The New Year brings with it new possibilities for invention and innovation in the field of science. As we look forward to all that 2019 will bring, let us take a look back and pay tribute to a few Indian scientists and innovators who we lost in the year 2018, who have made important contributions to the various fields of science and have left a mark on the world.
1. Dr. T.N. Krishnamurti
Famously known as the ‘father of modern tropical meteorology’, Dr. Krishnamurti was a well-known meteorologist who died on 7th February, 2018. He was a pioneer in tropical meteorology and numerical weather prediction. His research focused on high-resolution forecasting of cyclones, hurricanes, landfalls, short and long range monsoon prediction as well as inter-seasonal and inter-annual variability of the tropical atmosphere and the meteorology of arid zones.
He was the creator of the most accurate hurricane forecasting model- the FSU Superensemble, and was awarded with several awards of excellence which include the most prestigious award in meteorology – the International Meteorological Organization Prize (in 1996) from the World Meteorological Organization, among others.
2. Professor Yash Pal
Professor Yash Pal was an Indian scientist, academic, educator and one of the leading science communicators of the country. He was known for his contributions to the study of cosmic rays, high-energy physics and astrophysics and established institutions that were key to India’s space programme.
For his contributions to science and space technology, he was awarded with the Padma Bhushan (in 1976) and the Padma Vibhushan (in 2013) which are the third and second highest Indian civilian honours. He is also known to have popularized science, for which the Indira Gandhi Prize for Popularization of Science (2000) was awarded to him.
Professor Yash Pal, the “people’s scientist”, passed away on the 24th of July, 2018.
3. E. C. George Sudarshan
One of India’s best known theoretical physicists E. C. George Sudarshan, was an Indian theoretical physicist who was known for his varied contributions to the field of physics, philosophy and religion. Amidst other notable work he is credited with proposing the existence of tachyons and his work on tachyons (the particles that move faster than light) challenged Albert Einstein’s theory that nothing with mass can travel faster than light. He also worked with Roy Glauber on the Glauber-Sudarshan P representation – which Glauber won a Nobel Prize for. He himself was nominated nine times for the Nobel Prize in Physics, but never won. He however, has numerous honours to his credit, including the Padma Vibhushan (2007), C.V. Raman Award (1970) and Bose Medal (1977). C. George Sudarshan passed away in May 2018.
4. Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade
Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade was a rural Indian innovator and cultivator who invented a high-yielding variety of paddy called HMT-Sona and ten other popular rice varieties, which revolutionalised rice farming in India.
A Dalit farmer, he was born in a small village in Maharashtra and had no formal education, yet, by experimenting he succeeded in breeding HMT with traditional breeding techniques. Around the year, 1983 (when he began experimenting), this variety was found giving high yields compared to the varieties available at that time. The HMT variety had an average yield of 40 – 45 quintals per hectare and was better in quality in comparison with the parent variety “Patel 3”.
In 2010 Forbes magazine named him among seven most powerful entrepreneurs of India. Despite his innovation, he lived a simple and poor life. He died on 3 June, 2018 in Gadchiroli.
5. Gurcharan Singh Kalkat
Gurcharan Singh Kalkat was an Indian agricultural scientist as well as the founder chairman of the Punjab State Farmers Commission (PSFC). He is known for his contributions in bringing the green revolution to the state of Punjab which was a huge boost to the agricultural state of the country. The green revolution led to a boom in the production of wheat and rice in the country, with Punjab in the lead. He also pushed for a “soybean revolution” and introduced banana cultivation in Punjab. He is largely credited for bringing in modern practices of agriculture in the state.
For all his contributions to agriculture in the country, Gurcharan Singh Kalkat was awarded with both the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards. He passed away in January, 2018 at the ripe age of 92.