Recollections of iisc Alumni




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Prof. A.R. Vasudeva Murthy -
Father of Indian silicon technology


Dr (Ms) N.S. Leela

Retired Professor, M.E.S. College, Bangalore

The densest concentration of innovative industries like computers, semiconductors, lasers, optic fibers, robotics, medical instrumentation and consumer electronics makes California the Silicon Valley of the West. So is Bangalore which is called Silicon Valley of the East. Having no connection with this name is a man in Bangalore called "Father of Indian Silicon Technology". He is none other than Prof. Attinganal Ramarao Vasudeva Murthy popular as ARV among his students. He is the retired professor of Inorganic and Mineral chemistry from IISc. When this man was introduced to the topmost Industrialist J.R.D. Tata, he questioned whether he was making chips. The immediate reply was that he was making materials to make chips. What is this material the professor is talking? It is nothing but silicon which is the key material for the electronics and electrical industries.

Prof. Vasudeva Murthy has a fascination to this seventh-most abundant element of this Universe and the second-most abundant element on Earth. Silicon is obtained by heating sand or silicate with carbon at high temperatures. It occurs in two forms—the amorphous or powdered form and crystalline form. The crystalline form, when doped with elements like boron, germanium, phosphorus or arsenic, could be used in the manufacture of solid- state electronic devises like transistors, solar cells, microchips and so on.

Prof. Murthy in collaboration with Prof. G. Suryan of the Physics Department developed the know-how for the production of silicon-based materials and transferred this technology for commercial exploitation. These two pioneers of this special technology were consultants to M/s Mettur Chemical and Industrial Production Ltd. If this technology was properly utilized in manufacturing units for the production of silicon tetrachloride and silicate on tonnage quantities could have satisfied the country and international market. Professor repents that it was not properly considered.

Professor Vasudeva Murthy was born in Tarikere in Shivamoga district on Dec. 29, 1925. He belonged to a Shanubhoga family. He had his Middle and High schooling at Beerur and Chitradurga, respectively. He shifted to Bangalore for his college studies. He has a wonderful school and college record of being always first in any test or exams. His original research is in the field of Sulphur chemistry. He later worked on phosphorus, Nitrogen, Fluorine, Silicon and their compounds. He was well known for his unique voice and was equally at ease in delivering classroom lectures and popular talks. He not only published technical papers but also popularized the Ancient Indian history of science. He is well versed with Sanskrit literature and is the supporter of Marxism.

He was invited to participate as an Indian delegate at the International Symposium on University and Industry Interactions in Chemistry organized by UNESCO. He was awarded Dr K.G. Naik Gold Medal for his research in the field of chemistry and chemical industry by Maharaja SayyajiRao University of Baroda. He was a technical consultant to various organizations like CSIR, BARC and Department of Atomic Energy. His name was recommended for Padmabhushan award but was missed due to a technical lag.


The turning point

V.G. Veeraraghavan

Managing Partner, Kripya LLC, 2406 246th P1 NE, Sammamish WA 98074, USA

kripya@gmail.com. www.kripya.com


The Entry1969

After graduating from Madras University with a Chemistry Degree, I wanted to take refuge in higher education primarily because of fear of competing for a job in the real world when the only thing I had known and felt comfortable with was cramming through the books and breezing through exams with fairly good grades. Even with the Gold Medal in my hand, I was not a welcome candidate in institutions which required a personal interview (communication) and some significant accomplishment in extra-curricular activities.

Thanks to the policy at the Metallurgy Department at IISc., "D" for "Direct Admission", which meant anyone who had passed their undergraduate exam with a Distinction in Physics or Chemistry was automatically granted admission into the three–year B.E. Metallurgy degree program with no personal interview and no need to submit evidence of extra-curricular activities. As a beneficiary of this policy, I entered into IISc Metallurgy Department.

The Experience: 19691972

The three years at the department and the Institute were filled with rich experiences—academic, social and even some athletic.

In the first month in the Department, I realized what competition really meant. Carrying a load of 13 courses in the first semester, and competing with fellow students, each one of them a rank holder from their respective universities, was an experience I will never forget. I very soon realized past methods of cramming and acing an exam would not work at this department; what mattered was meeting with the expectations of each of the faculty members and focusing on the desired results. Thanks to the well-qualified faculty with training from great institutes within India, the USA and the UK, I got to experience the quality and the format of teaching from some of the best universities in the world right in Bangalore.

From the social aspect, my experience at the Institute was really the turning point in transforming me into the person I am today. From the change of environment from an all-male college to an Institute full of intellectuals of both sexes who were very competitive, to learning the table manners at the mess halls, to discussing global sports and political scenes over a cup of coffee at the Gymkhana as if our views made all the difference, what I gained here was lots of general knowledge combined with some style.

I even tried getting into some athletics when I was at the Institute. Got introduced to Billiards and pool, tried my hand at table tennis and tennis and even ventured into the basketball court trying out some free throws. Not bad for someone who was a geek before coming to the Institute!

The Exit: 1972

Needless to say, I exited the Institute to join graduate school at Purdue University in USA, a very different person than the one who entered it, more confident, more communicative, more competitive, more knowledgeable and a person with some class.

Re-entry

After 35 years in the US, gaining additional experience on top of the strong foundation laid at the Institute, as a businessman with operations in India, I am exploring the opportunities for re-entry into the Institute in some capacity—a mentor sharing his experiences with the new generation students of the department and the Institute perhaps?

A tribute to the Directors of Indian Institute of Science: Reminiscences

Prof. Sushil Chandra Gupta

Formerly Professor, Department of Mathematics, IISc.

Enough has been said in speeches and told in writings by the academic fraternity, directly or indirectly associated with IISc, about the splendid research opportunities, academic freedom, intellectual curiosity, scientific culture and human touch at IISc. Largely, it is the result of the academic and research temperament and the congenial atmosphere prevailing at IISc. The liberal funding by various agencies, pleasant climate of Bangalore and serene surroundings have also helped. The growth and the level of excellence of any organization is a collective effort of all those who have been associated with it but in my opinion the key players are the Directors/Heads of the organizations who are the policy-makers and play the role of torch bearers. We at IISc have been very fortunate that all our Directors have been great academicians, visionaries and human beings par excellence and this has tremendously helped in the growth of the scientific temper at IISc. In what follows, I have tried to pay tribute to the Directors of IISc by highlighting their extra-ordinary human qualities through my reminiscences. Their academic achievements are well known and need not be discussed here.

After obtaining my Ph. D. degree in 1969 from IIT Kanpur and serving for one year as a Faculty Member at IIT Delhi, I joined IISc in July 1971 in the Department of Mathematics and retired as a Professor of Mathematics in 1997. I was awarded Doctor of Science (D. Sc.) degree by IISc in 1998. In this brief write-up, I am presenting some of my personal experiences of my association with some of the Directors of IISc. When I joined IISc Prof. Satish Dhawan was the Director who had initiated a big expansion programme of IISc and he used to meet the new faculty often. In one of the meetings when we were ready to air our grievances, he suggested that something good also must have happened to you people and before talking or writing about negative aspects first point out the positive things. This seemingly small piece of advice was a great learning experience for me and it proved to be a good "success mantra". I have used this advice several times and given it to many others including my children. On my joining I was told by my colleagues that Prof. Dhawan keeps track of the research publications of the faculty members. The Institute has grown in size and it may not be possible for him but he did remember the research interests of the faculty.

There are not many people who know the pulse of the Indian society as well as Prof. C.N.R. Rao. His sharpness in understanding the matters is extraordinary. He would have read even a five-page letter quickly and assessed the situation correctly in a few seconds and, if required, would take corrective action within no time. An incident which is personal but resulted in the form of a Council resolution which benefited all the faculty members is worth recounting here. For no fault of mine, my promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor was delayed by about 9 months. Firstly, the Council meeting did not take place for want of quorum and after the next Council meeting the signing of Council minutes got delayed. In addition, I had myself delayed submission of my promotion papers by about a year as I was expecting a nod from the journals about my new research activity which I had initiated. I was very unhappy and represented to the Director (Prof. C.N.R. Rao) to make my promotion effective from the date on which I had submitted my promotion papers. Meanwhile I met the Deputy Registrar of the Council Section to have some input. He told me that even if the Council accepts my representation I would not get the benefit as in the IISc history no Council resolution has been made effective from an earlier date. I immediately sought an appointment with the Director and mentioned the reasons for it. At the appointed time, I was hardly at the door of the Director's room when Prof. Rao said: "Gupta, it will be done". I was in a dilemma to go inside or not but somehow made it to his chamber. He told me, on his own, that he would see whether my one year delay in submitting the promotion papers can be condoned or not but up to 6 months the delay could be allowed. I got my promotion back-dated by a Council resolution and the Faculty Members were allowed a delay of their promotion papers submission by 6 months. Very few administrators can match Prof. Rao in his bold decision making and its quick implementation. I have many more such incidents to narrate about Prof. Rao and also about Prof. Mehta but I am preserving them for some other occasion in the future.

Prof. G. Padmanaban was one of the humblest Directors IISc. had. It is difficult to find a person who was upset after meeting Prof. Padmanaban that he/she was not shown due respect or did not get patient hearing. I found him always ready to oblige. I had submitted my thesis for the award of Doctor of Science (D Sc) degree when I was in service but it was awarded in June 1998. By this time I had retired. By tradition this highly prestigious D Sc degree is to be handed over in a Senate Meeting but since I had retired, the then Assistant Registrar of Academic Section wanted me to take my degree with the students. I argued with him and later on with the Registrar of IISc that just for 1 minute I will be in the Senate Meeting to take the degree and after that I will come out of the meeting. They did not agree and soI met Prof. Padmanaban. A Special Senate Meeting was being arranged by Prof. Vijayan to felicitate Prof. Padmanaban who was retiring on 31st July 1998. Prof. Padmanaban readily agreed to give me D Sc degree in the Senate Meeting after consulting Prof. Vijayan. I got my D.Sc. degree from Prof. Padmanaban with full honours at the Senate Meeting.

After my retirement, for about 6 years, I was busy writing a book which was published in October 2003 by Elsevier in their prestigious North-Holland Book Series of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics. This book which is at an advance level has been highly appreciated and got excellent reviews. So I sent my book and some reviews to Prof. Balaram for his kind perusal. In his hand-written reply he wrote "Thank you for letting me see your book ------". The language speaks for the humbleness of Prof. Balaram.

In my reminiscences I have tried to bring out some extra-ordinary human qualities of our Directors which are absolutely essential for an academic environment and without which IISc would not have risen to such heights. I wish wholeheartedly even higher heights of excellence.


We earn our bread through satellite communication
Taught by Prof. S.K. Chatterjee


Rajeswari Chattopadhyay

New Technology Applications (India)

204, AECS Layout Stage1, RMV Extension Stage II, Bangalore 560094, India

Tel:91-80-23514651; Fax:91-80-23412634

E-Mail: mail@ntaloref.com; URL: www.ntaloref.com

I joined the Department of Electrical Communication as a research student in Jan 1965 after obtaining the M.Sc. degree in Mathematics from Mysore University. My guide was Prof. S. K. Chatterjee. The problem I worked on was heavily dependent on knowledge of mathematics which has always been my great love.

I did not know what to expect but like many of us who joined this institution, I was in awe of it! Familiarity definitely changes your perceptions. There were some good and some not so good things we faced there. Lots of great work was going on.. However, I have not met many from this institution who could give a usable practical solution to a technical problem. But amongst the alumni, I have met many outstanding working engineers. Probably, that explains many things I have mentioned below.

Many people I know must have wondered why I left the Indian Institute of Science because the general feeling was that one could become a teaching staff member if one stuck around long enough! I finished my Ph.D. work and joined the Microwave Antenna Systems Engineering Group of ISRO at Ahmedabad as a scientist in 1971. Working on and understanding all aspects of satellite earth station antennas were thoroughly enjoyable. After a year, quite reluctantly I joined the Indian Telephone Industries as an engineer in its R&D Division; reluctant because I was very happy in ISRO but the lure of Bangalore was always there. I worked there for 20 years. After some time I got totally absorbed in the industrial work and did not for a minute regret my decision. At that time our Department was called the Bell Labs of India. It was headed by Mr D. K. Sachdev who is an alumnus and a brilliant student of IISc. Taking voluntary retirement in 1993, I now work for our own company which is involved in satellite earth station installations all over the world. This is very hard work but for some one like me, totally enjoyable.

Why I left the IISc has nothing to do with the institution. This is a fabulous place. Dr Amarjit Singh, at that time Director of CEERI, Pilani, had told me that it was his dream to study there before he got the opportunity to go to Harvard University.

I had the guidance of a pioneer in the microwave field, the late Prof. S. K. Chatterjee. And what an unusual man he was! I had grown up fatherless as mine had left us when I was five. He was virtually my father. He taught us satellite communications in 1965. We earn our bread through that field now.

Then what did I want? My restless nature needed constant activity. Academic life was too placid and laidback for some one who wants thing to be happening all the time. Minutes should count. Even now Prof. (Mrs.) Rajeswari Chatterjee gets quite annoyed at the frequent calls I receive and make on my mobile phone whenever we travel together in a car!

The other reason is that I am not an intellectual, so I did not get satisfied with just ideas. I enjoyed seeing the tangible results of my endeavour-hundreds of pieces standing in a row, to be equipped into systems that helped communications somewhere.

That I played a part, however small, in establishing networks is what has kept me going even after many years and tears!

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