Munshi Abdullah (1797-1854)

Father of Modern Malay Literature

Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, also known as Munshi Abdullah, arrived in Singapore from Melaka in 1819, as secretary and interpreter for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

He was the first local Malay writer to use colloquial Malay in his published works. Where writers then would follow the traditional Malay literary style, which was formal and courtly, his style of writing is lively, realistic and rich with Malay proverbs and idioms. Eventually, he was dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Malay Literature’.

His autobiography, Hikayat Abdullah (The Story of Abdullah), was written between 1840 and 1843, and first published in Jawi script in 1849. It contains one of the most detailed records of Singapore in the early 1800s.

Munshi Abdullah's proficiency in Arabic, Malay, Hindi and Tamil took him beyond his illustrious career as a writer. His linguistic prowess led to his work as secretary, interpreter and even tutor. Abdullah also gave Malay language lessons to European traders and educated them on Malay society and culture.

Henry Nicholas Ridley (1855-1956)

Father of the Rubber Industry

When Henry Nicholas Ridley first arrived in Singapore in 1888, he became Singapore Botanic Gardens’ very first director. He established the Gardens’ credibility as a botany authority and added approximately 50,000 specimens to its herbarium and living collections. But it was his devotion to his research on rubber trees and its commercial potential that truly made a mark.

Ridley’s perseverance and extensive research led him to develop a refined latex extraction method. His innovation allowed the rubber tree to mature twice as fast, made way for regular latex harvests without damaging the tree, and it seeded the fundamentals of the rubber industry in Malaya.

During the rubber boom from the 1900s to 1960s, his discovery and tireless advocacy of rubber finally paid off. He laid the foundation of the rubber industry in Malaya, and ultimately ensured Singapore benefitted from this rubber boom.


To commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial and honour the contributions of these early pioneers, a limited edition $20 currency note, featuring eight personalities, was launched at the Istana Open House on 5 June 2019. Members of the public may purchase this note at major banks from 10 June 2019 onwards. There are 2 million pieces available.

Be sure to reserve your tickets early for this immersive experience that showcases key moments in Singapore's 700-year history.


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