Lee Chiaw Meng

by Koh, Lay Tin

Lee Chiaw Meng (李昭铭) (Dr) (b. 28 February 1937, Singapore–d. 23 May 2001, Singapore) served as the member of Parliament (MP) for Farrer Park (1968–80) and then for Tanah Merah (1980–84), minister for education (1972–75) and minister for science and technology (1975–76).1

Lee studied in Catholic High School2 and Chung Cheng High School before receiving his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Malaya in 1960. Upon graduation, he joined the Public Works Department as an engineer until 1961 when he went to Britain for higher studies and to gain industrial experience. He obtained a doctorate in engineering from the University of London in 1965 and returned to join Singapore Polytechnic as a lecturer in civil engineering.3

Political career
Lee entered politics in 1968 when he won the general election that year to become the MP for Farrer Park.4 He represented Farrer Park for the next 12 years until 1980 when Farrer Park was abolished as a constituency, and thereafter became the MP for Tanah Merah.5

In 1972, Lee was appointed as the minister for education and tasked to overhaul the school and university system. From March 1975 to August 1976, he also served as Nanyang University’s vice chancellor.6 This was part of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s assignment for Lee – to convert the Chinese-medium Nanyang University into an English-language university. However, the effort did not succeed. Nanyang University eventually merged with University of Singapore to form the National University of Singapore in 1980.7 From 1975 to 1976, Lee served briefly as minister for science and technology.8

In 1984, he left politics to start his own engineering firm, Dr. Lee Chiaw Meng & Associates. After more than two years battling duodenum cancer, Lee passed away on 23 May 2001 at the age of 64.9

1968–1980: MP for Farrer Park
MP for Tanah Merah
Parliamentary secretary for education

1970– 1972: Minister of state for education
1972–1975: Minister for education
1975–1976: Minister for science and technology11


Koh Lay Tin

1. Corfield, J. (2011). Historical dictionary of Singapore [E-book]. Palo Alto, CA: Ebrary, p. 141. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/eReads
2. Catholic High Alumni. (2015). Past presidents. Retrieved 2016, June 9 from Catholic High Alumni website: https://www.cha.org.sg/index.php/past-president
3. Corfield, J. (2011). Historical dictionary of Singapore [E-book]. Palo Alto, CA: Ebrary, p. 141. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/eReads; Envoy to U.S. is among the new. (1968, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Election Department Singapore. (2015). 1968 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, January 10, from Election Department Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1968.html
5. Dr Lee dies. (2001, May 24). Today, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Hong, L., & Huang, J. (2008). The scripting of a national history: Singapore and its past. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 134. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 HON)
7. Liu, F. T. (Ed.). (2012). One degree, many choices: A glimpse into the career choices of the NTI pioneer engineering class of 85. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 620.00235957 ONE)
8. Dr Lee dies. (2001, May 24). Today, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Dr Lee dies. (2001, May 24). Today, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Morais, J. V. (1982). Who’s who in Malaysia, and profiles of Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Who’s Who Publications, p. 64. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
11. Chiaw Meng dropped. (1976, December 31). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to 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.