Marcus Fernando

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Sir Marcus Fernando
Marcus Fernando (1864-1936).jpg
Born October 21, 1864 Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
Died December 18, 1936 Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
Nationality Ceylonese
Education University College London
Colombo Academy
St Benedict's Academy
Occupation Physician, Public Servant, Planter, Politician
Title Knight Bachelor

Sir Hilarian Marcus Fernando, FRCP (1864–1936) was a pre-independence Ceylonese statesmen, physician and banker. He was a member of both the Executive Council and Legislative Council as well as the Chairman of the State Mortgage Bank of Ceylon.


Fernando was educated at St Benedicts Academy (later known as St Benedict's College Colombo) and the Colombo Academy which was later renamed Royal College Colombo. At the Colombo Academy he won the Turnour Prize, Junior Cambridge Scholarship, and Mathematical Prize. He received a Ceylon Government Scholarship and Scholarship from the Gilchrist Educational Trust, enabling him to study medicine at University College London.[1][2] He graduated with a BSc winning the Atchinson Scholarship and University of London Gold Medals in Physiology, Medicine, Forensic Medicine and Obstetrics. He graduated with an MB in 1888, an MD in 1889 and in 1890 was elected a Fellow of University College London.[3][4]

Medical career[edit]

On his return to Ceylon he served as Registrar of the Ceylon Medical College and the Superintendent of the De Soysa Maternity Home and was appointed the first Consultant Physician to be appointed to the General Hospital Colombo.[1][2] He contributed to scientific discussions on a wide range of diseases and is associated with a discussion on Diabetes in the Tropics, where he is credited with the observation that it was more common among the affluent Ceylonese.[5] He was a member of the Ceylon Branch of the British Medical Association, and was Secretary from 1891–1897 and President in the years 1905 and 1914. He was the founding Director of the Bacteriological Institute in Colombo and Chemical Examiner to the Government of Ceylon.[6][7]

Political career[edit]

At the age of 43 he resigned from the medical service to take up a career in business and politics. He contested unsuccessfully for the newly created seat (proposed by Sir James Peiris) in the legislative assembly losing to Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan,[8][9] but subsequently served on both the Executive Council and Legislative Councils. He supported the Donoughmore Constitution enabling general elections with adult universal suffrage and was largely responsible for devising wider representation to the Eastern Muslims and Northern Tamils.[4]

In 1931 the State Mortgage Bank of Ceylon (the first state-owned bank) was established with Sir Marcus Fernando as its chairman.[10] He also assisted to create the Bank of Ceylon.[2] He, along with Sir James Peiris and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, were instrumental in the creation of the University of Ceylon. He was made a Knight Batchelor in 1923 (New Year Honours List).[2] In 1929 he co-founded the Rotary Club of Colombo.[11]


His father was Andrew Fernando Jr. and his grandfather Andrew Fernando Sr. was the Mudaliyer of Colombo.[1][2] In 1891 he married Mary Frances, second daughter of Sir Charles Henry de Soysa and had two daughters and a son.[1] Advocate Charles Matthew Fernando, the first Ceylonese Crown Counsel was his brother.[12][13] His nephews were Chevalier C.H.Z. Fernando, a pioneer labour unionist councillor and campaigner for universal suffrage, the only Ceylonese to have met Lenin,[14][15][16][17] and C. M. Fernando, a founder member of the SLFP.[18][19]


The Association Sri Lanka Medical Association commemorates his life through an endowed oration.[20][2] Orators include Surendra Ramachandran, Nimal Senanayake and Hithanadura Janaka De Silva. A hall of residence in the University of Peradeniya and a road in Colombo 7 are named after him in his honour.


  1. ^ a b c d Twentieth century impressions of Ceylon: its history, people, commerce ... By Arnold Wright page 549-50. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Sir Marcus Fernando Oration". Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  3. ^ "Sir H Marcus Fernand0 MD" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  4. ^ a b The Sara Saga, Manicasothy Saravanamuttu (Areca) ISBN 9675719036 pp. 51-3
  5. ^ Bose RKC. Diabetes in the tropics. BMJ 1907; ii: 1053-56.
  6. ^ Medical Research institute, Sri Lanka: History (Official Website) Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  7. ^ "Sir Marcus Fernando – Knight in medical armour SLMA News September 2010 Volume 3 no 9". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  8. ^ "Colombo Changes". Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  9. ^ "SRI LANKA: THE UNTOLD STORY Beginning of British Rule By K T Rajasingham". Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  10. ^ Ceylonese Participation in Tea Cultivation: Major constraint for Ceylonese entrepreneurs, by Maxwell Fernando: History of Ceylon Tea Website, Retrieved 5-12-2014
  11. ^ Seventy five years of Rotary, The Sunday Leader, Retrieved 8 January 2016
  12. ^ The Story Of St Benedicts’ College, Kotahena – Religio, Mores, Cultura - The Sunday Leader. Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  13. ^ Revisiting Ceylon's first sensational murder trial more than 100 years ago By Jayantha Gunasekera (Sunday Times). Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  14. ^ Who’s Who of Sri Lanka: The lives and times of forty eight personalities, Gamini Akmeemana (Daily Mirror) Retrieved 8 January 2016
  15. ^ CEYLON'S BATTLE, The Straits Times (13 November 1929) Retrieved 2 November 2015
  16. ^ Traversed new paths making History, Ananda E. Goonesinha (The Island) Retrieved 2 November 2015
  17. ^ “Sons of the Soil and Strangers within the gates”, Joe Simpson (rootsweb) Retrieved 4 November 2015
  18. ^ C.M. Fernando - Devout Catholic and founder member of SLFP, W. T. A. Leslie Fernando (Sunday Observer) Retrieved 8 January 2016
  19. ^ Charting a new course for Sri Lanka’s success, S. S. Sahabandu (Daily News) Retrieved 8 January 2016
  20. ^ Rosenheim ML. The first Sir Marcus Fernando Memorial oration. Ceylon Med J. 1970 Mar;15(1):3-9.