Padma Bhushan- and Padma Vibhushan-winning Indian scientist Vikram Sarabhai was born into the famous Sarabhai family of industrialists who were associated with the Indian Independence Movement. He made major contributions to India’s nuclear power and space research initiatives, developed textile research in India, and helped set up IIM-Ahmedabad.
A self-taught genius Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan is known for his contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory and continued fractions. Born into a humble family, the celebrated mathematician struggled with poverty but still managed to publish first of his papers in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society. Later, his collaboration with English mathematician G. H. Hardy proved very productive.
Indian physicist, biologist, and plant physiologist Jagadish Chandra Bose revolutionized science with his research on how plants and animals react to external stimuli. He founded the Bose Institute, made pioneering contribution to the field of radio and microwave optics, and also penned one of the first works of Bengali science fiction.
Best known for conceptualizing the Mahalanobis distance, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis was a renowned Padma Vibhushan-winning Indian statistician who played a major role in his country’s industrialization policies of the Second Five-Year Plan. He also taught at his alma, Presidency College, and was one of the founders of the Indian Statistical Institute.
Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning geneticist M. S. Swaminathan is best known for his contribution to the Indian Green Revolution. Featured on Time, he introduced high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice seedlings to Indian farmers. He is also known for his administrative work as part of the Indian civil services.
Remembered for his varied contribution to astrophysics, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar is perhaps best known for his work on the evolution of massive stars. Today known as Chandrasekhar limit, it contributed to final understanding of supernovas, neutron stars, and black holes. A prolific writer, he also did significant work on energy transfer by radiation in stellar atmospheres and convection on solar surface.
10 Homi Bhabha
Padma Bhushan-winning physicist Homi Bhabha revolutionized the Indian nuclear program singlehandedly. Born into an affluent family, he was educated at Cambridge. Initially geared toward a career in mechanical engineering, he later drifted to physics, eventually contributing to the formation of TIFR. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is named after him.
Best known for working with Albert Einstein to form Bose–Einstein statistics, Indian scientist Satyendra Nath Bose was a master of quantum mechanics. He played the esraj, loved poetry, and had mastered quite a few languages. The Padma Vibhushan winner was also made a Fellow of The Royal Society.
Ancient Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta is best remembered for laying down rules to calculate with zero and for penning the texts Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta and Khaṇḍakhādyaka. His other achievements include his work on surds and positive and negative numbers. He also devised a formula for the area of a cyclic quadrilateral.
A child prodigy who was never formally educated, Shakuntala Devi became a mathematical genius earning the title of Human Computer for her exceptional calculating abilities. The Indian genius was also an astrologer and a gifted writer who authored books on maths, astrology, homosexuality in India and a crime thriller novel.
14 C. N. R. Rao
C. N. R. Rao already had a PhD degree at age 24 and became the youngest lecturer at the IISc. The Padma Shri- and Padma Vibhushan-winning Indian chemist is best known for his research on areas such as surface chemistry, superconductivity, and nano technology. He is a self-confessed technophobe.
15 Bhāskara II
Renowned 12th-century mathematician and astronomer Bhāskara II is remembered for producing the first written work with full use of the decimal system. Siddhānta-Śiromani remains his most notable work. He also worked on quadratic equations and succeeded Brahmagupta as the head of the Ujjain cosmic observatory.
16 Meghnad Saha
Indian astrophysicist Meghnad Saha is best remembered for developing the thermal ionization equation. A grocer’s son, he relied on merit alone to excel in academics and eventually became a professor at the universities of Allahabad and Calcutta. He was also a Lok Sabha MP and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Indian Bengali chemist Prafulla Chandra Ray founded the country’s first pharma company, Bengal Chemicals. Educated in Calcutta and Edinburgh, he later worked from his home, a room on the first floor of the college where he taught. Knighted for his achievements, he donated generous sums to the Brahmo Samaj initiatives.
Born to a math professor father and a Sanskrit scholar mother, Astrophysicist and IUCAA professor Jayant Narlikar grew up to collaborate with Sir Fred Hoyle, leading to the conformal gravity theory, also known as the Hoyle-Narlikar theory. He has won the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan and penned sci-fi novels, too.
Biocon founder and chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a self-made billionaire entrepreneur who made it to Forbes’s Power Women 2020 list. Though she initially wished to be a brewer like her father, she later drifted to the biochemical industry. Apart from revolutionizing the Indian biopharma market, she also heads a charitable organization.
20 Sudha Murty
Known for her humility and simplicity, Indian philanthropist and author Sudha Murty had humble beginnings as a TELCO engineer. She is married to Infosys co-founder Narayan Murty and heads the Infosys Foundation. The Padma Shri winner has penned over 200 titles, such as Dollar Bahu, in both Kannada and English.
21 Salim Ali
Known as the Birdman of India, legendary ornithologist Salim Ali was the first to conduct bird surveys in India. The Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan winner is best remembered for penning the book The Book of Indian Birds, and for setting up the Bharatpur and Ranganathittu bird sanctuaries.
The current Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh has previously held other important portfolios, such as home affairs and agriculture. He has also been a BJP president and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Born into a farmer’s family, he worked as a physics lecturer before he joined the RSS.
23 Bhāskara I
Legendary 7th-century astronomer Bhāskara I is best known for deciphering Aryabhatta’s work and was the first to use a circle to mean a “zero” in the Indian decimal system. The Mahabhaskariya and the Laghubhaskariya remain two of his best works. He was also an expert in early mathematical astronomy.
Yellapragada Subbarow was an Indian biochemist who is credited with developing methotrexate, an immune-system suppressant and chemotherapy agent which is widely used to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. He also helped American plant physiologist Benjamin Duggar discover chlortetracycline, the world's first tetracycline antibiotic.
Currently the President and CEO of Samsung Technology & Advanced Research Labs, Pranav Mistry, is best known for developing SixthSense, a wearable device enabling interactions between the real world and the world of data. Earlier, he had introduced a smartwatch called Samsung Galaxy Gear and a 3D-capturing 360-degree camera called Project Beyond; his other inventions being Mouseless, Quickies, Blinkbot etc.
28 Janaki Ammal
Janaki Ammal was an Indian botanist whose work concerning phytogeography, cytogenetics, and plant breeding earned her India's fourth-highest honor, the Padma Shri, in 1977. She is credited with improving India’s indigenous sugarcane varieties. She also helped analyze sugarcane's geographical distribution across India.
Best known for his treatise on mathematical astronomy, Pancha-siddhantika, Indian philosopher, astronomer, and polymath Varahamihira was well-versed in Western astronomy. He had also penned Brihat-Samhita and is believed to have been one of the Navaratnas, or Nine Jewels, of the court of Indian king Yashodharman Vikramaditya.
Known as the father of research laboratories, Indian physical chemist Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar was a BHU professor. An avid poet, he also penned the kulgeet of the university. He was the first chairman of UGC, headed CSIR, and played a key role in setting up many R&D labs in India.
Deeply connected with Indian innovation movement, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar is especially known for his contributions to transport phenomena. Throughout his career, he had held important positions, including the post of the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He also chaired many important national committees, investigating diverse issues like drug regulatory system and national auto fuel policy.
Pakistani engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan was a major figure in the development of his country’s nuclear plans. His research also focused on uranium enrichment. He was later apparently involved in transfer of nuclear technology to Iran, among other countries, but was pardoned by then-president Pervez Musharraf.
33 Birbal Sahni
Birbal Sahni was a pioneer of palaeobotanical research in India. The founder of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, he also taught botany at BHU and Lucknow University. He was also interested in music and tennis, and loved collecting coins. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society, too.
34 Raja Ramanna
Raja Ramanna was an Indian nuclear physicist, remembered for his role in the development of India’s nuclear weapons program. Beginning his career under Homi Bhabha, he eventually served as the director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, overseeing India’s first nuclear weapons test in 1974. Meanwhile he also served as the secretary for defense research and later headed Atomic Energy Commission.
Best known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies and the New York Times bestseller The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee is an Indian-American oncologist and a Columbia University professor. He is also a former Rhodes scholar, a Padma Shri winner, and a Stanford alumnus.
Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan is an Indian space scientist who supervised the development of several scientific satellites including the Indian Remote Sensing Satellites IRS-1A and IRS-1B and the Indian National Satellite (INSAT-2) while serving as the director of ISRO Satellite Centre. He served as the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for nine years from 1994 to 2003.
Harish-Chandra was an Indian American physicist and mathematician whose contributions to representation theory made him one of the most prominent mathematicians of the 20th century. Over the course of his illustrious career, Harish-Chandra was honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Frank Nelson Cole Prize and Srinivasa Ramanujan Medal. In 1977, he received India's third-highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan.
Padma Vibhushan winner and nine-time Nobel Prize nominee theoretical physicist E. C. George Sudarshan was born in India but moved to the U.S. to study at the University of Rochester. He later joined Harvard and made ground-breaking discoveries in topics such as quantum optics, tachyons, and the quantum Zeno effect.
The pioneer of fiber optics, Indian-American physicist Narinder Singh Kapany had over 100 patents in his name. He was the first to send images through fiber optics and also worked on areas such as laser technology and solar energy. He and his wife also established the California-based Sikh Foundation.
Indian environmental activist and physicist Vandana Shiva is known for her anti-GMO campaigns. The Gandhi of grain is the founder of RFSTN, which promotes sustainable agriculture, and is against globalization. She developed an interest in environmentalism after witnessing a forest at her hometown being cleared for a project.
S. R. Ranganathan was an Indian librarian and mathematician. Ranganathan is best remembered for developing the colon classification, a system of library classification, which is currently used in research libraries all over the world. In India, he is considered the father of library science, information science, and documentation. His birthday is observed as National Librarian's Day in his home country.
Anil Kakodkar is an Indian mechanical engineer and nuclear physicist who served as the director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) from 1996 to 2000. He is one of the core members of the team which conducted Pokharan II nuclear tests. Over the course of his career, Kakodkar has received several prestigious awards, such as the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
44 Tessy Thomas
Tessy Thomas is an Indian scientist who became the first-ever woman to head an Indian missile project when she served as project director for Agni-IV. For her immense contribution to the field of missile technology, Tessy Thomas was honored with the prestigious Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award.
Aerospace engineer and scientist Mylswamy Annadurai, also known as the Moon Man of India, had humble beginnings in his native village, Kodhawady, in southern India. He later grew up to be a key member of ISRO and contributed immensely to Indian space programs such as Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan.
Fifteenth-century Indian astronomer and mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama is largely remembered as the man who established the Kerala School of mathematics. Of his most notable works are his discovery of the power series and his research on the infinite series. He was known as Golavid, or the Master of Spherics.
Augustus De Morgan was a British logician and mathematician. He is best remembered for formulating De Morgan's laws which are widely applied in solving mathematical equations. He also came up with the term mathematical induction, a mathematical proof technique.
Vijay P. Bhatkar is an Indian educationalist and computer scientist. One of the pioneers of India's IT industry, Bhatkar is renowned for initiating the development of Param supercomputers. Over the course of his career, Bhatkar has been honored with many prestigious awards, such as the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
49 Ashoke Sen
Ashoke Sen is an Indian theoretical physicist whose immense contribution to string theory has earned him accolades and respect around the world. The recipient of several prestigious awards like the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, Sen also serves as a professor at several prestigious institutions like the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Korea Institute for Advanced Study.
Tenth century Indian mathematician, philosopher and Sanskrit scholar Śrīdhara Ācāryya is chiefly known for his two mathematical treaties; Patiganita (the science of arithmetic) and Trisatika (also called Patiganitasara ). In Bījaganita, his treaties on algebra, he provided practical algebraic applications and also a formula for solving quadratic equations. Other scholarly treaties attributed to him are Navasatī, Bṛhatpati, Ganitasara and Ganitapanchavimashi.