Friday, August 3, 2007

Dr. Lee Kum Tatt blogs too

Dr. Lee Kum Tatt blogs too
By Elia Diodati

“The world does not care for what we lack, It’s interested only in what we can offer.” - Dr. Lee Kum Tatt

I read yesterday on takchek’s blog that one of Singapore’s most prominent scientists, Dr. Lee Kum Tatt, now has his very own blog. Who is he and why is he prominent? The citation for his 2005 NUS Distinguished Alumni Award explains why.1
As one of Singapore’s very first homegrown scientists, Dr. Lee has chosen to write some form of informal memoirs on his blog about why he chose research as a career. The forwards by his wife Engeline and his friend Tan Kin Lian are often quite touching too. I found all of it to be very absorbing reading, such his vision for the RISIS gold-plated orchid, for which he must have struggled mightily against what appears to have been a ubiquitous climate of FUD and pessimism.

In particular, I found his experiences as a professional chemist in the final days of British colonial rule, resenting insinuations that the locals couldn’t possibly be as smart as proper British scientists, and always having to sit down and shut up, particularly noteworthy. If anything, Dr. Lee’s narratives confirm the existence what I have long suspected to be the pervasive colonial legacy of a collective inferiority complex that I have found to exist in contemporary Singapore.
We need people like Dr. Lee who dare to challenge the status quo when it is necessary to do so. For this reason I recommend all my readers to browse his collection of little vignettes.

Prime Minister’s Office (Singapore), National Honours and Awards, 8 August 2006
National University of Singapore, NUS Science Alumni: Distinguished Alumni Award 2005 - Dr Lee Kum Tatt, BBM, PPA(E), PPA(P), 22 May 2007
Lee Kum Tatt, “Ask the great questions“, 14 April 2007
Lee Kum Tatt, “Making The Incredible Credible“, 1 May 2007
Lee Kum Tatt, “Challenging Selected Myths“, 20 May 2007
Lee Kum Tatt, “My passion for research“, 5 June 2007
Lee Kum Tatt, “Fighting Boredom and Insult“, 6 June 2007
Lee Kum Tatt, “Research During The Colonial Days.“, 11 June 2007

In his citation, Dr. Lee’s name carries the honorifics BBM, PPA(E) and PPA(P), which respectively stand for Bintang Bakti Masyarakat, or The Public Service Star, Pingat Pentadbiran Awam (Emas), or The Public Administration Medal (Gold) and Pingat Pentadbiran Awam (Perak), or The Public Administration Medal (Silver).↩

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