Ray Wijewardene

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Philip Revatha Wijewardene
Ray Wijewardene.jpg
Ray Wijewardene (Early 20s)
Philip Revatha Wijewardene

(1924-08-20)20 August 1924
Died18 August 2010(2010-08-18) (aged 85)
NationalitySri Lankan
Other namesRay, Phjilip Wijewardene
Alma materC.M.S. Ladies' College, Colombo
St Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia
Peterhouse, Cambridge
Harvard Business School
OccupationEngineer, Farmer
Known forTwo-wheel tractor
Spouse(s)Seela de Mel
ChildrenAnoma Wijewardene, Roshini, Mandy

Deshamanya Vidya Jyothi Dr Philip Revatha "Ray" Wijewardene or simply known as Philip Wijewardene (Sinhala:පිලිප් රෙවත විජයවර්ධන) (20 August 1924 – 18 August 2010) was a Sri Lankan Engineer, Aviator, Inventor and Olympian athlete.[1] He was an authority on tropical farming and natural resource management, on which topics he originated systemic thinking. He also invented a number of devices to assist small farmers in developing countries.

Education and career[edit]

Philip Revatha (Ray) Wijewardene was born in Colombo, Ceylon, on 20 August 1924. He had his primary and secondary education at CMS Ladies’ College, Colombo, and St Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, both private Anglican schools. He proceeded to Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, UK, where he studied three branches of engineering—aeronautical, mechanical and agricultural, and earned the degree of M.A. (Cantab). He also qualified as a Chartered Engineer in the UK and Sri Lanka, and later followed a course in business administration at the Harvard Business School.

During the 1970s, Wijewardene worked as an expert on tropical farming systems with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank. He was head of agricultural engineering at the Mechanization and Automation Research Centre (MARDI) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 1973 to 1974. He later served as head of agricultural engineering and research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria (1975–1980).

Ray worked with Sri Lanka’s business, research and policy communities in his areas of expertise. He held various appointments as Chairman of the Tea Research Board, head of the Inventors’ Commission and a member of several public sector bodies concerned with agriculture, science and technology.[2] He was Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa (2002–2007). The government of Sri Lanka awarded him the highest national honours of Vidya Jyothi (Luminary of Science) and Deshamanya (Pride of the Nation) for distinguished public service.

Professional achievements[edit]

In 1955, Wijewardene designed a two-wheeled, walking tractor to help small farmers in the tropics to mechanise their work. An early attempt to mechanize farm labour during the Green Revolution, it was manufactured and marketed worldwide by the Landmaster company in Nottingham, UK.[3] Having promoted the tractor with farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America for a decade, Wijewardene later questioned its value addition to poor farmers cultivating small holdings in the developing world.

His lifelong interest was to help small farmers to grow more food without high external inputs. He searched for natural ways to manage soil fertility and weeds in tropical farmlands.[4] He promoted a soil conservation technique called Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT),[5] originally developed in the Philippines. SALT involved terracing of land, use of leaf mulch, and re-introducing perennial trees into rain-fed farming.[6]

After returning to Sri Lanka in 1980, Wijewardene spent the rest of his years researching and promoting ecologically sustainable agriculture and renewable energy technologies. He experimented with rain-fed farming and agroforestry methods on his coconut estate in Kakkapalliya, in Sri Lanka’s Intermediate Zone. He also did field tests for dendro[7] thermal power, the generation of electricity from firewood. This technology is increasingly used by industry. He also introduced inter-cropping gliricidia with coconut, vastly increasing coconut yields.

Sporting accomplishments[edit]

Wijewardene engaged in the water sports of rowing and sailing, and represented Sri Lanka in international competitive events. He competed in the Games in Mexico in 1968,[8] and won a Silver medal[9] at the 6th Asian Games in Bangkok in 1970. He was a member of both the Colombo Rowing Club and the Ceylon Motor Yacht Club.

As an aviator, he held a pilot license to fly fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and autogyros. He experimented with building and flying ultra-light aircraft and helicopters, and trained a large number of pilots and aircraft technicians. He was not authorized to fly the Sri Lankan skies during the Sri Lankan Civil War[10]


In 2014, a postal stamp honoring Ray Wijewardener was released in Sri Lanka.[11][12]

The Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust was established in 2011 to support and reward Sri Lankan engineers.[13]


Wijewardene's father was Don Edmund Wijewardene (a brother of D. R. Wijewardena) and his mother was Corin Amanda Jennings, both were gynaecologysts.[14] In 1949 Wijewardene married Seela, the daughter of Benjamin de Mel (a brother of Sir Henry De Mel) and Marjorie Perera Abeywardene (a granddaughter of Sir Charles Henry de Soysa).[15][16][17] Anoma, Roshni and Mandy are their daughters. Anoma is an artist.[2] His cousins were Upali Wijewardene and Junius Richard Jayewardene.


  • Systems and energy in tropical farming, American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 1978
  • Letters: Exploding ‘roaches, New Scientist, 5 December 1992


  1. ^ "Philip WIJEWARDENE - Olympic Sailing | Sri Lanka". International Olympic Committee. 2016-06-12. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  2. ^ a b "Ray Wijewardene Curriculum vitae". Raywijewardene.net. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  3. ^ "Passionate champion of small farmers and big ideas". Sundaytimes.lk. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  4. ^ "Sustainable Agriculture". Ray Wijewardene. 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  5. ^ Wednesday (2009-08-19). "Bansalan: A Town of Sustainable Farming Methods with Sloping Agricultural Land Technology - Places - Latest - Gaia Discovery Eco Living Sustainable Tourism Heritage". Gaiadiscovery.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  6. ^ "Ray Wijewardene & SALT: A brief History". Raywijewardene.net. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  7. ^ "Energy Forum - Sri Lanka". Efsl.lk. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  8. ^ "Phjilip Wijewardene Bio, Stats, and Results". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  9. ^ "Passing away of Dr. Ray Wijewardane | National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka". Srilankaolympic.org. 2010-08-18. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  10. ^ Nalaka Gunawardene, Ray Wijewardene: Finally free to roam the skies forever…, Alakagunawardene.com, 19 August 2010
  11. ^ Dr. Ray Wijewardene honoured with stamp issue, Sundaytimes.lk, 2 November 2014
  12. ^ Honouring Ray Wijewardene, Dailymirror.lk, 31 October 2014
  13. ^ Ray Awards 2015, Airforce.lk, 25 August 2015
  14. ^ A Legend fades into another "plane", Arjuna Hulugalle (The Island) Retrieved 17 November 2015
  15. ^ Witty, illuminating and full of colour, Alfreda de Silva (Sunday Times) Retrieved 17 November 2015
  16. ^ Twin Happiness — resounding slap on all chauvinists, Dr. P. R. Anthonis (The Island) Retrieved 17 November 2015
  17. ^ The Perera Abeywardena Family Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine., defonseka.com Retrieved 17 November 2015

External links[edit]