I do consider myself a well-read person, but I don’t know anyone else but Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT, Madras and Anil K Gupta of IIM- Ahmedabad. I am afraid, most of the people in our country are hardly aware about many reputed scientists, technocrats, and managers from the academic field who have been regularly contributing in different fields of science and technology. Perhaps it is because media don’t cover our academic institutions very much. It was interesting to read the former president, Abdul Kalam writing about the three scientists, D. S. Kothari, Homi Jehangir Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, who were founders of the three greatest scientific institutions in the country.
D. S. Kothari was an outstanding physicist-cum-astrophysicist and is well known for his theory on ionisation of matter by pressure in cold and compact objects like planets.
Kothari was made Scientific Advisor to the defence minister in 1948. Kothari realised early on that the main purpose of Defence Science Organisation was to serve the immediate and long-term needs of the armed forces.
As Scientific Advisor, he identified the disciplines such as Operational Research & Ballistics, Explosives & Armaments, Rockets & Missiles, Naval Technology, Engineering, Food & Life Sciences and problems posed by adverse environment on men and material, for development that is relevant and functioning even today. Kothari also established the Defence Science Centre for conducting research in electronic materials, nuclear medicine and ballistic science. He is, therefore, considered the architect of defence science in India.
The second giant was Homi Jehangir Bhabha. Before coming to India, he was a research student in theoretical physics in University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, where he did outstanding original research on cosmic radiation. He discovered that electron pairs were produced when cosmic radiation interacted with matter; he also identified muons, particles produced by cosmic rays. The latter discovery won him the prestigious fellowship of Royal Society.
On his return in 1939, Bhabha joined Sir Raman at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore. In 1945, he started the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), where he focused on nuclear and mathematical science. After Independence, he established the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948. Bhabha is acknowledged as the founder of India’s atomic energy programme. His vision gave birth to centres of excellence in nuclear technology, nuclear power, nuclear devices and nuclear medicine.
Vikram Sarabhai was the youngest of the three and worked with Sir Raman in the study of experimental cosmic rays. He established the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad with space research as focus. Later on, he became the director of Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC), which set off in 1963 by launching sounding rockets to conduct atmospheric research.
In 1970, Sarabhai unveiled the country’s space mission with its vision of building satellite launch vehicle capability for putting our communication satellites in the geo-synchronous orbit and remote sensing satellites in the polar orbit. He also envisioned that launch vehicles built in India should be launched from Indian soil. All this led to intensive research in multiple fields of science and space technology.
Today, with its 14,000 scientific, technological and support staff in multiple space research centres, supported by about 300 industries and academic institutions, India has the capability to build satellite launch vehicles for placing remote sensing, communication and meteorology satellites in different orbits. In fact, space application has become a part of our daily life
Why can’t India have more of such scientists who emulate these visionaries, dream and work for transforming India into a developed nation the way these stalwarts did? Why shouldn’t the media help in task of promoting Indian technological marches and technologists and scientists? An extensive effort is essential to make the role of science and technology popular among the people at large.
Science and technology has to be made attractive to the political leaders.
Technologies that give immediate benefits to the people directly or indirectly should be packaged and successfully offered to the political leadership.
It is absolutely essential for the country to compete with the developed nations.