C. N. R. Rao Biography
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao
Born in: Bangalore, Kingdom of Mysore, British India
Famous as: Chemist
father: Hanumantha Nagesa Rao
mother: Nagamma Nagesa Rao
children: Sanjay, Suchitra
City: Bengaluru, India
education: Mysore University, Banaras Hindu University, Purdue University
awards: Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology (1969)
Hughes Medal (2000)
India Science Award (2004)
Abdus Salam Medal (2008)
Dan David Prize (2005)
Legion of Honor (2005)
Royal Medal (2009)
Padma Shri (1974)
Padma Vibhushan (1985)
Bharat Ratna (2013)
Order of the Rising Sun (2015)
Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao (C.N.R. Rao) is an Indian chemist, distinguished as one of the leading solid state and materials chemists around the world. His scientific career spanning over five decades saw him making significant contribution in development of the field that included his analysis on transition metal oxides. The study aided in comprehending the novel phenomenon and association of materials properties with that of structural chemistry of such materials. He was a front-runner in synthesizing two dimensional oxide materials like La2CuO4. For last twenty years, apart from working on hybrid materials, he has been making significant contribution to nanomaterials. At present he serves as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India, a responsibility he has undertaken under different regimes that speaks volumes of the immense faith shown upon him by different governments. He holds honorary doctorates of sixty universities across the world. Rao has penned down about 1500 research papers and 45 scientific books. On February 4, 2014, he was conferred the ‘Bharat Ratna’ by President Pranab Mukherjee. With this he became the third scientist after C.V. Raman and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam to receive the highest civilian honour of India. He has received several national and international honours and awards which include honorary fellowship of the ‘Royal Society of Chemistry’, London in 1989 and ‘Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur’ from France in 2005.
- He was born on June 30, 1934, in Bangalore, Karnataka, to Hanumantha Nagesa Rao and Nagamma Nagesa Rao as their only child.
- He completed his elementary education at home where his mother, who had skill in Hindu Literature and arithmetic, taught him the subjects and his father made him well versed in English.
- In 1940, when he was six-year-old, he first got enrolled in a middle school. He used to guide his classmates in English and mathematics even being the youngest student of the class.
- In 1944 he secured first class in lower secondary or class VII exam when he was just ten.
- He then joined a high school in Basavanagudi in south Bangalore called ‘Acharya Patashala’, where he developed an enduring interest in chemistry. Although he used to converse in English at home, his father wanted him to know and understand his mother tongue so he was enrolled at a Kannada course.
- One of his fondest childhood memories was meeting Professor C V Raman, a Nobel Laureate, in 1946, when the latter visited his school.
- In 1947 he earned secondary school leaving certificate again with first class.
- He then enrolled at the ‘Central College’ Bangalore where apart from strengthening his English communication skills, he took lessons in Sanskrit.
- In 1951, at seventeen, he earned his bachelor’s degree from ‘Mysore University’ with first class.
- Convinced by one of his teachers he joined the ‘Banaras Hindu University’ (BHU), although his initial plan was to get a diploma or a postgraduate degree in chemical engineering from the ‘Indian Institute of Science’ (IISc), the oldest and the most renowned research institute in India.
- He completed his master degree in Chemistry from BHU in 1953 and was granted a scholarship by IIT Kharagpur for pursuing PhD. He also received offer of financial aid from 4 foreign universities namely Purdue, Penn State, MIT and Columbia, of which he selected Purdue.
- In 1954 the ‘Agra University Journal of Research’ published his first research paper.
- In 1958 he obtained his PhD in chemical physics from Purdue University, United States, completing the doctorate in an impressive two years and nine months. He then continued with his postdoctoral research work at the ‘University of California’ in Berkeley.
- In 1959 he returned to Bangalore and joined the IISc as a lecturer drawing a salary of Rs. 500 per month. He also commenced his independent research work during this time.
- His initial research was primarily on spectroscopy and molecular structure and in 1960 he published his first book from London, ‘Ultraviolet and Visible Spectroscopy’ followed by his second book ‘Infrared Spectroscopy’ published from the US in 1963.
- In 1963 he joined ‘Indian Institute of Technology’ (IIT) Kanpur in a permanent position in its Department of Chemistry and served the position till 1976. Meanwhile in 1964 the ‘Indian Academy of Sciences’ elected him as a fellow.
- At the outset he faced several challenges to initiate his research work in India due to financial constraints. Gradually he set up facilities for investigating solid state and materials chemistry in IIT Kanpur.
- Rao re-joined the IISc in 1976 and set up a unit there dedicated to solid state and structural chemistry.
- His research on transition metal oxides has helped in understanding a novel phenomenon and the link of material’s properties with that of the structural chemistry of such materials.
- He was one of the early scientists to synthesize two dimensional oxide materials like La2CuO4. His research work had a deep impact in the fields of application like high temperature superconductivity and huge magneto resistance.
- For the last two decades he has been doing extensive research work on different nanomaterials particularly grapheme, nanowires and nanotubes.
- Starting from 1984 he served as Director of the IISc for around a decade till 1994.
- From 1985 to 1989 he was inducted as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Indian Prime Minister. He regained the position in January 2005.
- In 1989 the Government of India established ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research’ (JNCASR) and Rao was inducted as the founding president. He served the post till 1999. At present he is the Linus Pauling Research Professor, Honorary President and National Research Professor of JNCASR.
- His reputation was however marred due to some plagiarism scandals and accusations. He apologised to 'Advanced Materials', a peer-reviewed journal, in December 2011 for a paper that he co-wrote with a PhD student of IISc. The paper included text reproduced without acknowledgement of works of the other scientists. The student took the responsibility of the incident upon himself issuing a formal apology. Later when Rao offered to withdraw the article from the publication, the editor let it stay.
- Throughout his career he remained visiting professor at different prestigious foreign universities. These included the ‘Purdue University’ from where he completed his PhD, ‘University of California’, Santa Barbara, ‘University of Cambridge’ and ‘University of Oxford’.
- Rao is the Director of the ‘International Centre for Materials Science’ (ICMS).
- He was bestowed the highest civilian honour, the ‘Bharat Ratna’ on February 4, 2014.
- He has also received ‘Padma Shri’ (1974), ‘Padma Vibhushan’ (1985) and ‘Karnataka Ratna’ (2001) among other honours.
- In 1960 he married Indumati and the couple is blessed with a son, Sanjay, and a daughter, Suchitra.
- His son involves himself in popularising science in the schools of Bangalore. His son-in-law K.M. Ganesh is the Director of the ‘Indian Institute of Science Education and Research’ (IISER) located at Pune, Maharashtra.
- He happens to be a technophobic and neither uses computers nor checks his emails by himself. According to him, he uses mobile phone to talk to his wife only.
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