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Pioneering Indian museologist

S. MUTHIAH

The University of Madras plans to observe the centenary of renowned anthropologist Dr. Ayinapalli Aiyappan later this month

TAKING ME to task the other day for not making mention of Dr. Ayinapalli Aiyappan in my tribute to the `pillars of anthropology' (Miscellany, March 14) was Prof. S. Gopalakrishnan, who retired from S. V. University, Tirupati. Pointing out that the birth centenary of Dr. Aiyappan (he was born in Kerala on February 5, 1905) was being commemorated in two universities in Kerala, he regretted that Dr. Aiyappan was not being remembered in the University with which he was first associated, Madras. The good news is that the Anthropology Department of the University of Madras plans to mark the centenary later this month. But I must also add that I had omitted his name because those who I had listed were permanent members of the faculty of the University, whereas Dr. Aiyappan was a visiting professor. It was in that capacity that he delivered a dozen lectures on `Prehistoric Archaeology and Primitive Material Culture,' annually from 1947, in the Anthropology Department in Madras. Indeed, the Department's Diamond Jubilee journal features two articles by Dr. Aiyappan, but I'm sorry that his lecture on the `Megalithic Culture of Southern India' which was his presidential address to the section on Anthropology and Archaeology of the Indian Science Congress in 1945/6, was not one of them, for, from all accounts, it was an outstanding exposition.

Dr. Aiyappan, an Economics graduate from the University of Madras, earned his doctorate in Social Anthropology from the University of London in 1937. He joined the Government Museum, Madras, in 1940 and after Independence, became its FIRST Indian Superintendent. He contributed considerably to developing the anthropology and pre-history archaeology sections of the museum during his tenure. He retired in 1958 to start the Department of Anthropology in Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. He went on from here to become the Vice Chancellor of the Kerala University, Trivandrum, from 1969 to 1972.

A much sought after visiting professor in India and abroad, one of Dr. Aiyappan's longest associations was with Cornell University, USA, to which he had been invited while he was with the Madras Museum. Much of this and more are likely to be remembered at the commemoration meeting due to be held in the University in a few days.

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