primary duty was the discovery of new knowledge, the creation of new ideas for all mankind, and not the instruction of the few who found it convenient to reside in their immediate neighbourhood. … Are the Universities to devote the energies of the most advanced intellects of the age to the instruction of the whole nation, or to the instruction of the few whose parents can afford them an – in some places fancy – education that can in the nature of things be only attainable by the rich?

As can be seen from the quotations we have given from FitzGerald’s writing, his interest in education went well beyond the narrow confines of his own department. It was not merely a theoretical interest for, true to his own beliefs, he took a very practical role in education. He was an examiner in physics at the University of London beginning in 1888 and he served as a Commissioner of National Education in Ireland in 1898 being concerned with reforming primary education in Ireland. As part of this task he travelled to the United States on a fact-finding tour in the autumn of 1898. As one might have expected, his aim was to bring far more practical topics into the syllabus of primary schools. At the time of his death he was involved in the reform of intermediate education in Ireland and he also served on the Board which was considering technical education.

In 1883 FitzGerald married Harriette Mary Jellett. She was the daughter of the Rev J H Jellett, the Provost of Trinity College and an outstanding scientist who had been awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society. It was through his personal friendship with Jellett, and also their joint scientific studies, that FitzGerald got to know Harriette. Although the couple had been married just under eight years at the time of FitzGerald’s death, they had eight children during this time; three sons and five daughters. FitzGerald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1883 and, like his father-in-law, he was to receive its Royal medal. This was in 1899 when the prestigious award was made to FitzGerald for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially to optics and electrodynamics. Lord Lister, presenting the medal, said [3]:

His critical activity pervades an unbounded field, enlivened and enriched throughout by the fruits of a luxuriant imagination.

We should now examine the research for which FitzGerald received these honours.

Beginning in 1876, before he obtained his Fellowship, FitzGerald began to publish the results of his research. His first work On the equations of equilibrium of an elastic surface filled in cases of a problem studied by Lagrange. His second paper in the same year was on magnetism and he then, still in the year 1876, published On the rotation of the plane of polarisation of light by reflection from the pole of a magnet in the Proceeding of the Royal Society. He had already begun to contribute to Maxwell‘s theory and, as well as theoretical contributions, he was conducting experiments in electromagnetic theory. His first major theoretical contribution was On the electromagnetic theory of the reflection and refraction of light which he sent to the Royal Society in October 1878. Maxwell, in reviewing the paper, noted that FitzGerald was developing his ideas in much the same general direction as was Lorentz.

At a meeting of the British Association in Southport in 1883, FitzGerald gave a lecture discussing electromagnetic theory. He suggested a method of producing electromagnetic disturbances of comparatively short wavelengths:-

… by utilising the alternating currents produced when an accumulator is discharged through a small resistance. It would be possible to produce waves of as little as 10 metres wavelength or less.

So FitzGerald, using his own studies of electrodynamics, suggested in 1883 that an oscillating electric current would produce electromagnetic waves. However, as he later wrote:-

… I did not see any feasible way of detecting the induced resonance.

In 1888 FitzGerald addressed the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in Bath as its President. He was able to report to British Association that Heinrich Hertz had, earlier that year, verified this experimentally. Hertz had verified that the vibration, reflection and refraction of electromagnetic waves were the same as those of light. In this brilliant lecture, given to a general audience, FitzGerald described how Hertz:-

… has observed the interference of electromagnetic waves quite analogous to those of light.

After his appointment to the chair, FitzGerald had continued to produce many innovative ideas but no major theories. For example despite his ideas on electromagnetic waves he had not followed through the research and the final experimental verification had been achieved by Hertz. The reason for this is perhaps best understood with a quotation from a letter which FitzGerald sent to Heaviside on 4 February 1889 (see for example [1]):-

I admire from a distance those who contain themselves till they worked to the bottom of their results but as I am not in the very least sensitive to having made mistakes I rush out with all sorts of crude notions in hope that they may set others thinking and lead to some advance.

Although FitzGerald is modestly talking down his contributions in this quotation, the comment he made about himself is essentially correct. O J Lodge [9] gives a similar, but fairer, analysis of FitzGerald’s work:-

… the leisure of long patient analysis was not his, nor did his genius altogether lie in this direction: he was at his best when, under the stimulus of discussion, his mind teemed with brilliant suggestions, some of which he at once proceeded to test by rough quantitative calculation, for which he was an adept in discerning the necessary data. The power of grasping instantly all the bearings of a difficult problem was his to an extraordinary degree …

Again Heaviside wrote (see for example [8]):

He had, undoubtedly, the quickest and most original brain of anybody. That was a great distinction; but it was, I think, a misfortune as regards his scientific fame. He saw too many openings. His brain was too fertile and inventive. I think it would have been better for him if he had been a little stupid — I mean not so quick and versatile, but more plodding. He would have been better appreciated, save by a few.

Finally we should examine the contribution for which FitzGerald is universally known today. There had been many attempts to detect the motion of the Earth relative to the aether, a medium in space postulated to carry light waves. A A Michelson and E W Morley conducted an accurate experiment to compare the speed of light in the direction of the Earth’s motion and the speed of light at right angles to the Earth’s motion. Despite the difference in relative motion to the aether, the velocity of light was found to be the same. In 1889, two years after the Michelson-Morley experiment, FitzGerald suggested that the shrinking of a body due to motion at speeds close to that of light would account for the result of that experiment. Lodge [9] writes that the idea:-

… flashed on him in the writer’s study at Liverpool as he was discussing the meaning of the Michelson-Morley experiment.

Lorentz, independently in 1895, gave a much more detailed description of the same kind. It was typical of these two great men that both were more than ready to acknowledge the contribution of the other, but there is little doubt that each had the idea independently of the other. The FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction now plays an important role in relativity.

Sadly FitzGerald died at the age of only 49 years. Maxwell, whose work had proved so fundamental for FitzGerald, had died at the age of 48 while Hertz died at the age of 36. In fact in 1896 FitzGerald had reviewed the publication of Hertz’s Miscellaneous Papers for Nature after Hertz‘s death. Four years later, in September 1900, FitzGerald began to complain of indigestion and began to have to be careful what he ate. A few weeks later he complained that he was finding it difficult to concentrate on a problem. His health rapidly deteriorated and despite having an operation the end came quickly.

W Ramsay, on hearing of FitzGerald’s death wrote (see [8]):

… to me, as to many others, FitzGerald was the truest of true friends; always interested, always sympathetic, always encouraging, whether the matter discussed was a personal one, or one connected with science or with education. And yet I doubt if it were these qualities alone which made his presence so attractive and so inspiring. I think it was the feeling that one was able to converse on equal terms with a man who was so much above the level of one’s self, not merely in intellectual qualities of mind, but in every respect. … he had no trace of intellectual pride; he never put himself forward, and had no desire for fame; he was content to do his duty. And he took this to be the task of helping others to do theirs.

FitzGerald was described by Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) as (see [10]):-

… living in an atmosphere of the highest scientific and intellectual quality, but always a comrade with every fellow-worker of however humble quality…. My scientific sympathy and alliance with him have greatly ripened during the last six or seven years over the undulatory theory of light and the aether theory of electricity and magnetism.

On his death the Faculty of Science of the University of London adopted the resolution [3]:

That this meeting … having heard with profound sorrow of the premature death of the late Professor George Francis FitzGerald, desires to place on record its high appreciation of his brilliant qualities as a man, as a teacher, as an investigator, and as a leader of scientific thought …

Article by: J J O’Connor and E F Robertson

List of References (11 books/articles)

http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/FitzGerald.html