Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dr. Benedict Gomes Is No More

Dr. Benedict Gomes (1933-2010)

Photo courtesy: The Pratibeshi weekly (Dhaka: May 30, 2010)

I received the belated news that Dr. Benedict Gomes, a retired professor of the University of Dhaka, research fellow, social worker and mentor of the youth died in Dhaka on May 15, 2010 at the age of 77. After the funeral service at St. Mary's Cathedral, he has been buried at the Christian cemetery at Wari. He left his wife, two sons and two daughters.

After retiring from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr. Gomes was spending his time with his family in his Eastern Housing apartment on the Circuit House Road, Dhaka.

Birth and Education

Dr. Benedict Gomes was born on May 22, 1933 at the Bhoora bari (house) of Deotola Village under Golla parish of Dhaka District. His parents were Domingo and Sabina Gomes. The economic situation of the family became more acute at the death of his father when he was six years old.

In spite of financial difficulties, he continued his studies and successfully passed the Matriculation Examinations (Grade 10) in 1953 from nearby Holy Cross High School at Bandura. After two years, he passed the I.Sc. (Intermediate Science) from Notre Dame College, Dhaka, in the first division.

In 1959, he passed M.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Dhaka and acquired first class second place. He then joined the Department of Chemistry as a lecturer. After his research in enzymology, in 1968, he received his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Hawaii, USA.

Dr. Benedict Gomes was the second person in the entire Christian community -- both Catholic and Protestant -- of Bangladesh to receive a doctoral degree. The first Ph.D. holder was Father Theotonius Amal Ganguly, CSC, (later Archbishop of Dhaka), who had received it in 1951 in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA.

More Researches

Dr. Benedict Gomes taught and did more research at the University of Hawaii and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, in 1975-1977. He also did some research at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) in Dhaka.

In 1981, he rejoined the University of Dhaka as a professor. In 1985, he did more research on nutrition at the Dunn Nutritional Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, England.

After serving as the Head of the Department of Biochemistry in 1983-1986, he retired from teaching. Yet, he was involved with some teaching at the same Department as the 'Professor Emeritus.'

Social Worker and Mentor

Dr. Benedict Gomes in his spare time was involved in social development in different villages. He also encouraged youth by patronizing various youth organizations both in Dhaka and rural areas near his place of birth. He also served in advisory committees of Caritas Bangladesh, CORR -- The Jute Works, and other NGOs and welfare organizations.

Other Achievements

In 1987, the Nobel Committee, among others, invited Dr. Benedict Gomes to name a candidate for the that year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

He was also a member of different Chemistry, Medical and Nutrition Societies at home and abroad. Once he served as the co-editor of the Bangladesh Journal of Nutrition of the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka.

Besides, he as a writer of many research papers, amateur singer and drama artist, and an accomplished card player.

Named in Author Shankar's Epar Bangla Opar Bangla Book

Renowned Calcutta writer Shankar devoted a number of pages in his enormously popular travelogue Epar Bangla Opar Bangla on Dr. Benedict Gomes and his wife Martha Niru Gomes. The writer was exceptionally impressed at the sincere hospitality and friendly behaviour of this couple during his visit of Hawaii.

A Tribute from A Student-cum-Colleague

Dr. Ashrafuddin Ahmed, who now resides in Maryland, USA, was first a student of Professor Benedict Gomes. Later he taught at the same department with him as a professor. At the death of Dr. Benedict Gomes, he published a tribute to him -- Gomes Sirer Shoroney Srodhyanjali (A Tribute in Memory of Gomes Sir) -- in Bangla (Bengali).

Dr. Benedict Gomes, a gregarious, humble and ever-smiling professor, is no more. Many will cherish his memory for time to come.

Sources: l. The Pratibeshi (weekly) (Dhaka: May 30, 2010).
2. Bangladeshey Catholic Mondoli (The Catholic Church in Bangladesh) by Jerome D'Costa,
(Dhaka: Pratibeshi Prakashani, 1988), p.284.

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