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Robert LIM Kho Seng

Doctor of Science
honoris causa

The story of Dr Robert Lim's career is an outstanding example of how the scientific traditions of the West, acquired in Britain, and the cultural heritage of the East, as found in China, may blend in one person to the mutual benefit of the countries concerned. He was born in 1897 in Singapore, and at the age of nineteen, after two years' service with the British Army, he went to Edinburgh University to read medicine as his father had done before him. His academic record there was brilliant. On graduating in 1919, he was appointed Lecturer in Histology in the Department of Physiology under Sir Edward Sharpey Schafer. The following year he was, awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and four years later the degree of Doctor of Science. After a year with the University of Chicago as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, he returned to China at the age of twenty-seven to become Professor of Physiology at the Peking Union Medical College, a post which he held for thirteen years until the outbreak of hostilities with Japan in 1937. In these years it may justly be said that he played a major role in laying the foundation of modern physiology in China, both in teaching and in research, in which he was active in several fields. It was he who founded the Chinese Physiological Society, modelled on the lines of the British Physiological Society to which he was elected member in 1919. He also founded its Journal and served as Managing Editor until 1941, when the extension of the Pacific conflict compelled the cessation of publication. In this academic phase of his career he was honoured with membership of a number of scientific academies and societies in Europe and America, and in China was called upon to serve in such capacities as President of the Chinese Medical Association and Counsellor of the Academica Sinica.

War then intervened and laid claim on his medical knowledge and organizing ability. In the late 'thirties, China, in conflict with Japan, was in desperate need of doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel. She could have had no man better suited to meet the crisis than Dr. Lim. In 1938 he inaugurated an Emergency Medical Service Training School, which four years later expanded into a central school with branch schools in the different war areas. Over thirteen thousand medical personnel were trained in these schools during the hostilities. In 1942 he accompanied the Chinese Expeditionary Force to Burma as Medical Inspector-General, and in 1944 was appointed Deputy Surgeon, and the following year Surgeon-General of the Chinese Army. After the war ended, he devoted his energies towards rehabilitating the medical services, organizing a National Defence Medical Centre and setting up ten modern general hospitals throughout China. In 1948 he declined the office of Minister of Health and migrated to America. In that country he held professorships successively at the University of Illinois and the Creighton University Medical School, before taking up his present post in 1951 as Director of the Medical Sciences Research Laboratory of Miles Laboratories at Elkhart, Indiana.

The ingredients of a career, both academic and military, sampled in three countries, Britain, China, and America, might well prove indigestible to one less able than Dr. Lim. It is perhaps not without significance that in this present phase his cable address should read "Lira, Alka-Seltzer, USA". In his varied accomplishments he has truly lived up to his name "Kho-seng", which may freely be translated as meaning "always capable of victory". In addition to his military decorations from three countries, and his degrees as a doctor of three kinds, the University is proud to confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa. In so doing we derive particular pleasure from the fact that in 1918 his father, at that time President of the University of Amoy, received from us the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa. This is the first occasion in the history of the University that a son joins his father in our list of honorary graduates.

Citation written and delivered by Professor D Barker, MA, DPhil, the Public Orator of the University.

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