Professor C.N.R. Rao, who has been conferred the Bharat Ratna, is an internationally renowned chemist who has championed basic science research in India.
The 79-year-old scientist has received several prestigious international science awards and is a member of many of the world’s science academies. He remains an active researcher with a phenomenal output. Since his first research paper came out almost 60 years back, Prof. Rao has gone on to publish over 1,500 papers. In addition, he has written and edited more than 40 books.
Prof. Rao has been influential in formulating the country’s science policies over many years. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Subsequently, he headed the Scientific Advisory Councils to four Prime Ministers: Rajiv Gandhi, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral and, most recently, Manmohan Singh.
Prof. Rao promoted initiatives in high-temperature superconductivity and more recently in nano sciences, which provided funding for Indian scientists to carry out frontline research in these fields. At his urging, five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research have been set up to capture promising students at the undergraduate stage and provide them high-quality science training in a research environment.
After taking his doctorate from Purdue University in the U.S. and working as research associate at the University of California, Berkeley, he returned to India in 1959 and joined the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore.
He then moved to IIT Kanpur, but returned to IISc in 1976. There he set up the Materials Science Centre and the Solid State and Structural Chemistry Unit. “This was a momentous initiative” that allowed him and his colleagues to keep pace with all the developments in the new chemistry of materials, remarked P. Rama Rao, himself a materials scientist who has known Prof. Rao for over 50 years.
Prof. Rao was director of IISc from 1984 to 1994. During that period, he expanded and transformed the institute in many ways, according to P. Balaram, its current director.
Prof. Rao was the founder president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Bangalore. He is a National Research Professor and also the Linus Pauling Research Professor at the JNCASR.