Obituary. Dr Endel Aruja (5.07.1911-4.02.2008)

February 18, 2008

On 4th of February Endel Aruja – Doctor of physics and active in the Estonian community abroad – died in Toronto.

Dr. Endel Aruja

Dr. Endel Aruja

Endel Aruja was born in Soontaga in Valga county to a farming and milling family. He received his initial schooling in Soontaga. He then studied in Tõrva: at the primary school headed by Hans Linsi, at Patküla primary and at Tõrva High School. In 1930 he graduated from the Tartu Boys’ Scientific High School, and in 1935 from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Tartu, also acquiring a teaching qualification from the University’s didactic-methodological seminary. He worked in 1936-38 as an assistant in the University of Tartu’s Institute of Physics, and began research in the area of x-ray crystallography. In 1938 he defended his Master’s thesis. In 1938-1939 he was an assistant in the physics laboratory at Tallinn Technical University. In 1939-1941, he was a British Council scholarship holder at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, and in 1941-1944 in the physics laboratory at King’s College in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1943 he defended his PhD at Cambridge University.

He lived and worked in England up to 1962, actively participating in the foundation and running of numerous Estonian organizations: London Estonian Society, Estonians Association of England, London Estonian House. He was active in the Baltic Council, Baltic Humanist Association, Estonian National Fund and Estonian National Council, editing and distributing their periodicals – for which he established a publishing company “Northern Publications“. He compiled the first list of books published in exile – in 1951, updated in 1952) and the Estica catalogue (over 20 000 titles). He helped to establish the “Eesti Hääl” (“Estonian Voice“) newspaper and was the London editor of “Baltic Review“. He wrote Estonian-themed articles for the ”Encyclopaedia Britannica“.

In 1962 he moved to Canada. In 1962-1964 he worked as a researcher in Toronto at the Ontario Research Foundation, developing electron fraction technology. In 1965-1976 he was professor of physics at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, in 1974 he was visiting professor in Lebanon at the American University in Beirut, and in 1975 in Kenya at Nairobi University. In 1979 he was an adviser in Cairo as part of the Executive Service Overseas program.

In Canada, he continued his active participation in the life of the exile community. He was the Vice-Chairman of the ESTO 84 organizing committee.  From 1972-2004, he was a director of the Tartu Institute, management secretary and archivist, as well as the main organizer of activities, including the chairman of the Bibliographic Club.

Endel Aruja was a member of numerous societies and organizations: The Royal Institution of Great Britain, Physical Society of London, Institute of Physics (UK), American Crystallographic Association, Estonian Association of Scientists (USA), Canadian Association of Physicists, AABS, Canadian Oral History Association, Canadian Ethnic Studies Association, Ontario Association of Archivists, Baltic Committee (Toronto), Tartu College Council, Estonian Fund in Canada, Estonian Central Council in Canada, Toronto Estonian Society, Toronto Estonian Pensioners’ Club, Canadian Estonians’ History Commission, etc.

The University of Tartu awarded Endel Aruja an honorary doctorate in 1990. In 1998 he was awarded the Republic of Estonia White Star V medal and in 2002 the University of Tartu Library medal of service.

Endel Aruja’s particular service was in supplying Estonian libraries with Estonian publications from abroad. Tartu Institute began sending parcels by post in 1986. The first major shipment by sea took place in 1989 – with 160 boxes of books, weighing about 5000 kilos.  Over the years, an extensive network was developed, with the involvement of all Estonia’s major libraries (Estonian Literature Museum Archival Library, University of Tartu Library, Tallinn University (formerly Academy of Sciences) Library, Estonian National Library, Technical University Library), a number of community libraries and numerous private individuals. By 2003, almost 7000 boxes of books had been sent to Estonia.

The activities of Endel Aruja in establishing and developing the Tartu Institute Archives and Library into one of the most extensive cultural treasures of Estonians abroad is of inestimable value. By the end of his time as archivist, the collection had grown to fill eight rooms on three floors of Tartu College – a total of 236 m2.The historical materials there are important sources for everyone who is interested in the fate of Estonians after they fled from Estonia in 1944, particularly about life in North America.

The worldwide Estonian archival community recognizes the major contribution by Dr Endel Aruja in preserving our historic memory, and we will always remember him as a tenacious and hard-working colleague.

Piret Noorhani