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Passing through Aden


Visiting the Buddhist temple in Kelaniya Vihara
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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So then I came to Southampton, as it happened. I called, on the way, at two ports of interest, I think – well, they’re all of interest, but of particular interest – one was Colombo in, Ceylon as it then was, Sri Lanka. Now, of course, there’s been a war there, too, but not when I was there. And we had some friends who’d been to Melbourne University, they met us, they were of three religions, one was a Muslim, one was a Buddhist, I think, and their daughter, little daughter, Nirmula, she was a Christian, so they were relaxed about religion. But they took me to a place called Kelaniya Vihara, and Kelaniya Vihara is a Buddhist temple which is reputed to be many thousands of years old, but in its present existence I think probably at least 1300 years old. And of course, coming from Australia I had never seen anything permanently constructed by human beings that was anything like that old – we thought 100 years was very old – because that was our history of the white occupation of Australia. But I was spellbound, Brian, I have to say. I went into this place and there was a Buddha there, about life-size I would say, seated, and the calmness of that statue was just awe-inspiring. And then I looked at the walls, and it said something in their own script, and then underneath, for people like us, it said, ‘Let your eyes touch these walls, but let your fingers see them not’, and on the walls were fantastic paintings, it brings... an unbelievable experience. And outside there was a sage, I don’t know what religion he was, and he was surrounded by some women in traditional garb for that country, and he was talking to them; I suppose it was like a religious meeting they were having.

Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.

Tags: Southampton, Colombo, Ceylon, Sri Lanka, University of Melbourne, Kelaniya Vihara, Australia

Duration: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011