Dr. Samson Theodore Herat - A man of great achievements



Three months ago saw the passing away of Dr. Samson Herat, was the first Survey General of Sri Lanka, produced from Trinity College, Kandy. Born on the 28th of October, 1934, to Mr. George and Mrs. Sriya Herat, a Kandyan family, who lived in the hill capital, Senkadagalapura (Kandy), surrounded by the misty mountains and was the eldest child in the family of six children (three sons and three daughters). Dr. Herat spent his entire childhood in Kandy, living close to the Kandy lake, in a beautiful environment, close to nature. Walking round the lake, visits to the hilly areas above the Raja Pihilla Mawatha, Udawattekelle, Bahirawakanda and Hanthana Hill, was the order of the day for a healthy life. He moved around and associated with children in the surrounding villages and schoolmates of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds. This was the secret of his success story with the respect of all.

He had his early education at the best school of all - Trinity College Kandy. He was a firm believer of the school motto "Respice Finem" – "Look to the end" – and lived up to the traditions till the last bell calls. While having his primary education, at Trinity, he was under the stewardship of the then principal, Rev. R.W. Stopford, who has had a distinguished career at Oxford. In secondary education, he was under the stewardship of Mr. C.E. Simithraaratchy and Mr. N.S. Walter , having an excellent academic career and excelled in his studies with the guidance provided by the two vice principals Gordon Burrows and G.Y. Sahayam. In 1948 and 1949, at the G. C. E. (OL) stage, Dr. Herat was the winner of the Mathematics prize. In 1950 and 1952, at the A.L. stage, he won Mathematics and Physics prizes. He, along with fellow batchmate Mahinda Kehelpannala, passed the University Entrance Examination, in 1952, and gained entry to the Science Faculty of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya. Some of his other colleagues, at Trinity, were Kavan Rambukwella (sportsman) J.C. Rassiah, B. R. Hepponstall, L. Y. Wickramaratne, (academics).

After a distinguished academic career, in the University, he earned a BSc. Honors degree in Mathematics and later joined the Ceylon Survey Department, as an Assistant Survey Superintendent, following his father Mr. George Herat’s profession as a surveyor.

Colleagues who worked with Dr. Herat, in the Survey Department, and the Sabaragamuwa University, Mr. Sarath Jayatilaka (Deputy Surveyor General), Mr. Neil Seneviratne (Surveyor General) and Dr. H.I.M. Prasanna, (Dean Faculty of Geomatics, Sabaragamuwa University) say Dr. S. T. Herat was one of the most illustrious surveyors Sri Lanka ever produced. He was a friend and mentor to many people. While working as an Assistant Survey Superintendent, he obtained his Post Graduate training at the University of London, UK, and later obtained his Master's Degree from the Ohio University in the U.S.A.

As Surveyor General of Sri Lanka

At the Survey Department, Dr. Herat was in charge of the Department’s Aerial Survey Section and was responsible for introducing "Strip Triangulation" for photogrammetric plotting. He was also responsible for developing the computer division of the department, and, as a skilled programmer, who specialized in Fortran developed least squares solutions to deal with several problematic issues in the department. He also served at the National Research Council, Ottawa, Canada, working on Computer Sciences and its applications in Geodesy and Photogrammetry.

As a Mathematician, he developed programmers for projects that focused on the Jethawanaramaya Temple, in Anuradhapura, underground tunnels in Polgolla/Bowatenna/ Maskeliya, He also worked with the Mahaweli Minister, Gamini Dissanayake, on the accelerated Mahaweli project. The Victoria, Randenigala/Rantambe, and Maduru Oya were some projects were he was actively involved.

Dr. Samson Herat rose to the top position of Surveyor General in the Survey Department of Sri Lanka and was the first Trinitian to hold this position. In addition to his work at the Survey Department, he also held key responsibilities in different Government and Research Organizations. He functioned as a director of the National Hydrographic office and ESCAP Regional remote sensing programme, Member of the Arthur C. Clarke Centre, Young Astronomers Association of Sri Lanka, Member - Steering Committee of the Central Cultural Fund – Member of the Governing Board of the National Aquatic Resources and Development Agency and Surveyors Institute of Sri Lanka.

Dr. Herat also provided his expertise, internationally, serving in the National Survey Directorate in Bahrain. He was also an advisor to the Sri Lankan team engaged in the demarcation of the Maritime boundaries between Sri Lanka and India, including the Kachchativu Island and also the Maldives. He was also a visiting lecturer for Geodesy and Photogrammetry at the Gulf Technical College, in Bahrain, University of Moratuwa, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and Institute of Surveying and Mapping, Diyatalawa, where his services were valued.

Having retired as Surveyor General, and joined the Sabaragamuwa University, as a senior lecturer, and supported the institution to set up its Survey Faculty.

He was one of the most respected personalities of the Surveyors Institute of Sri Lanka and Survey Engineers Institute of Sri Lanka, and always contributed to enhance the standards of the Surveyor profession. On the 29th of December 2014, at the general convocation of the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, Mr. Samson Theodore Herat was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) in recognition of the services to his motherland and its citizens.

I came to know the Herat family when they settled down on School Avenue, Kalubowila, Dehiwala, in the late 1980s. Though he was very much senior to me, at Trinity College, Kandy, we had a good understanding among us and respected each other. He, being an elderly gentleman, was able to command the respect of all the people in our neighbourhood and was able to provide good advice to maintain a healthy relationship among the neighbours. The passing away of Dr. Samson Herat, three months ago, was a great loss to the entire neighbourhood. May his journey in sansara be a pleasant one until he achieves Nirvana.

I have to mention a few words about Dr. Herat's wife Ramani. She was a devoted wife, who was always behind Dr. Herat’s success in his professional career, guiding him and also the two children Athula and Tamara for a successful journey in life. Ramani, you will miss his companionship most, but the children and grandchildren are with you. To Athula and Tamara and their extended families take your father as a role model to achieve a decent future in this journey of sansara.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. "Respice Finem". Look to the end.


Former Committee Member, Trinity College, Kandy

O.B.A. Colombo Branch.

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