Updated: December 22, 2011 02:18 IST

He played a key role in India's first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974

T. S. Subramanian
Comment (11)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
P.K. Iyengar
P.K. Iyengar

The former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), P.K. Iyengar, 80, who passed away in Mumbai on Wednesday, was a great scientist and a role model to many people, according to AEC Chairman Srikumar Banerjee. He excited the minds of youngsters in several fields.

Dr. Iyengar was Chairman, AEC, and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) from 1990-93. He was Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), from 1984 to 1990. Prior to this, he headed the Physics group in BARC.

Dr. Banerjee said Dr. Iyengar played a leading role in India's first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in May 1974 at Pokhran in Rajasthan. “He was the Director of the Physics group at the BARC at that time. High pressure physics was an important component of the PNE and it was part of the Physics group. The PNE was a good achievement.”

Dr. Iyengar was “extremely sharp and his grasp of several subjects was very good,” the AEC chairman said.

Dr. Iyengar, who belonged to Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, did his postgraduation in physics in 1952 from the University of Travancore and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Bombay in 1963. He joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) of the DAE in 1952. He was deputed to Chalk River Laboratories of the Canadian Atomic Energy Establishment. He was trained in Canada under Dr. B.N. Brockhouse, a Nobel Laureate in Physics.

After he returned to India, Dr. Iyengar pioneered research in neutron physics and built an internationally recognised team in that field in the BARC. He led a team that indigenously designed and developed the PURNIMA reactor, which was commissioned in 1972. He made a significant contribution to the indigenous building of the Dhruva reactor, which attained criticality when he was Director, BARC. Dhruva continues to be a world-class facility even today, and Dr. Iyengar's contribution during the final stages of its commissioning was significant.

Starting his research in nuclear physics in the TIFR in 1952, Dr. Iyengar foresaw the advent of nuclear reactors and the opportunities they offered in both basic research and nuclear technology. He started building neutron spectrometers in 1958 around Apsara, Asia's first nuclear reactor, even before the high flux reactor CIRUS was operational, and gave India an early start in neutron beam research. He encouraged research and development in material science, radiation physics, molecular biology, lasers and accelerators. He was primarily responsible for the establishment of the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology in Indore. As AEC Chairman, Dr. Iyengar vigorously pursued the nuclear power programme with the commissioning of reactors at Narora in Uttar Pradesh and Kakrapara in Gujarat. He emphasised the importance of the development of the Fast Breeder Test Reactor at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, near Chennai.

“Dr. Iyengar left an important mark on various aspects of the DAE programme. He was also interested in the DAE's training programmes. I am personally indebted to him because I had many opportunities to interact with him,” Dr. Banerjee said.

DAE spokesman S.K. Malhotra said Dr. Iyengar was “frank in expressing his views and quick in taking decisions.”

After his retirement from the DAE, Dr. Iyengar held several positions. He received several awards, including Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award and Padma Bhushan. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

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I had the privilege of knowing him and interacting with him on many occasions. We all know how well respected he was in the area of nuclear science and his strong views on indo-us nuclear agreement so clearly inunciated. We at Agastya Foundation were pevileged to have his counsel on science education in particular and education in general. His contribution to agastya foundation as a founder member has been immense and his demise is great loss particularly soon after the demise of another pioneer and founder member Mr K V Raghavan. May his soul rest in peace!

from:  H n Srihari.
Posted on: Dec 23, 2011 at 14:17 IST

I am a retired scientist who believes that a tinge of irreverence is required as part of any scientist's essential skepticism in matters of science: but no irreverence is possible towards people like PK Iyengar (or Raja Ramanna) who were PERFECT scientists.

from:  witan
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 10:01 IST

DR P K Iyengar is known to the atmoic world only when he died at the age of 80.was he given any recognition by the govt of India, such as Bharat shree and ratna so far.It is by and large more higher intelectuals of the country are not known when they are alive.which is 8unfoturnate.Because, they are not -poloticians to boast themselves.NOBODY beat the trumpets for them.not even the institution they serve ovfera peirod of years.

from:  vaidya
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 08:42 IST

Thanks for telling us what hardwork and patriotism this gentleman displayed for nation. You will live in minds of Indians for generations to come.

from:  Lalit
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 08:37 IST

What a man !!!! Dr. Iyengar's qualities of being 'frank and taking quick decisions' is what we need in our R&D program managers , be it in Nuclear Science , Space or Defence.

from:  Sandeep Bhat
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 08:05 IST

Great loss to the nation & to the nuclear India. May the soul rest in

from:  Karuppaiah
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 08:04 IST

He was truly a great scientist who did not get his due from the country. His contribution to our Nuclear programme was immense and he deserved a Bharat Ratna for this. He was one of the shining jewels of this country which our politicians did not honor properly.

from:  S N IYER
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 07:01 IST

Dr. P. K. Iyengar was a great scientist. Youngsters should emulate him. May his soul rest in.

from:  Dr. H. N. Madhavan
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 06:35 IST

Through this media I express my deep condolence for the close family and to the DAE community. Through most of his period as a Director BARC, I worked in BARC as a young engineer. I had the opportunity to watch his brisk research visions, directions and dynamism. I have now moved to Australia with a very progressive career since then. Like me, many others excelled in their career paths, partly attributed due to the quality research opportunities provided to us by people like Dr. Krishnamurthy Iyengar. He made great contributions and nurtured many great successors to the Nuclear map of India.

from:  Dr. Arasu Kannapiran, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 05:01 IST

India misses people like Dr Iyengar. India as a nation got it's priorities wrong, with little emphasis on research in Science, Engineering. Priorities of today's India is Movie stars and Cricketers. Dr Iyyengar truly deserves a Bharat Ratna OR may be Bharat Ratna is desperate to have people like Dr Iyyengar. He is one of the critical people to put India on world Nuclear Map - all developed indigenously.

from:  MikeBose
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 04:33 IST

Rest in peace, Sir. You have done more than your share for the country. I will miss you.

from:  Anup Singh
Posted on: Dec 22, 2011 at 01:33 IST
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