Rudranath Capildeo
- Mathematician

"... all he touched had a mark of distinction."
- Professor E.A. Powers


The Capildeo Family, Rudranath at far left

Though he left Trinidad in 1939 to study medicine, Rudranath Capildeo changed his course of study, focusing on applied mathematics and physics. He was committed to understanding the nature of space and time and this sparked his interest in understanding Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. This work led to several new theories, which had practical implications in aerodynamics and space. They included “The Flexure Problem in Elasticity” (Ph.D. thesis) and his study on the “Theory of Rotation and Gravity” named Capildeo’s Theory, which had applications in early outer space expeditions in the 1960s and 1970s.

Between 1947 and 1958, Dr. Capildeo accepted teaching assignments at the University College, London and University of Khartoum, Sudan. He was also appointed First Principal of Trinidad Polytechnic School in 1959. Most of his teaching life was however spent at the University College, London.

Capildeo was a gifted educator and delivered impressive lectures. He was able to use his skills of manipulation to mathematical techniques, equations and expressions to any solve problem. This, combined with his competence as a debater, a logical mind and a clear understanding of the subject matter enabled him to explain complicated mathematical theories to the layman. Not surprisingly, he proceeded to clarify and fortify Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity because he “knew it inside out, upside down and sideways.”

“The Lion House” – Chaguanas, Trinidad

Rudranath Capildeo was born in Chaguanas on 2nd February 1920 to Pundit Capildeo and his wife Sogee at the Lion House. This building made famous by another distinguished descendant, V.S. Naipaul. His father died when he was five and he helped his mother in the family store. He was educated at the Canadian Mission School at Chaguanas and later attended Queen’s Royal College (QRC) due to the determination of his mother who persuaded the principal of Queen’s Royal College (QRC) to admit her son to the school. In those days East Indians rarely entered secondary schools. His mother accompanied him to Woodbrook for the school week, where he studied up to sixteen hours a day at times. On Friday evening they both returned to Chaguanas to work in the family store.

He won the Jerningham Gold Medal for best performance in the Senior Cambridge Examinations in 1937 and an Open National Scholarship to Oxford to study medicine. Due to an illness, however, he switched to mathematics at the University College, London. He pursued an intermediate Bachelor of Science degree in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, physics and chemistry followed by Bachelor of Science Special Degree in Mathematics. He graduated with First Class Honours in 1943 and copped several prizes and awards. He returned to Trinidad where he tutored mathematics at QRC for a brief period, until he returned to London to further his studies in applied mathematics. He gained a Master of Science degree in Mathematics with distinctions in 1945 and a Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics in 1948.

The Red House, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Not only did Capildeo produce many significant mathematical theories and a book on Vector Algebra and Mechanics in 1967, he also studied law in London in 1956. Two years later he was admitted to practise as a Barrister-at-Law in Trinidad. He founded and led the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1960, and became Leader of the Opposition in the Trinidad & Tobago Parliament (1960-1967). With Dr. Eric Williams as Prime Minister, both men laid the foundation for an independent Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Capildeo was a considered an outstanding scholar, but the full potential of his work is not yet fully understood. For his great achievements in science he was awarded the first Trinity Cross National Award in 1969 from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. He died in England on 12th May 1970 at the relatively young age of 50.

 
Sources:

Dr. Rudranath Capildeo Memorial Service – Some events in his life.

Dr. Rudranath Capildeo Memorial Service

The Caribbean Who, What, Why, 1965 p 261

The Voluntary Exile by J.S. Barker. Trinidad Guardian 13th May 1970 p 9.

He Stood Ten Feet Tall by F.E. Brassington. Sunday Guardian, 17th May 1970 p 4.

Great People of Trinidad and Tobago, 3. People in the World of Science – Rudranath Capildeo: Mathematical Physics. The School Paper March 1986 p 4.

Talk at Port-of-Spain, organised by the Hindi Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, 22nd September 1991 by Professor E.A. Powers.

Dr. Rudranath Capildeo General Information. Trinidad Guardian, 31st May 1995 p 26.

Dr. Capildeo was one of TT’s Greats by Keith D. Williams. Trinidad Guardian, 26th July 1995 p 5.

Weblinks:

Famous sons of the Lion House

Rudranath Capildeo

Selected Publications:

Capildeo, R. (1961) The kinematics of inertial frames. Proceedings Cambridge Philosophical Society 57, S. 321-329.

Capildeo, R. (1966) Rotation and the inverse square law. Nature: The international weekly journal of science, 210: 616

Capildeo, R. (1968) Vector algebra and mechanics: theory, problems & solutions. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. London

Education:

Canadian Mission School, Chaguanas (1925-1931)

Queen’s Royal College, Port of Spain (1932-1938)

University College London
     - B.Sc. (First Class Honours, Mathematics) 1943
     - M.Sc. Mathematics, 1945
     - Ph.D. Mathematical Physics,1948

Awards:

  • 1969 Trinity Cross, Trinidad & Tobago

 

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