April 6 Article )
BY Than Htun (Myanmar Geosciences Society)
University of Yangon
The University of Yangon was founded in 1920 and the first occupant in 1923 of its new Chair of Geology and Geography was L. Dudley Stamp who had been in Burma since 1921 exploring for oil on behalf of the Yomah Oil Company and Indo-Burma Petroleum Company. Professor Stamp was joined by H.L. Chhibber, Head of the Department of Geology and Geography, University College, University of Rangoon, prepared the two outstanding works on “The Geology of Burma” and “The Mineral Resources of Burma”, both appearing in 1934. The GSI geologist E.L.G. Clegg compiled “The Mineral Deposits of Burma” in 1944. The famous geologists from Geological Survey of India, during colonial days, who contributed Myanmar Geology and Mineral Resources were R.B. Pemberton, 1837., W. Theobald, 1873., F. Noetling, 1891., R.D. Oldham, 1906., E.H. Pascoe, 1912., T.H.D. La Touche, 1913., G. de P. Cotter, 1918., N.M. Penzer, 1922., J. Coggin Brown, 1923., A.M. Heron, 1923., L.D.Stamp, 1923., E.L.G. Clegg, 1944., L. V. Dalton, 1908., H.L. Chhibber, 1934.etc.
Subsequent to the official separation of the British (Myanmar) from the British India in 1937, the Burma Geological Department (BGD) was established by the British Burma Government in 1938, with the loan of geologists from the Geological Survey of India. Dr. E.L.G Clegg headed this group of geologists. Not long, the second World War broke out disturbing all activities. Soon after War, the BGD was reorganized with Dr. E.J. Bradshaw as its Director. The British and Indian geologists carried out the geological mapping on a regional scale. When Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1949, Dr. Ba Thi, a graduate of Munich University, Germany, became the Director. He was assisted by some Indian geologists for some time in the beginning. Later, Dr. Philip Kyaw Myint, a British University graduate and half a dozen graduates from the then Rangoon University joined him. These Myanmar geologists conducted the countrywide geological mapping and mineral prospecting until 1958.
In 1939 only U Soe Thein, U Tin Maung, U Sein Myint, Dr. P. Kyaw Myint and U Min Din were pre-war geology graduates with B.Sc. degree from Rangoon University. U Min Din, son of U Ba Hlaing (Loi Aik Kyi), was the famous geologist. He studied geology during the war and he was sent to Japan as state scholar during Japanese colonial days. After the second World War he continued his study in United States and obtained M.Sc. (Geology) Degree. After he had returned Myanmar he joined MRDC and later he was appointed as Managing Director in MDC. U Saw Alaris, elder brother of Professor C. Thacpaw also received M.Sc. (Mining Geology) Degree from Colorado School of Mines in United States. He also joined Ministry of Mines and served as Managing Director in Myanmar Tin & Tungsten Corporation in 1970s.
An independent Department of Geology was established in 1948 after the independence from the British, with Dr. Tha Hla as Professor and Founder of the Geosciences Profession in Myanmar. Dr. Tha Hla graduated from the University of Yangon with B.Sc. (Hons) Degree in Chemistry with high marks in 1938. In 1939, he went to the United Kingdom (UK) as a State Scholar to study geology. He received B.Sc. (Special) equivalent to First Class Honours Degree in Geology in 1942 from the King’s College, London University and Ph.D. Degree in geochemistry from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London University in 1946. Due to outbreak of World War II Saya Tha Hla was unable to return Myanmar and so he worked as Assistant Lecture in University College London from 1944 to 1946. As soon as he came back Yangon University in 1946 he served as Professor of Geology. After 15-year service as Professor of Geology, he was appointed as Rector of Yangon University in 1961. His appointment was the last appointment by the Yangon University Act (1920). We regretted that Dr. Tha Hla resigned prematurely in 1962.
Dr. Tha Hla had done many things for the University and the Geology Department in his capacity as a Professor, Varsity Councillor and senator, Dean of Science and Rector. Saya Tha Hla’s unswerving love and protectiveness for his students and his dedicated wish to teach them what he knew without discrimination singled him out as a true Saya for all of us. He was indeed an exceptionally brilliant academic, a man with a strict code of ethics and etiquette, a true Saya, a patriot, an intrepid leader, the Doyen of Myanmar Geology, a Myanmar with a superb command of English. Saya Tha Hla taught, trained and brought forth several able and competent geologists for both academia and the industry that keep the geological science and geoscience profession viable and sustainable in Myanmar. For this, he should be rightfully honoured with the matchless title: the “Father of Myanmar Geology”. So far as I know, only Saya Nyi Nyi and Saya Thein received First Class B.Sc. (Hons) Degree in geology while Saya Tha Hla was the Professor of Geology. (Maung Than Htay, 2016).
Dr. Tha Hla’s 1946 intake of geology students were Nyi Nyi, Ba Than Haq, Soe Win (Edwin), Than Maung, Aung Kyaing, C. Thacpaw, Sein Myint, B.P. Day, Khin Nu Nu, Khin Maung Lay, Thein Aung and U Aung Myint. They all are prominent geologists in their respective fields. Dr. Nyi Nyi is an exceptionally brilliant academic with versatile proficiency next to the late Saya Tha Hla. He has been Saya Tha Hla’s top student, a First Class Honours Graduate in Geology and also a Rangoon University’s Gold Medalist. Saya Nyi Nyi went to the UK and attended the most prestigious British University, the Imperial College of Science and Technology of London University, also Saya Tha Hla’s Alma Meter as well. He always stood first in all of his class examinations beating the cream of the British academics and he earned his Ph.D. Degree in microplaeontology in 1956 at the age of 25. Saya Nyi Nyi also distinguished himself throughout his professional career as Director of Universities Administration, Deputy Minister of Education, Minister of Mines, Myanmar Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Director of UNICEF at New York Head Quarters successively ( Win Swe, 2016). After they have studied in Europe and United States Saya U Ba Than Haq and Saya C. Thacpaw became Professor of Geology in RASU and MASU respectively.
Saya Tha Hla’s 1951 batch of geology (Hons) students were Than Htay, Ni Ni, Win Sein, Maung Maung Khin and Khine Man Chan etc. Dr. Tha Hla’s most brilliant geology (Hons) students of 1957 batch were Myint Lwin Thein, Maung Thein, Than Nyunt, Thaw Tint, Sarup Singh Pathayja and U Chit Saing. Saya Tha Hla, during his term, fully recommended Dr. Myint Lwin Thein, Dr. Maung Thein, U Thaw Tint and Dr. Win Swe for further study in United States. Dr. Myint Lwin Thein joined the Department of Geology, University of Yangon, his alma mater, as a demonstrator in 1958, after receiving B.Sc. (Hons) degree in geology. He received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree in 1962 and 1965 respectively, both from the University of Chicago. In 1966 he was promoted to Lecturer and finally rose to the post to an Associated Professor in 1986. In 1975 he had served as the most prestigious Director of Department of Applied Geology (D.A.G). Dr. Win Htein received Ph.D. degree in Gemology from UK in 1971 and he served at DAG too.
Dr. Maung Thein had studied geology in Yangoon University under Prof. Tha Hla, Prof. Nyi Nyi and Prof. U Ba Than Haq from 1953 to 1958. Just after he had received Geology (Hons) degree with credit, he was appointed as demonstrator at the Geology Department in 1958. Then he received M.S degree in 1963 and Ph.D. with sedimentology in Northwestern University, Chicago, USA in 1966. He was promoted as lecturer in 1966 and Professor in 1978. He served as lecturer in Mandalay University from 1967 to 1969 and served as Professor form 1978 to 1989. Then he served as Professor of Geology in Yangoon University from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Maung Thein, we use to call Saya Thein, is also an exceptionally brilliant academic himself as his mentors Dr. Tha Hla and Dr. Nyi Nyi. His judgement of a student’s academic excellence is always fair and free from prejudice. We are proud of mentioning that Saya Thein is the founder of Myanmar Geosciences Society.
Myanmar Geosciences Society has been formed in December 2003 with the objectives of keeping progressive development of geosciences in Myanmar, exchange of ideas and sharing experiences, and promoting wider application of Geosciences for the welfare of the people. After striving against oppositions Myanmar Geoscience Council Law has been promulgated by the government on 31st March, 2020. I highly commend my Professors and Mentors for their historic achievement for Geoscience, able leadership and professionalism.
Dr. Win Swe studied geology at Mandalay University College from 1954 and he moved to Yangon University in 1956 and received B.Sc. (Hons) degree in Geology in 1959. He was fortunate that he was only student who attended B. Sc. (Hons) class under Dr. Tha Hla, Dr. Nyi Nyi and U Ba Than Haq. He did his further studies in geology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and at Stanford University, Palo Alto California, earning an M.S. and Ph.D. respectively. He served as demonstrator, assistant lecture and lecture in Yangon and Mandalay Universities from 1966 to 1974. He was appointed as Deputy Director of Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration under Ministry of Mines in 1974 and retired in 1987. U Than Htay mentioned that the most prominent and beneficial were the services of Dr. Win Swe, a very competent field geologist with a strong background in tectonics, rendered to the DGSE. His endeavour to sharpen the professional edge of the DGSE geologist, mostly were his students, by providing appreciably up-to-date geological literature and occasional seminar talks with foreign geoscientists were truly laudable.
Professor Dr. Nyi Nyi’s brilliant geology students of 1964 batch at Yangon Arts and Science University were Yin Yin New, Khaing Shin, Khin Zaw, Khin Win Kyi, Hla Hla Aung etc. Of all, Dr. Yin Yin Nwe is an exceptionally brilliant academic with versatile proficiency next to Saya Nyi Nyi and Saya Thein. She obtained a B.Sc. degree in Geology from the Rangoon Arts and Science University in 1969 and she earned Ph.D. Degree in mineralogy from Cambridge University, England in 1975. At that time she is the youngest Ph.D. Degree holder in Myanmar. She served for 19 years at the Geology Department of Yangon University. She also has a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from London University. In 1991, Dr. Yin Yin Nwe joined UNICEF and she has been worked 17 years for UNICEF in various countries, including Indonesia, some former Soviet Countries, Yugoslavia, Middle East and 23 countries from Africa. She became the UNICEF Representative to China on 1 December 2006 and retired in 2011.
One of the outstanding academics Dr. Sone Han, obtained his B.Sc. Degree in Geology in 1969 and M. Sc. Degree in Geophysics in 1976 from Rangoon University. In 1982,he obtained his Dr. rer. nat. in Geophysics from the Technische Universitat Bergakademie Freiberg, one of Germany’s top ten research universities. In 1970, Dr Sone Han served in the Geology Department of Rangoon University and he retired in 1989. Subsequently, he became the Managing Director of Sittoung Geoservices Company. In 1997 he became General Manager of Myanmar V-Pile Company Ltd., and in August 2000 he was appointed the Managing Director of the Myanmar V-Pile Group of Companies. In 2020 he has been elected as President of Myanmar Geosciences Society.
Rectors who are honour to geology profession are Dr. Tha Hla Rangoon University), Dr. Maung Thin (Dagon University), Dr. Myint Thein ( University of Education, Sagaing) Dr. Hla Htay (Dagon University), Dr. Win Naing (Dagon University), Dr. Thura Oo (Monywa University), Dr. Aung Win (Myitkyina University), Dr. Win Naing (Sittwe University), Dr. Than Htut Lwin (Taunggok University), Dr. Aung Naing Soe (Mandalay Distance University), Dr. Htay Aung (Bamaw), Dr. Maung Maung ( Myingyan).
It is my honour to mention the Professors of Geology Department of Yangon University with their respective tenure. Dr. Tha Hla (1947-1961), Dr. Nyi Nyi (1961-1964), U Ba Than Haq (1964-1975) (1977-1989), Dr. Tin Aye (1975-1976), U C. Thacpaw (1976-1977), Dr. Maung Thein (1989-1994), Dr. Maung Thin (1994-1998), Dr. Pe Maung Than (1998-2000), Dr. Tin Thein (2000-2006), Dr. Thura Oo (2006-2007), Dr. Win Naing (2007-2009), Dr. Daywa Aung (2009 to present).
Mandalay University College
In the meanwhile, the Department of Geology was founded in the Mandalay University college (MUC) in 1953with the initiative of the then College principal U Ko Lay, a non-geologist. He was helped by Dr. Tha Hla and U Thein Maung, Head of Geography Department, MUC, in the first year. In later years, Mr. D. Sarin, an Indian Lecturer on contract from the Rangoon University became the Head of the Geology Department. In 1959, the Mandalay University College was elevated to the full status of a University and thus became the University of Mandalay. Dr. Tin Aye, a graduate of University of Illinois, USA, was appointed as the Professor and Head of the Department.
In 1967, when I was attending first year geology at MASU, U C. Thacpaw was the Head and Professor of the Geology Department. U Thaw Tint and Saya Thein were lecturers. The assistant lecturers were U Ba Maw, U Kyaw Tint (Saya Lay), Dr. Win Swe, Dr. Kyaw Kyaw and Dr. Myint Thein. We are lucky enough to study various geology subjects from such a dynamic and qualified Professor and lecturers. Our demonstrators were U Kan Saw, Jimmy Than Tun, U Shwe Win, U Hla Wai, U Laja, U Theik Tun Thaw, U Than Bo, U Khin Mg Shwe, U Hla Thein, U Bo San, U Win Myint, U Khin Mg Myint, U Khin Mg Win, Daw Nay Thaung Thaung, U Kyaw Nuynt, U Tun Aung, U Aye Ko Aung, U Mg Mg and U Kyaw Win.
It is my honour to mention the Professors of Geology Department of Mandalay University with their respective tenure. The first Professor was Dr. Tin Aye, Ph.D (Illinois, USA), 1961-64, a native of Mandalay; the second was Mr. D.D. Sarin, M.Sc. (Calcutta, India), 1965-66; the third U C. Thacpaw, M.Sc. (Arizona, USA) 1967-1976; the fourth Dr. Maung Thein, Ph.D. (Northwestern, USA) 1978-89, a native of Mawlamyaing Kyun; the fifth Dr. Myint Thein, D.Sc. (Romania) 1989-95, a native of Mandalay, the sixth U Kan Saw, M.Sc. (Mandalay) 1995-2000, a native of Mandalay; the seventh Dr. Khin Maung Myint, Ph.D. (Colorado, USA) 2000-2007, a native of Mandalay; Dr. Than Than Nu, Ph.D.(Mandalay) 2007 to present.
At present some 32 Universities are offering B.Sc. Geology degrees. Yangon and Mandalay Universities offer Master’s and Doctorate Degrees in various branches of geoscience subjects. Geologists are now rendering their technical know-how and service in various public sectors that arrange from the mitigation of geohazards through environmental protection to international litigations involving territorial waters rights, in addition to mining, oil and gas exploration, engineering and construction, agriculture, forest and hydrological investigations. Thus the role and status of Myanmar geologists are now getting appreciably elevated (U Than Htay, 2013). May I most cordially commemorate the happy occasion of the World Geologists Day, to which I respect so much, with this humble article. This is also in commemoration of Yangon University’s Centennial.
1. Nyi Nyi, 1964. Geological Sciences in Burma: A Review.
2. Maung Than Htay (McGill), 2016. Dr. Nyi Nyi, the Paragon of Proficiency.
3. Win Swe, 2016. My Teacher and My Mentor Saya Nyi Nyi.
4. Dr. Nyi Nyi, 2016. When establishing Geology Department, Yangoon University after post-war (Myanmar Version).
5. Dr. Yin Yin New, 2016. My life as a geology student and staff at Yangon University, 1964-1988.