C.N.R Rao, scientist par excellence

    By IANS,

    Bangalore: Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, 79, who was Saturday conferred the country’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, has been chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since 2005.

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    The Bangalore-born Rao is national research professor and Linus Pauling research professor. He was also chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister during 1985-89.

    Rao is the third Kannadiga to receive the Bharat Ratna after engineer Sir M. Visveshwaraiah in 1955 and Hindustani vocalist maestro Bhimsen Joshi in 2008.

    He is also director of the International Centre for Materials Science (ICMS) in Bangalore.

    “Rao founded the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in the city while serving as director of the premier Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to promote world-class research and training in science and engineering, ranging from materials to genetics,” his associate A.N. Jaya Chandra told IANS here.

    JNCASR is funded by the science and technology department of the central government and is a deemed university.

    Rao is considered an authority on solid state and materials chemistry.

    Born June 30, 1934 to Hanumantha Nagesa Rao and Nagamma Nagesa Rao, the septuagenarian scientist graduated from Mysore University in 1951 and secured a masters in science from Banaras Hindu University 1953.

    After obtaining a post-doctoral degree (Ph.D) from Purdue University in Indiana State in 1958, Rao returned to India in 1961 and joined the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kanpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh in 1963 as a faculty in its chemistry department.

    Mysore University awarded Rao the Doctor of Science (D.Sc) degree in 1961 in recognition of his discoveries in inorganic chemistry.

    “Rao also received honorary doctorates from many universities across the world, including Bordeaux, Colorado, Khartoum, Liverpool, Northwestern, Novosibirsk, Oxford, Stellenbosch, Universite Joseph Fourier, Wales, Wroclaw and Notre Dame in the Netherlands,” Chandra recalled.

    Chandra also spoke of how other members of Rao’s family have contributed to science — Rao’s wife Indumathi Rao works at JNCASR in an honorary capacity for the promotion of science while his son Sanjay Rao is engaged in popularising science in Bangalore’s schools. His daughter Suchitra is married to K.M. Ganesh, the director of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Pune, Maharashtra.

    After serving 13 years at IIT-Kanpur till 1976, Rao became a visiting professor at Purdue University, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in Britain and University of California in the US during the 1980s.

    Rao returned to Bangalore and joined the IISc in 1989 and was one of the longest serving directors till 2001.

    As a renowned solid state and materials chemist, Rao’s work on transition metal oxides led to the understanding of novel phenomena and the relationship between materials properties and their structural chemistry.

    Rao was one of the earliest to synthesise the two-dimensional oxide materials and his work led to a systematic study of compositionally controlled metal-insulator transitions. His studies had a profound impact in application fields such as colossal magneto resistance and high temperature superconductivity.

    Rao also made immense contributions to nano-materials over the past two decades, besides working on hybrid materials.

    He wrote over 1,500 research papers and authored or edited 45 books in the past five decades.

    Rao, who was the first recipient of the India Science Award, won several international prizes and is a member of the world’s leading scientific associations, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society, London, French Academy, Japanese Academy and Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

    The British Royal Society awarded Rao the Hughes Medal in 2000.

    Rao was awarded the Dan David Prize in 2005 by the Dan David Foundation, Tel Aviv University, which he shared with George Whitesides and Robert Langer.

    In the same year (2005), the French government conferred on Rao the title Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour).

    Even the state government honoured Rao as ‘Karnataka Ratna’.

    In January 2013 Rao was conferred China’s top science award for his contribution in boosting Sino-India scientific cooperation.