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Indian Institute of Science – The Saraswat Connection
Hattikudur Manohar - PhD
The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, celebrates its Centenary during 2008-09. Apart from symposia and lectures in various Departments, there was a Centenary Conference during 12th-16th December 2008 attended by over 1500 alumni, in which 3 Nobel Laureates in science, distinguished alumni and public figures participated. This institution was conceived as a ‘university of research’ by the great visionary, industrialist and philanthropist, Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, who realized as early as in 1896 the importance of scientific research for the future development of the country. Despite the lack of encouragement by the British Government and against great odds, the Institute came into existence in 1908 after Tata’s death. The role played by Swami Vivekananda urging Tata to go ahead with the project, the munificence of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in donating 371 acres of land and other details have all been extensively reported in the national newspapers recently. Some of the prominent scientists associated with the institution in the past include Nobel Laureate Sir C.V.Raman, Homi Bhabha, father of the atomic energy programme, Vikram Sarabhai, who later initiated the space programme and the eminent chemist, Sir Jnan Chandra Ghosh, first director of IIT Kharagpur. In more recent times, the names of space scientist, Satish Dhawan, R. Chidambaram, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and presently Scientific Advisor to Govt. of India, Samir Brahmachari, Director General of C.S.I.R. , S. Ramadurai, Managing Director of TCS and T.R.Satishchandran, Retired. Chief Secretary to the Government. of Karnataka among others come to mind. IIScians have occupied top positions in science, industry, and administration. Many have gone abroad and made good in their adopted country. Several companies have had their genesis in IISc like the Sandalwood Oil factory and Soap Factory in Bangalore and the Acetone Factory in Nashik. The IIT’s which came up in later years and the 5 recently established Institutes of Science and Technology are all modeled on IISc. The Institute has been the torch-bearer in starting new and innovative areas of study like the Centre for Earth Sciences, Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Centre for Electronic Design and Technology, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Centre for Sustainable Technologies etc.
In this article I wish to recall the association of Chitrapur Saraswats with IISc in different capacities—as administrators, faculty or students. I shall begin with a very prominent citizen of Mumbai, industrialist and educationist, Sir Vithal Chandavarkar (see photograph), who was Chairman of the Governing Council, the highest policy and decision-making body of IISc, during 1935 to 1959. Karnad Amrith Rao was Librarian during 1925 to 1940. He was also a linguist, teaching French and German to students, apart from managing the library! Dr. Bhavanishankar Nirody, an eminent horticulturist, who had a long stint with TISCO, Jamshedpur, served as Horticultural Advisor in the 50’s creating the beautiful gardens in the campus.
I now move on to the Engineering Departments. Manjeshwar Gurudutt, Ubhayakar Jayadev , Pradeep Nadkarni and Mohan Ullal were alumni of Aeronautical (now Aerospace) Engineering Department Gurudutt, a gold medalist in the DIISc course (equivalent to a degree) served earlier as Airframe Designer in Hindustan Aeronautics, Bangalore for many years, where he was associated with the design of HT2 trainer, the first indigenously designed and manufactured aircraft. He also earned the DCAe from the reputed Royal College of Aeronautics, U.K. during this period. He later worked in TELCO, Now Tata Motors, as Director, Engineering Research Centre, Pune and also Consultant for Bajaj Tempo for 10 years. He was President, Automotive Research Association of India and also on the Governing Council of IIT, Delhi). Jaidev, after a brief stint with HAL, worked with the Aviation division of Greaves Cotton Ltd. Pradeep, completed his ME winning a Gold medal and has been with the Defence Research and Development Laboratories of the Government. He is presently Scientist G(Director) at the Aeronautical Development Establishment in Bangalore. Mohan, with a BE from IIT, Mumbai, took his ME at IISc and worked earlier in the Aerospace and later in the Medical Healthcare industries.
Basrur Rama Rao, Ashok Nadkarni , Lalit Rao (nee Dhareshwar) and Pradeep Padukone were students of the Electrical Communication Engineering. Department. .Rama Rao later earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Applied Physics at the reputed Harvard University. He was Assistant Professor at Harvard and later Principal Engineer in MITRE Corporation, USA. Ashok, with a BE from the Department, completed his ME’s in Electrical Engineering. and Computer Science in Canada. He worked for AT&T Bell Telephone and Hewlett Packard Laboratories in USA and is presently Global Programme Manager for a leading software provider in Mobile Telephony in New Jersey. Vidushi Lalit Rao, a very talented person, who was interested in music from a very young age, after her degree in IISc, completed her MScE in electronics from University of New Brunswick, Canada. She then declined a job offer from IBM and switched over to Hindusthani classical music. She received advanced training from the reputed Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan of the Agra-Atrauli gharana and went on to become a top musician of the country. She has given over 1000 concerts in India and abroad and has several commercial albums to her credit. Pradeep Padukone , after his ME, proceeded to USA and took his PhD in Systems Engineering from Oakland University , Rochester MI. He is currently Principal engineer at LSI Corporation in California. Bansi Hattangadi, while working in the Air Force Technical College in Bangalore, took evening classes for external students conducted by the ECE Department, which helped him complete AMIEEE and AMIERE degrees with distinction. He became a specialist in Airborne Early Warning Radar and retired in the high rank of Air Commodore.
Molahalli Sanjiva Rao, Amladi Vinekar Manohar Rao and Pratima Gupta (nee Baljekar) were students of the Electrical Engineering Department. Sanjiva Rao’s entire career was with Dalmia Industries, Dalmianagar, where he was Chief Engineer. He was later Consultant to Dalmia Enterprises in South India. Manohar Rao, after his DIISc, joined the ACC company and after a long service retired as Deputy Gen. Manager at their corporate office. Pratima, after her B.E., worked successively in TCS, Philips in Belgium and IBM in USA. She later decided to leave the software profession and has entered the field of nursing and health care ! Mohan Sirur passed out of the Chemical Engineering Department with an AIISc , did his MS at Northwestern University, Illinois, and set up the Sundatta Cottonseed Oil Company in Hubli. Manjeshwar Mohan Rao, after graduating from the Chem. Engineering Department did his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physical Metallurgy in USA. He then joined the faculty of the Metallurgy Department of IISc and rose to the position of Professor. Srirang Manohar (Hattikudur) , an electrical engineer, took his Ph.D, in the Department of Instrumentation and worked as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Twente in The Netherlands. He is presently Assistant Professor, his specialization being Biomedical Instrumentation.
I now turn to the Science Departments. Basrur Sanjiva Rao, an eminent physical chemist, earned his D.Sc. from the University College, London, and joined the faculty of Central College, Bangalore, from where he retired as Principal. Subsequently, he was Head of the General Chemistry Department of IISc during 1947 to 1950 and he later moved to Gauhati to establish and head the Chemistry Department in the newly formed university there. Hattikudur Srikant after a degree in Chem. Engineering took a PhD. in Physical Chemistry from IISc . He was with the Sindri Fertilisers, Dhanbad, for over 25 years and retired as Deputy General. Manager. Shankar Rao Saletore after a brief stint of research in Organic Chemistry proceeded to UK to take a PhD. at the University of Liverpool .On return he worked in the Lakshminarayan Institute of Technology, Nagpur and later at the Regional Research Institute, Hyderabad, from where he retired as Deputy Director. Jairam Sujir earned his PhD in the General Chemistry Department and also worked at the R.R.L., Hyderabad until his premature death. Basrur Subba Rao had a brief spell of research in the General Chemistry Department before joining the IAS. After rising to the position of Deputy Secretary in the Industries Ministry of the Govt. of India , he quit the civil service and spent many years in the Netherlands working for an American company. Yours truly, after a PhD from the Physics Department and 2 years at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, where Einstein did his early work, returned to the Inorganic and Physical chemistry Department to initiate teaching and research in Chemical Crystallography and retired as professor. Manjeshwar Prema Bai obtained her PhD in Biochemistry from IISc and after some years at the University of Philadelphia , continued on the faculty of the University of Toronto in Canada. Baindur Venkata Rao earned his PhD. in the Microbiology Department and made his career in the pharmaceutical industry in Mumbai. Surekha Zingade (nee Nagarkatti) after a PhD from Biochemistry Department did post-doctoral research on cancer in USA and is presently Deputy Director of the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.
I am aware that the above list is by no means exhaustive and I have missed out many . However, the purpose of this article was to identify as many Saraswats as I could and indicate how the training they received at this prestigious institution has helped them to make a success of their career, whether in science, technology, industry or administration.
What is it that the Institute provides that makes leaders out of bright young people ? Is there something special in the air they breathe in the lovely campus with its well-protected flora* and fauna+ ? Is it the rigorous training the students receive from the top-class faculty ? Is it the high standards that are set both for staff and students ? Is it the academic freedom given even to the junior-most faculty and students ?Is it the camaraderie that exists between faculty and students , due to the low student to staff ratio (2000 to 400) ? Is it the interaction with top scientists who visit IISc on sabbaticals ? I am not very sure! Perhaps it is a mix of all these factors. However, I have no doubt in my mind that the Indian Institute of Science will continue its pursuit of excellence and be the fountainhead for Indian science and technology –true to the vision of its founder – in the years to come.
I acknowledge the contribution of many friends, who provided the information contained in this article.