The university’s namesake, His Royal Highness Somdej Chao Fa Mahidol Adulyadej Kromma Luang Songkla Nakarin, formerly Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, was the father of King Ananda Mahidol and King Bhumibol Adulyadej. HRH Prince Mahidol was born on 1st January 1892, the 69th child of His Majesty King Rama V and the 7th of Queen Savang Vadhana.
Prince Mahidol was brought up according to the Royal Thai tradition, started his education at the Royal School within the Grand Palace and ordained at the age of 13 as a Buddhist novice. Before his ordination, the title of Somdej Chao Fa Mahidol Adulyadej Kromma Khun Songkla Nakarin was bestowed upon him. He was later sent to study at Harrow, a renowned public boarding school in England, for about one year and a half. In accordance with the wishes of his Royal Father, who had close relation with Emperor Wiliiam II, Prince Mahidol proceeded to study in Germany, at the Royal Prussian Military Preparatory college at Potsdam which offered course of study in the humanities and sciences in addition to training in military discipline. The education in humanities and sciences while at Potsdam had profound and lasting impacts on his outlook, philosophy and personality. His Royal Highness furthered his study at the Imperial Military Academy at Gross Lichterfelde in Berlin and subsequently attended the Murwik Imperial German Naval Academy at Flensburg in 1912. In that year he was commissioned as Lieutenant in both the imperial German Navy and the Royal Thai Navy. At the outbreak of World War I, after completing naval study in Germany, Prince Mahidol returned to Thailand and was assigned to a teaching post at the Royal Naval Academy.
As a teacher, Prince Mahidol came to aware of the extent of the poor state of the teaching of basic sciences in Thailand. Through contact with his half-brother and old friend, Prince Rangsit, who was then the Chief of the Royal Medical College, Prince Mahidol also came to recognized the dire need for improvement in the standards of medical and public health education in Thailand, particularly the conditions of medical practice which was much lagged behind the western standard. He had come to the conclusion that good education in basic sciences and a well maintained public health service is essential factor in the development of human resources of the country. In 1916 after being promoted to the rank of Captain (Royal Guard), Prince Mahidol resigned from the Royal Thai Navy to pursue his conviction by going aboard to study public health at Harvard, Massachusetts.
With a plan to support hospitals and medical school in Thailand, Prince Mahidol and his Queen Mother used their own fund to set up scholarships for Thai citizens to study medicine and public health related fields aboard. The first group of scholarship-holders were sent to study in the US, one of them Miss Sangwan Talaphat a nursing student, was to become his future wife. Prince Mahidol married Miss Sangwan Talaphat on 10 September 1920 and received his Certificate in Public Health from Harvard in 1921. During his stay in the United States he was asked to represent the Thai government in liaising with the Rockefeller Foundation which was offering monetary and technical help to improve Thailand’s medical and public health education.
Prince Mahidol returned to Thailand in 1923 to take up the position of Director-General of the University Department in the Ministry of Education and continued liaising with the Rockefeller Foundation until the final agreement was made. With his new position, he modernized the teaching of science subjects and revised curricular, established laboratories and acquired up-to-date equipments for these laboratories. In 1925 Prince Mahidol went back to his alma mater, Harvard University, again to study medicine. He received his M.D.(cum laude) in 1928 and was elected a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha. Prince Mahidol returned to Thailand in December 1928. Prince Mahidol died on 24 September 1929 at the age of 37 years 8 months and 23 days. He was posthumously bestowed the title of Somdej Chao Fa Mahidol Adulyadej Kromma Luang Songkla Nakarin on 30 November 1929 by King Rama VII, and later the title of Somdej Phra Mahitalathibet Adulyadejvikrom Phra Boromarajachanok, by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
HRH Prince Mahidol first child, HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana was born on 10 May 1923 in London. His second child, HRH Prince Ananda Mahidol, later became King Ananda Mahidol, was born on 20 September 1925 in Heidelburg Germany. His third and last child, HRH Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is now King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was born on 5 December 1927, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. His consort, HRH The Princess Mother, died on 18th July 1995, at the age of 95 year.
During his short span of working life, HRH Prince Mahidol had taken up many positions related to education and medicine. He was Director-General of the University Department in the Ministry of Education; Chairman of the board of Faculty of Siriraj College of Medicine and Nursing; committee member of the council of Thai Red Cross Society; Chairman of organising committee of Vajira Hospital; invited lecturer of the Faculty of Science and Arts Chulalongkorn University; and resident doctor in McCormick Hospital in Chiangmai. His initiative and effort produced a most remarkable and lasting impact on the improvement of modern medicine and public health in Thailand, such that he was honored with the title of “ Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health of Thailand”
HRH Prince Mahidol also left a legacy of his humanistic outlook and the believe in human dignity and worth in the form of several speech and pronouncements. One of his most memorable statements highly respected for its wisdom and moral value is “Let consideration of personal gain take second place for the overall benefit of mankind. Prestige and wealth are natural rewards for a just and sincere dedication to work”. This has become the guiding light for Prince of Songkla University, and adopted as its dedication statement.