17 October 2013

2 Nov (Sat): Biography of E. J. H. Corner by his son

Anyone half serious about plants in Singapore will know the immortal E. J. H. Corner. I love his two-volume book "Wayside Trees of Malaya" not only for the succinct and easily understood descriptions, but also the magical evocation of his prose. For example, of Putat laut he says "the ring of stamens floating downstream and the stale perfume of the night used to be a morning feature of Malayan rivers".
How wonderful now, to learn more about the life and remarkable roles of E. J. H. Corner from his son in "My Father in His Suitcase: In Search of E. J. H. Corner The Relentless Botanist" by John K. Corner


John Corner left home aged 19, never to see his father, E. J. H. Corner, again. Edred John Henry Corner was Assistant Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens and was instrumental in the creation of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. During the Japanese Occupation, he safeguarded the scientific and cultural collections of Singapore but was branded as a collaborator. Post-war, he headed the UNESCO Amazon project, propounded The Durian Theory, and led key expeditions to Mt Kinabalu. After 46 years, John faces his father in a suitcase he leaves for him, resulting in an engaging biography of a scientist who put science even above his family.

Here's a lovely advanced review of the book by Dr Shawn Lum
I approached John Corner’s book expecting to add a few more stories to the E. J. H. Corner compendium. While I did learn fascinating new tales about the author’s father, this book works on so many different and more important levels. It documents a key turning point in the histories of several countries, it chronicles the growth of tropical botany, and it documents the beginnings of what would soon become the wholesale, and sadly permanent, transformation of a vast tropical landscape. It is also the story of a daring and iconoclastic scientist, and of his son who comes to terms with a very difficult part of his life, at first reluctantly, and then with the tenacity of someone on a mission. It is a compelling and moving read that deserves a wide audience. 
Dr Shawn Lum, President, Nature Society (Singapore)

Singapore Writers Festival
Date: 2 Nov (Sat)
Time: 11.30am
Venue: The Big Steps, Singapore Management University (SMU)

All are welcome, the event is free.

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