Political science don Milne dies at 94

Political science don Milne dies at 94
Professor Emeritus R. S. Milne, founder of the University of Singapore's political science department. He passed away on 31 May 2014. He had suffered a series of strokes since early 2002 and later stayed in a nursing home in Canada because he had difficulties moving.

Professor Emeritus R. S. Milne, who founded the political science department in what was then the University of Malaya in Singapore, died last Saturday.

He was 94.

Prof Milne had suffered a series of strokes since early 2002 and later stayed in a nursing home in Canada because he had difficulties moving.

He headed the University of Malaya's political science department from 1961 to 1965. In 1962, the Singapore division of the university was renamed the University of Singapore. Prof Milne left for the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada in 1965 to be its first political science head, a role he held till 1984.

Even as he left Asia, Prof Milne continued writing on politics in Malaysia and Singapore.

In 1990, he published Singapore: The Legacy Of Lee Kuan Yew with his wife, Professor Emeritus Diane K. Mauzy. The couple, who both taught in UBC, later co-wrote another book, Singapore Politics Under The People's Action Party, releasing it in 2002.

Prof Milne was born in Paisley, Scotland, and graduated from Oxford University.

In his younger years, he served in the army. He was a major in the British Royal Artillery in World War II, and later, commander of a prisoner-of-war camp for Germans till 1946.

He kicked off his academic career at the University of Bristol in Britain, and later taught at a string of universities including the University of the Philippines.

Before he came to Singapore, he taught at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands.

Ms Pang Cheng Lian, formerly Singapore's non-resident ambassador to Italy and Switzerland, was a political science student at the University of Singapore from 1963 to 1966.

There were just nine students in the class back then and Ms Pang kept in touch with the professor even after he left the university.

"Prof Milne was a formidable teacher because of his vast knowledge and also his acerbic wit," she recalled. "He did not mince his sarcasm on those who did not prepare for his tutorials."

Among Prof Milne's first students here was Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, East Asia's first woman ambassador to the United States.

"He helped greatly in my intellectual development," said Professor Chan, who was herself head of the National University of Singapore's political science department from 1985 to 1987.

"I liked his commitment to being a serious teacher and academic. He kept writing till he couldn't when he was ill and old."

asyiqins@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 3, 2014.
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