Toh Chin Chye


Toh Chin Chye (Dr) (b. 10 December 1921, Batu Gajah, Perak–3 February 2012, Singapore) was the founding chairman of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and served as Singapore’s deputy prime minister from 1959 to 1968. Besides his science and technology ministerial portfolio (1968–75), Toh was also the chairman of Singapore Polytechnic and vice-chancellor of the University of Singapore.

Early life and education
Toh received his early education in Malaya – first at St George’s School in Taiping, and then Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh. In 1946 he graduated with a first-class diploma in Science from Raffles College in Singapore. He enrolled at the National Institute for Medical Research, London, in 1949 for his doctorate in physiology and completed it in 1953.1 As a student in London, Toh became the chairman of the Malayan Forum, a student body in London that discussed Malayan current events and political affairs.2 He returned to Singapore in 1953 and joined the University of Malaya as a lecturer.3

Political career and contributions to public service
Toh, together with 13 others including Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam, formed the PAP in 1954 with him as the party’s founding chairman.4 Toh had initiated the idea to turn what was then a clandestine political discussion group that met in the basement of Lee’s home into an open and legal political party.5 As chairman, Toh played a pivotal role in holding the party together in the face of infighting and political turmoil during the period leading up to Singapore’s merger with the Federation of Malaya and the eventual independence of Singapore.6

In the 1959 Legislative Assembly general election, Toh was elected as the assemblyman for the Rochore (now Rochor) constituency.7 When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, Toh led a committee to design the state crest, state anthem and state flag, which were unveiled on 3 December that year at City Hall.8 Toh had helped to ensure that the flag was a unique and inclusive symbol that embodied values cherished by all Singaporeans.9

Toh served as the deputy prime minister from 1959 until 1968 when he stepped down in order to concentrate on his new appointment as vice-chancellor of the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore). He remained in the cabinet with a new portfolio as the minister for science and technology from 1968 until 1975.10 In addition to his ministerial portfolio, Toh was also the chairman of Singapore Polytechnic from 1959 to 1975.11

Toh wanted to gear university education towards the needs of national development. As the vice-chancellor from 1968 to 1975, he was instrumental in establishing the faculties of engineering and architecture and he introduced new courses in business subjects to support Singapore’s industrialisation efforts taking place at the time.12 Toh also prompted the move of the university from Bukit Timah to Kent Ridge and initiated the setting up of the National University Hospital.13

On 2 June 1975, Toh was appointed as the minister for health.14 During his term, Toh oversaw the strengthening of specialist care in government hospitals and the establishment of the Home Nursing Foundation to provide home-based care for bedridden elderly.15

Toh stepped down from this post in 1981 and became a backbencher in Parliament.16 As a backbencher, he was noted for his outspoken views on various government policies such as the Medisave scheme and the age limit on withdrawals from the Central Provident Fund.17

Toh retired from politics in 1988.18 As a tribute to his 29 years of service as the member of Parliament for Rochore, the Rochore Citizens’ Consultative Committee set up the Toh Chin Chye Benevolent Fund for the elderly.19

In 1990, he was awarded the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) in recognition of his contributions to Singapore in the critical years before and during merger with Malaysia.20

In 2001, the National University of Singapore launched the Toh Chin Chye Professorship in Molecular Biology to honour him.21

Timeline
1948: Demonstrator in philosophy, Raffles College
1947–1949: Demonstrator in chemistry, Raffles College
1953: Lecturer, Department of Physiology, University of Malaya, Singapore
1953: Founding secretary, University of Malaya Society
1954–1981: Co-founder and chairman, PAP22
1958–1964: Reader in physiology, University of Singapore23
1959–1968: Deputy prime minister
1959–1975: Chairman, board of governors, Singapore Polytechnic
1959–1988: PAP legislative assemblyman and later member of Parliament for Rochore
1964: Research associate, University of Singapore
1968–1975: Minister for Science and Technology24
16 Apr 1968–14 Jun 1975: Vice-chancellor, University of Singapore25
1970–1975: Chairman, board of governors, Regional Institute for Higher Education and Development26
1973–1975: Chairman, Applied Research Corporation27
2 Jun 1975–5 Jan 1981: Minister for health28
1990: Adviser, Steamers Maritime Holdings29

Awards
1976: Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Singapore30
1990: Order of Nila Utama (First Class)31

Family32
Father: Toh Kim Poh
Mother: Tah Chuan Bee
Wife: Florence Yeap Sui Phek
Daughter: Toh Ai Chu



Author

Jenny Tien



References
1. Lam, P. E., & Tan, K. Y. L. (1999). Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guards. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)

2. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, pp. 84–85. (Call no.: RSING920.059597 CHE)
3. Lam, P. E., & Tan, K. Y. L. (1999). Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guards. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
4. Yap, S., Lim, R., & Leong, W. K. (2009). Men in white: The untold story of Singapore’s ruling political party. Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, pp. 54, 57. (Call no.: RSING 324.25957 YAP)
5. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING920.059597 CHE)
6. Getting the very best… for both the party and the government: PM. (1982, March 15). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chang, C. (2008). The quiet revolutionary: Toh Chin Chye. Singapore: SNP Editions, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092
7. Singapore Elections Department. (2015, November 2). 1959 parliamentary election results. Retrieved from Elections Department website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1959.html
8. All-govt. team designing state crest. (1959, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Man behind the flag. (1995, August 10). The New Paper, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lee’s cabinet: This is it. (1959, June 6). The Straits Times, p. 1; Sam. J. (1968, March 10). Toh to head universityThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Dr. Toh heads polytechnic new board. (1959, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Polytechnic. (2015). SP timeline. Retrieved from Singapore Polytechnic website: http://www.sp.edu.sg/wps/portal/vp-spws/spws.org.abtsp.story.sptimeline
12. University of Singapore. (1969). Annual report of the University of Singapore 1968–9. Singapore: The University, pp. 1–2. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 US); University of Singapore ninth annual report 1969–70. Singapore: The University, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 US); Lee, E., & Tan, T. Y. (1996). Beyond degrees: The making of the National University of Singapore. Singapore: Singapore University Press, p. 136. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 LEE)
13. University of Singapore ninth annual report 1969–70. Singapore: The University, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 US); Lee, E., & Tan, T. Y. (1996). Beyond degrees: The making of the National University of Singapore. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pp. 143–144. (Call no.: RSING 378.5957 LEE); Ow, W. M. (1970, July 24). ‘City of learning’ at Kent RidgeThe Straits Times, p. 6; Byramji, N. (1975, August 28). Second look at Kent Ridge varsityThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Fong, L. (1975, June 3). Cabinet surprise. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Toh: Aim for steady supply of specialists at hospitals. (1977, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 11; ‘Medical care for patients at home’ move by Health Ministry. (1976, April 25). The Straits Times, p. 9; Chong, S. (1976, December 4). Pupils will be taught to care for elders. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Fong, L. (1981, January 6). Toh not in new cabinetThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Former health minister attacks scheme. (1983, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 11; ‘A breach of the CPF’s fundamental principle’. (1984, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Lam, P. E., & Tan, K. Y. L. (1999). Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guards. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
19. Toh Chin Chye fund to get boost from book. (1989, July 31). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Professorship in honour of Toh Chin Chye. (2001, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Lam, P. E., & Tan, K. Y. L. (1999). Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guards. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
23. Lam, P. E., & Tan, K. Y. L. (1999). Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guards. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, pp. 3–4, 135. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
24. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the president, prime minister and ministers. Singapore: The Ministry, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.59570922 BIO)
25. University of Singapore. (1969). Annual report of the University of Singapore 1968–9. Singapore: The University, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 US); University of Singapore fourteenth annual report, 1974–5. Singapore: The University, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 US)
26. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the president, prime minister and ministers. Singapore: The Ministry, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.59570922 BIO)
27. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 524. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
28. Fong, L. (1975, June 3). Cabinet surpriseThe Straits Times, p. 1; Fong, L. (1981, January 6). Toh not in new cabinetThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29.Dr Toh appointed adviser to Steamers. (1990, May 5). The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the President, Prime Minister and Ministers. Singapore: The Ministry. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.59570922 BIO)
31. Old guards in National Day honours list. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 523. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO); Li, X. (2012, February 4). PAP founding chairman diesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG..



Further resources
Chok Tong’s handsome tribute to 14 veterans. (1988, August 22). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Kudos to man of ideas. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Pang, C. L. (2012, February 5). Toh Chin Chye 1921–2012: Life and times. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Remembering Dr Toh Chin Chye. (2012, February 3). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Singapore chronicles: A special commemorative history of Singapore. (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine, pp. 42–47.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)

21 who helped to shape Singapore. (1990, November 10). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2012 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Toh, Chin Chye, 1921-
Pioneers--Singapore--Biography
Law and government>>Public administration>>Cabinet (Government Councils)
Politicians--Singapore--Biography
Politicians
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders