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Sir M. Visvesvaraya (1888-1970)

Sir M. Visvesvaraya was an eminent engineer and statesman and played a key role in building of modern India. Architect of Krishnaraja Sagar Dam; devised steel doors to stop the wasteful flow of water in dams. Today perhaps many people know Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya as one of the ablest engineers of India and creator of the Vrindavan Garden but very few really know his role as one of the builders of modern India, his role in industrializing India, his views on education and planning and so on. He was a real Karmayogi.

Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, popularly known as Sir M.V., was born on September 15, 1860 in a Muddenahalli village, in Chikballapur Taluk, Kolar District. His father Srinivasa Shastri was a Sanskrit scholar and Ayurvedic practitioner. His mother Venkachamma was a religious woman. His mother tongue is Telugu. His father died in Kurnool when Visvesvaraya was just 15 years old. Visvesvaraya completed his schooling education in Chikkaballapur and after that he joined Central College in Bangalore. He completed his B.A. Examination in 1881. He got some assistance from the Govt. of Mysore and that’s why he joined the Science College, in Pune to study Engineering. In 1883, he ranked first in the L.C.E. and the F.C.E. Examinations (equivalent to B.E. Examination).

When Sir M. Visvesvaraya was doing engineering, Govt. of Bombay offered him a job and appointed as Assistant Engineer at Nasik. As an engineer, he has done wonderful job. He planned a way of supplying water from the river Sindhu to a town called Sukkur (Now in Pakistan). He devised a new irrigation system called the Block System. He devised steel doors to stop the wasteful flow of water in dams. He was the architect of the Krishnaraja Sagara dam in Mysore. The list is endless.

In 1912, Maharaja of Mysore appointed Visvesvaraya as his Dewan. As Diwan of Mysore, he worked tirelessly for educational and industrial development of the state. When he was the Dewan, many new industries came up like ‘The Sandal Oil Factory’, ‘the Chrome Tanning Factory’, were some of them. Of the many factories he started, the most important is the Bhadravati Iron and Steel Works. Sir M. Visvesvaraya voluntarily retired as Dewan of Mysore in 1918. He worked actively even after his retirement. In 1955, He was honoured with Bharat Ratna for his invaluable contribution to the nation. When he reached the age of 100, the Government of India brought out a stamp in his honour. Sir Visvesvaraya passed away on April 14, 1962 at the age of 101. The British also knighted him for his Myriad contributions to the public. Every year, 15 September is celebrated as the Engineer’s Day in India in his memory.

The Samadhi of Sir M.V. at Muddenahalli

The Bharat Ratna medal

Sir M. Visvesvaraya institute of technology Photo

Sir M. Visvesvaraya institute of technology

Sir M. Visvesvaraya Photo

Sisir Kumar Mitra (1890 – 1963)

Sisir Kumar Mitra was an Indian physicist. He is the doyen of radio science in India. He is known for his seminal work on ionosphere. The ionosphere, which extends from about 60 km to several thousand kilometers high in the atmosphere, plays a major role in long distance radio communications. The air in the ionosphere is ionized.

Sisir Kumar Mitra was born at Konnagar, a suburb of Calcutta, on 24 October 1890. He was the third son of Joy Krishna Mitra & Sarat Kumari. His father was a school teacher and mother was a doctor in Lady Dufferin Hospital at Bhagalpur in Bihar. Sisir Mitra first went to school in Bhagalpur district and there showed a serious interest in scientific studies. A few years later his two elder brothers died and his father became paralysed, and he would have had to leave school, had it not been for the insistence of his mother, an outstanding woman, that he should continue his education while she supported the family on her earnings from the hospital. After leaving school he admitted to the T.N.J. College, Bhagalpur, and from there in 1908 to Presindency College, Calcutta, where in 1912 he headed the list of successful candidates for the M.Sc. degree in physics.

Prof. Mitra started his career as a lecturer in the T.N.J. College at Bhagalpur and later on transferred to the Christian College, Bankura. He was also responsible for the establishment of Radio Research Board. He was the first Chairman of the Radio Research Committee formed in 1942 and continued in this chair in 1948. His treatise, the Upper Atmosphere received great acclaim. He established the first ionospheric field station in 1955. His interest also included the night sky luminescence, for which he developed a theory of active nitrogen in 1945. Prof. Mitra received many honours including Fellowship of the Royal Society, Presidentship of the Indian National Science Academy, National Professorship, Padma Bhushan Award, 1962. He died after a short period of illness on August 13, 1963.

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Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920 )

Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of the India’s greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to the analytical theory of numbers and worked on ‘elliptic functions’, ‘continued fractions’, and ‘infinite series’. Srinivasa Ramanujan was a great Mathematician, who became world famous at the age of twenty-six. He was born on December 22, 1887 in his grandmother’s house in Erode, a small village of Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. He was the son of K. Srinivasa Iyengar & Komalatammal. His father worked in Kumbakonam as a clerk in a cloth merchant’s shop and his mother was a housewife and also sang at local temple. When Ramanujan was a year old, his mother took him to the town of Kumbakonam, near Chennai.

When he was about five years old, Ramanujan admitted to the primary school in Kumbakonam although he would attend several different primary schools before entering the Town High School in Kumbakonam in January 1898. At the Town High School, Ramanujan was the scholar student and showed himself an able all round scholar. In 1990, he began to work on his own on mathematics summing geometric and arithmetic series. In December 1889, he contracted smallpox. Continuing his mathematical work Ramanujan studied continued fractions and divergent series in 1908. At this stage, he became seriously ill again and underwent an operation in April 1909 after which he took him some considerable time to recover. He married on July 14, 1909 when his mother arranged for him to marry a ten-year-old girl S. Janaki Ammal. Ramanujan did not live with his wife, however, until she was twelve year old.

Ramanujan could not complete his college education because of illness. He was so interested in mathematics that he learned on his own. He found out new formulas for solving mathematical problems and wrote articles about them. Professor Hardy a scientist in the Cambridge Univesity saw one his article and impressed by his knowledge, took Ramanujan to England. Ramanujan was considered as the master of theory of numbers. The most outstanding of his contributions was his formula for p(n), the number of ‘partitions’ of ‘n’. It was in 1914, while he was working in Trinity College, he developed the ‘Number Theory’ and for his valuable contribution, was elected the ‘fellow of Trinity College’ on October 18, 1917. He returned to India in 1919 and began Research.

Ramanujan continued to develop his mathematical ideas and began to pose problems and solve problems in the journal of the Indian Mathematical society. He developed relations between elliptic modular equations in 1910. After publication of a brilliant research paper on Bernoulli numbers in 1911 in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society he gained recognition for his work. Despite his lack of a University education, he was becoming a well-known personality in the Madras area as a mathematical genius. He was died on April 26, 1920.

Scientist Srinivasa Ramanujan Photo

Ramanujan's home on Sarangapani Street, Kumbakonam.

Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974)

Satyendra Nath Bose was a Bengali Indian physicist, specializing in mathematical physics. He was well-known for his work “Quantum mechanics” in the early 1920s, providing the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose-Einstein condensate. He was born on January 1, 1894 in Calcutta. He was the eldest son of Surendranath and Amodini Devi. His father was employed in the Engineering Department of the East India Railway. He knew many languages and also could play Esraj (a musical instrument similar to violin) very well.

Sateyendra nath Bose began his education at an elementary school and after that he attended Hindu High School in Calcutta. Later on he joined Presidency College in Calcutta in 1909 where he had a brilliant academic record. He was awarded a B.Sc. in 1913 and M.Sc. in 1915 proving him to be by far the best student of mathematics. In the same year he married with Ushabala Ghose. They had five children, three daughters and two sons.

He started his career in 1916 as lecturer in the physics department of Calcutta University. He served here from 1916 to 1921 and Later on he joined Dacca University again as lecturer. In 1926, he became a professor and was made head of the physics department, and continued teaching at Dacca University until 1945. At that time, he returned to Calcutta, and taught at Calcutta University until 1956, when he retired and was made professor emeritus.
In 1956, when he was retired from Calcutta University he was appointed as vice chancellor of Viswa-Bharati University, Shantiniketan. After two year he was honoured with the post of national professor. He was awarded India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan in 1954 by Government of India. He left for heavenly abode on 4 February 1974.

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Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995)

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a ‘Nobel Laureate’ in physics and one of the greatest astrophysicists of modern times was born on October 19, 1910 in Lahore, Punjab, British India (now in Pakistan). He was the son of Mr. C.S. Ayer and Sita Balkrishnan. His father was a civil servant, attaining a high position with the Indian railways. The Ayer had three sons and five daughters of whom Chandra was the oldest son. In 1916, the family moved to Madras where Chandra grew up. Chandrasekhar came from a highly educated South Indian family. He was the nephew of Indian Nobel Laureate Sir C.V.Raman.

Chandra was a brilliant student. At 15, he entered Presidency College, the most prestigious in Madras; in 1927, he started their physics honors course, graduating in 1930 at the top of his class. He read far beyond the curriculum, for instance about Fermi statistics, where he was most intrigued by Ralph H. Fowler’s work on the constitution of white dwarf stars. This subject inspired him to write his first scientific paper, “Compton Scattering and the New Statistics”, which was published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society” in 1928. Upon graduation, based on this paper, Fowler at the University of Cambridge accepted him as a research student.

Being the nephew of the great C.V. Raman, a Nobel Prize winner in physics young Chandrasekhar’s interest in the subject came naturally to him. In 1930, at the age of 19, he completed his degree in physics from Presidency College, Madras (at Present Chennai) and went to England for post graduate studies at the Cambridge University. Chandrasekhar worked hard as a research student, and after he had taken his PhD, he was elected a fellow of Trinity College. Now feeling relaxed and more confident, he returned to the problem of white dwarfs. By a more complete calculation, he confirmed his earlier result: there is an upper limit to the mass of white dwarf. He was invited to give a talk on this subject at the Royal Astronomical Society in January 1935. But after his lecture, Eddington stood up and rejected Chandra’s results, not by scientific argument but by ridiculing the combination of special relativity theory with quantum statistics. Chandra was devastated.

Chandrasekhar was renowned for his work in the field of stellar evolution, and in the early 1930s, he was the first to theorise that a collapsing massive star would become an object so dense that not even light could escape it, now known as the Black hole. He demonstrated that there is an upper limit (known as ‘Chandrasekhar Limit’) to the mass of a White dwarf star. His theory challenged the common scientific notion of the 1930s that all stars, after burning up their fuel, became faint, planer-sized remmants known as white dwarfs. But today, the extremely dense neutron stars and black holes implied by Chandrasekhar’s early work are a central part of the field of astrophysics. Initially peers and professional journals in England rejected his theory. The distinguished astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington publicly ridiculed his suggestion that stars could collapse into such objects (black holes). Of course, Eddington was wrong. However, his resistance to Chandra’s mass limit was understandable: his life’s work had been to show that every star, whatever it’s mass, had a stable configuration. It was generally believed that white dwarfs were the end stage of stellar evolution, after their energy source was exhausted. Why should there be a limit to the mass of a star in its old age? Chandra appealed to physicists he knew- Rosenfeld, Bohr, and Pauli. Unanimously, they decided that there was no flaw in his argument. However, it took decades before the Chandrasekhar limit was accepted by the astrophysics community.

Disappointed, and reluctant to engage in public debate, Chandrasekhar moved to America, in 1937 joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, and remained there until his death. At Chicago, he immersed himself in a personalized style of research and teaching, tackling first one field of astrophysics and then another in great depth. He wrote more than half a dozen definitive books describing the results of his investigations. More than 100000 copies of his highly technical books have been sold. He also served as editor of the Astrophysical Journal, the field’s leading journal, for nearly 20 years; he presided over a thousand colloquia; and supervised PhD research for more than 50 students. Chandrasekhar was a creative, prolific genius whose ability to combine mathematical precision with physical insight changed humanity’s view of stellar physics.

The genius Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, known to the world as Chandra, died on August 21, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He is best known for his discovery of the upper limit to the mass of a white dwarf star, for which he received the ‘Nobel Prize’ in physics in 1983.

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Professor Satish Dhawan (1920-2002)

Satish Dhawan was a pioneer engineer and Indian rocket scientist. He was born on September 25, 1920, in Srinagar, India. His father was a high-ranking civil servant of undivided India and retired as the resettlement Commissioner of Government of India at the time of partition. He completed graduation from the University of Punjab in Lahore (Now in Pakistan). He also completed B.A. in Mathematics and physics, and M.A. in English Literature and a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering. In 1947, he obtained an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Later, he moved to the California Institute of Technology, where he was awarded the Aeronautical Engineer’s Degree in 1949, and a Ph D in Aeronautical and Mathematics in 1951, which he pursued with eminent aerospace scientist Professor Hans W. Liepmann as adviser. Such an educational breadth, covering science, engineering and the humanities, and his distinguished family background, appears to have given him an ability to view the world from many different angles, and may have been responsible for his unique qualities as a leader.

After completion of education he joined the Indian Institute of Science in 1951 and became its Director in 1962. In 1972, He was appointed Chairman of the Space Commission and of the Indian Space Commission and of the Indian Space Research Organization, and Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Space. In the following decade, he directed the Indian space programme through a period of extraordinary growth and spectacular achievement. Major Programmes were carefully defined and systematically executed, including in particular the launch of Indian satellites on Indian rocket vehicles. Pioneering experiments were carried out in rural education, remote sensing and satellite communications that led to the development of operational systems like INSAT. These projects were all distinguished by their keen sensitivity to the true needs of a developing nation, a confident appreciation of the ability of its scientists and engineers, and the carefully planned involvement of Indian space programme came to be seen in the 1980s as a model of technology development and application carried out within the country.

Professor Satish Dhawan received many awards for his contribution to science and technology, but following awards are few of them.
1) Padma Vibhushan Award, (India’s second highest civilian honour), in 1981.
2) Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration, in 1999.
3) Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indian Institute of Science.
4) Distinguished Alumnus Award, California Institute of Technology, 1969.

Prof. Satish Dhawan passed away on January 3, 2002.

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