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 between 1959 and 1968. He was also the Chairman of Singapore Polytechnic and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Singapore.

Early life and education
He completed secondary education at St. George's School in Perak. In 1946, he graduated with a first class Diploma in Science from Raffles College, Singapore. He obtained his Ph.D. in Physiology at the National Institute for Medical Research, London in 1949. As a student in London, he became Chairman of the Malayan Forum, an anti-colonial group of students fighting for the independence of Malaya. He returned to Singapore in 1953 and joined the University of Malaya as a lecturer.

Career in politics and public service
Toh, together with Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam, formed the PAP in 1954 and became the Chairman overseeing the party's organisation and policy-making. In the 1959 general election, he was elected as the Legislative Assemblyman for Rochore constituency. When Singapore attained self-government, he led a committee set up to design the state crest, state anthem and state flag, which were unveiled on 3 December 1959 at City Hall.

He was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister when Singapore attained independence in 1965. He relinquished the post in 1968 and became the Minister for Science and Technology and served till 1975.

He was also the Chairman of Singapore Polytechnic and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Singapore. He established the faculties of Engineering and Architecture in the University of Singapore and introduced professional courses such as business administration and accountancy so as to support Singapore's industrialisation efforts. He prompted the move of the university from Bukit Timah to Kent Ridge and initiated the setting up of the National University Hospital.

On 2 June 1975, he was appointed as the Minister for Health. He stepped down from the post in 1981 and became a backbencher. 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.

He retired from politics in 1988. In appreciation of his 29 years of service as Member of Parliament for Rochore, the Rochore Citizens Consultative Committee set up the Toh Chin Chye Benevolent Fund for the elderly. In 2001, the National University of Singapore launched the Toh Chin Chye Professorship in Molecular Biology to honour him.

1946 : Demonstrator in Philosophy, Raffles College.
1947 - 1949 : Demonstrator in Chemistry, Raffles College.
1953 : Lecturer, Department of Physiology, University of Malaya, Singapore.
1953 : Founder-Secretary, University of Malaya Society.
1954 - 1981 : Co-founder and Chairman, People's Action Party.
1958 - 1964 : Reader in Physiology, University of Singapore.
1959 - 1968 : Deputy Prime Minister.
1959 - 1975 : Chairman, Singapore Polytechnic Board of Governors.
1959 - 1988 : Legislative Assemblyman and later Member of Parliament for Rochore.
1964 : Research Associate, University of Singapore.
1968 - 1975 : Minister for Science and Technology.
1968 - 1975 : Vice-Chancellor, University of Singapore.
1970 - 1975 : Chairman, Board of Governors, Regional Institute for Higher Education and Development.
1973 - 1975 : Chairman, Applied Research Corporation.
2 Jun 1975 - 5 Jan 1981 : Minister for Health.
1990 : Adviser to Steamers Maritime Holdings.

1976 : Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Singapore.
1990 : Order of Nila Utama (First Class) for "contributions to Singapore during those critical times before and during the merger with Malaysia".

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

Jenny Tien

Biographical notes of the President, Prime Minister and ministers. (1977). Singapore: Publicity Division, Ministry of Culture.
(Call no.: RSING 328.59570922 BIO)

Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore (pp.83-99). Singapore: Resource Press.
(Call no.: RSING920.059597 CHE)

Chok Tong's handsome tribute to 14 veterans. (1988, August 22). The Straits Times, Singapore, p. 17.

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

Lam, P. E., & Tan, Y. L. K. (Eds.). (1999). Lee's lieutenants: Singapore's old guard (pp. 2-15). Australia: Allen & Unwin.
(Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)

Low, K. C., & Dunlop, P. K. G. (Eds.). (2000). Who's who in Singapore (p. 270). Singapore: Who's Who Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)

Office of the President. (2003). Speech by Professor Shih Choon Fong, NUS President And Vice-Chancellor, at the Launch of the Toh Chin Chye Professorship In Molecular Biology, 25 October 2001, Parliament House. Retrieved March 18, 2003, from

Pang, C. L. (2012, February 5). Toh Chin Chye 1921-2012: Life and times. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from Factiva.

Remembering Dr Toh Chin Chye. (2012, February 3). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

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

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

Further reading
Chopard, K. (1989). Rochore: Eyewitness. Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 CHO) 

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.

Toh, Chin Chye, 1921-
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