Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Saturday, December 13, 2008


4:1 Professor

On July 1, 1959, I was appointed Hale’s successor as Professor of Bacteriology. in my Inaugural Lecture I addressed the theme that was my main work, “Encephalitis in Singapore.” I said that in the same way as we take a lot of trouble to rehabilitate children physically affected by poliomyelitis, we should also take the trouble to rehabilitate children mentally affected by Japanese B encephalitis and who often had psychiatric problems that were little understood. I do not think anyone heard my plea and I doubt if anything much was done for the latter problem.

My assistants were Lee Liang Hin who was soon promoted Senior Lecturer, and Chan Yow Cheong, a Lecturer, who had a PhD in Zoology. Liang Hin took the brunt of our work in poliomyelitis and enteroviruses and was appointed Director of the WHO Polionyelitis Centre in Singapore (later the Enterovirus Centre) while Yow Cheong concentrated on arboviruses (an acronym for arthopod-borne viruses, which included mosquito-borne viruses). I have sometimes considered my position in the light of the observation of Northcote Parkinson who said of “empire-builders” within institutions, “Work expands to fill the time available.” Parkinson quoted the remark of a departmental head who proved that he had so much to do that he was given two assistants between whom he divided his work load. When asked what his own work was, the worthy said, “Why, I am fully occupied making sure my assistants do their work properly!”

Note: Northcote C.Parkinson, Professor of History, University of Singapore, 1960s. Most well known for his book, The Law and the Profits, the first line of which read, ‘Expenditure rises to meet income.

In practice, I undertook as my personal project the detection of polioviruses in Singapore waters. The procedures involved detection of as few as 100 particles of poliovirus in one cubic metre of water and involved filtration of water and clarified sewage through micro fillers and subsequent recovery of the entrapped virus in tissue cultures. The question I was trying to answer was if the Singapore sewage purification process successfully eliminated polioviruses that might have been excreted by poliovirus carriers, and if not, where surviving polioviruses ended up. If in the sea, where? I fear that I never got to the bottom of this question, being enmeshed on the way by technical problems that I had not foreseen. It was unfortunately a waste of my time and energy in Singapore, though Melnick’s group were more successful in Houston.


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