Be it the introduction of the concept of numbers in the ancient times by Aryabhatta, or the practice of Ayurveda, science has always been an integral part of the Indian society. Today, it can be said that India plays a pivotal role in the development of science and technology in the entire world. India is home to some of the most famous scientists who have greatly contributed to the world with their awe-inspiring inventions and discoveries. Some of them include:
APJ Abdul Kalam
Kalam started his career by designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army. He worked under space scientist Vikram Sarabhai in the INCOSPAR committee. Later, he was a part of the team in ISRO as a project director, and was successful in launching India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III). SLV-III successfully deployed the Rohini satellite near Earth’s orbit in 1980.
While Mr Kalam served as the 11th President of India, he advocated plans to change India into a developed nation by 2020. He has received Bharat Ratna, the highest cilivilian honour, among other prestigious awards.
D. Sivananda Pai
Known as the Rain Man of India, Mr. Pai had the ability to forecast rains even as a child by merely looking at the sky. With a post-graduate in Physics from Maharaja’s College, Kochi, MTech in Applied Optics from IIT, Delhi, and PhD in monsoon studies from the University of Pune, Mr. Pai is among the country’s foremost scientists and continues to help predict rainfall, albeit with the help of science. He is the head of Long Range Forecasting (LRF) division of the India Metrological Department (IIMD) in Pune. He is known to have developed a new forecasting system in statistical approach for the arrival of rain. This system is the first of its kind in the world. “Monsoon forecasts are imperative in our country where agricultural cycles are highly dependent on the rain,” says Pai.
Pai has won the Certificate of Merit for Young Scientists/ Engineers in Atmospheric Sciences in 2010 from the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
Upinder S. Bhalla
Born to two professors of economics, Upinder S. Bhalla completed his higher education from the world’s three premier institutes, IIT Kanpur, Cambridge University, and Caltech, in technology. But being obsessed with biology, he pursued a career in this field to study the workings of the brain. Human brain is one of the most complex objects in the universe and Upinder S. Bhalla has always been keen about it. “The study of how the brain works is, in a very deep sense, the study of what makes us human,” Bhalla thinks. At present, he is a professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore. Bhalla, in his research, is attempting to develop standards and models at the interface between biochemical signalling and electrical activity of neurons, modelling of the brain as a tissue, and mechanical simulations.
Partha Pratim Majumdar
Partha Pratim Majumder has an MStat and a PhD from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. He has done his post-doctoral work at the Center for Demographic & Population Genetics, University of Texas Health Science Centre, Houston.
Prof Majumdar is known as being one of the first human geneticists and has contributed towards human genetics and evolution. His innovative paradigms and statistical methods aim towards solving biological problems related to modes of inheritance of complex human traits and mapping genes underlying such traits. Prof Majumdar’s work has helped in mapping disease genes in the Indian sub-continent.
Partha Majumder is a recipient of Ranbaxy Research Award (2000), New Millennium Science Medal (2000), Shri Om Prakash Bhasin Award (2001) and GD Birla Award for Scientific Research (2002).
Ms Barwale Zehr graduated with a B.Sc. from Wilson College, University of Bombay in 1981. She later went on to do her M.S. and a Ph.D. in 1985 in Agronomy at the University of Illinois, USA. Since 2000, she is whole-time Director of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd., Jalna, India. Ms. Barwale aims at the effective application of the advances in plant biotechnology in the recent years to improve agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner. Use of molecular tools to enhance breeding activity, use of genomics to gain better understanding about crops, deploying new tools to enhance nutritional value of food grains are just a few of the possibilities being used by her.
President of the Madras Diabetic Research Foundation (MDRF) and chairman of Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Vishwanath Mohan’s goal in life is to beat diabetes. He has evolved a simple diabetes diagnostic test called Indian Diabetic Research Score. This test shows if a person is diabetes prone. “There is an urgent need to understand the dietary profile of the population to identify diet-related risk factors of chronic diseases such as diabetes in order to plan preventive strategies,” says Mohan. He says if correct measures are followed, close to 35 million of these cases can be prevented.
The diagnostic test called Indian Diabetic Research Score has already been completed in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Chandigarh. This study will help to arrive at an authentic national data for diabetes.
Known for his work in String Theory, Ashoke Sen earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1975 from the Presidency College under the University of Calcutta, and his master’s from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He did his doctoral work in physics at Stony Brook University. He has made original contributions to the subject of string theory, including his landmark paper on strong-weak coupling duality or S-duality, which was influential in changing the course of research in the field. In 1998, he won the fellowship of the Royal Society on being nominated by the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
Dr Ganesh has a PhD from the Banaras Hindu University. At present, he is a faculty member in IIT, Kanpur and is in the process of identifying and characterizing molecular players in neurodegenerative pathways. Neurodegenerative disorders are a group of central nervous system dysfunctions characterised by the progressive loss of neural tissues, resulting in movement abnormalities, progressive decline in intellectual and cognitive functions, and in certain cases early death. For this, he conducts genetic screens in affected families and utilizes cellular/animal models for testing and validating the hypothesis.
Swapan Kumar Datta
Swapan Kumar Datta began his career in rice research in 1976. Datta is well known for his extensive work in the field of genetic modification of rice, resulting in it being resistant to disease, and having the ability to provide better nutrition. He gained international repute with his groundbreaking work in the field of isolated microspore embryo-genesis in cereals. He is actively involved in collaborative worldwide research on the application of genomics and gene technology for improving crops.
Paramjit Khurana obtained her B.Sc., M.Sc., M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees in Botany from University of Delhi. Paramjith has made pioneering contributions in the area of “Wheat and Seribiotechnology”, and “Comparative Genomics”. During the past decade, genetic transformation of Indian wheat has been accomplished by her group for resistance against the cereal cyst nematode and for abiotic stress tolerance. In mulberry, too, transgenic capability of withstanding salinity and drought stress conditions have been developed. Professor Paramjit Khurana was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (2010), and the National Academy of Sciences India (2003). She was awarded the ‘Certificate of Honour’, by the Gantavaya Sansthan on International Women’s Day (2011).
The list of scientists in India is endless. Each of them is involved in research which is going to make the world a better place to live in. India with a wealth of extraordinary minds is surely well on its way to be a force to reckon with.