T (Tambiaiah) Sabaratnam: Fond farewell to a pathfinder science journalist

Tambiaiah Sabaratnam
I seem to be writing a few fond farewells to fellow travellers every year, becoming an obituarist of sorts in that process. I don’t go to funerals if I can help it (they’re too depressing), and instead I withdraw to a corner to write my memories. Some are published; others are privately circulated.

I’ve just published such a tribute on veteran Lankan journalist T (Tambiaiah) Sabaratnam, who died on March 5 aged 79. He was a senior colleague when I entered the world of journalism in the late 1980s. He retired (sort of) in 1997, but remained active in the world of media to the very end.

He was an outstanding journalistic story-teller. As I wrote in the tribute: “He was a pathfinder and leading light in Sri Lankan science journalism for over a generation. Throughout his long association with the English and Tamil press, he advocated the pursuit of public science: tax-payer funded scientific research for the benefit of the people and economy.”

Here’s another excerpt, more personalised:
“He was a source of inspiration and encouragement to me during my early years in science journalism. Our paths crossed often in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he and I covered many of the same scientific events. He was approachable and helpful, but I could never bring myself to call him ‘Saba’. When I knew him, he had already been in journalism for longer than I’d been alive. To me, he was always ‘Mr Sabaratnam’.

“He reached out despite our generational, media house and other divides. He was genuinely interested in my progress as a science journalist, and offered me advice on both style and substance. Occasionally, he also cautioned about on various ‘pitfalls’ in the local scientific scene — personal rivalries, exaggerated claims or oversized egos.”

Read the full tribute on Groundviews.org: Tambiaiah Sabaratnam (1932 – 2011): The Storyteller of Public Science

Read compact version in Daily News, 15 March 2011: Tambiaiah Sabaratnam (1932 – 2011): Storyteller of public science

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

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