Astrophysicist V. Radhakrishnan passes away

He may have been CV Raman’s son, but was scrupulous about never riding on his father’s fame

Eminent astrophysicist Venkatraman Radhakrishnan, who is known for his work on pulsars, passed away at his home here in the early hours of Thursday. He was 82.

Professor Radhakrishnan's colleagues at the Raman Research Institute (RRI), where he was director for over two decades (between 1972 and 1994), described him as “a free-spirited and strong personality.” He scrupulously avoided riding on his father C.V. Raman's fame.

‘Vital scientific mark'

“Professor Radhakrishnan made a vital scientific mark and deserves to be recognised independently,” RRI director Ravi Subrahmanyan told The Hindu.

“He will be most remembered by the scientific community for his work on pulsars [neutron stars] and the structure of interstellar medium [the matter that makes up the space between stars],” he said.

While astronomy uses optical light to understand the universe, Professor Radhakrishnan, a radio astronomer, studied galaxies through radio waves, Professor Subrahmanyan explained.

Key participant

“He would preoccupy himself with difficult problems. And well after his tenure as director of RRI, he remained a key participant in our decisions and meetings,” he said.

Under his leadership, the institute developed a reputation in pulsar astronomy and liquid crystals. He remained Emeritus Professor of the RRI after his retirement.

Schooling in Madras

Born in Madras in 1929, Professor Radhakrishnan did his schooling in the city. He graduated from the Mysore University before joining the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Science here.

The trajectory of his research took him around the world — to Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden; California Institute of Technology; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia.

Intrepid explorer

The scientist was also an intrepid seeker of adventure. He is known for designing and fabricating ultra light aircraft and sailboats. In fact, over the last few months Professor Radhakrishnan embarked on a worldwide voyage in a yacht designed by him.

“The global expedition was his childhood dream,” said Professor Subrahmanyan.

Ready for another voyage

Last October, he set sail from Kochi to the Persian Gulf in his yacht Eldemer. He had returned to Bangalore a few months ago and was preparing for a longer voyage via Malaysia.

He told reporter he wanted to “see what happens, and then plan a longer voyage.”

That was not the first time he had embarked on a voyage such as this one: in 1965, he sailed from Britain to Australia.

The astrophysicist passed away from cardiac complications.

Professor Radhakrishnan is survived by his wife Francoise-Dominique and son Vivek Radhakrishnan.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 12:48:14 PM |

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