Lamenting the fact that not a single Indian university was in the top 200 universities in the world, renowned scientist C.N.R. Rao stressed on the importance of inculcating scientific temperament in youngsters.

He was speaking at the State-level Students-Scientists Contact Programme organised by the Government of Karnataka’s Vision Group on Science and Technology, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Pre-University Education, the Directorate of State Educational Research and Training and the Karnataka State Science Council here on Monday.

Twenty students from each education district were chosen for the State-level programme. He said that his interest in science was kindled when Nobel laureate C.V. Raman visited his school.

“A few students, including me, were selected to visit him at his laboratory in the Indian Institute of Science. I was 11 then. I decided later to become a scientist,” he said.

In his talk on chemistry, he said that chemistry was all around us. The human body itself was a chemical factory. “To excel in any science, it is important to learn about scientists who developed science,” he said.

He then spoke about the achievements of French scientist Antoine Lavoisier, who is known to be the “Father of Chemistry”, English chemists John Dalton and Michael Faraday, Russian chemist who created the first version of the periodic table Dmitri Mendeleev, German chemist Friedrich Wohler, and American chemists Gilbert Newton Lewis, R.B. Woodward and Linus Pauling.

Interspersing his talk with titbits from the scientists’ life, Prof. Rao ensured that the 600-odd students listened in rapt attention. Chemistry was the queen and servant of not just biology, but also advanced material science, he said.

“As much as 60 per cent of our country’s population lives in rural areas. It is possible that among them are several Faradays, Einsteins and Paulings. It is just that their talent has not been recognised and tapped,” he added.

N. Prabhu Dev, Vice-Chancellor, Bangalore University, urged Prof. Rao to involve the varsity in some research projects. He urged him to draw the attention of the Chief Minister to the duplication of work by the Higher Education Council, Inter-University Board and State Knowledge Commission. “The three can be merged, instead of different bodies working on the same issues,” he added.

Indumathi Rao from Education Technology Unit, JNCASR; S. Ananth Rao, Scientific Officer, Department of Science and Technology; K.L. Pujar, Joint Director, Department of PU Education; B.P. Venkatesh from DSERT; and C.D. Patil, secretary, Karnataka State Science Council, were present.