The Indian Institute
of Science has produced Nobel laureates, trained many
of India's greatest scientists and helped nurture some
of the country's finest scientific institutions
It was the thought of advancing
India's scientific capabilities that motivated Jamsetji
Tata to conceive of establishing an institution
of advanced scientific education and research, the like
of which even England did not have, at the end of the
19th century. He was aware that national resurgence
was only possible through multi-level industrialisation,
higher education and scientific research. "He was
a visionary who had personally established industries
which were at the forefront of technology in those times.
Besides, he donated half of his personal wealth (14
buildings and four landed properties in Bombay) for
the creation of this institution," says Dr Goverdhan
Mehta, director, Indian
Institute of Science (IISc).
After consulting several authorities
in the country, Jamsetji Tata constituted a provisional
committee to prepare the required scheme for the setting
up of the institute. On December 31, 1898, a draft prepared
by the committee was presented to Lord Curzon, the viceroy-designate.
Subsequently, upon the request of the secretary of state
for India, the Royal Society of London asked Sir William
Ramsay, a Nobel laureate, for help. Sir William made
a quick tour of the country and reported Bangalore to
be the most suitable place for such an institution.
At the initiative of the dewan,
Sir K Sheshadri Iyer, the government of Krishnaraja
Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore, came forward with
an offer of 372 acres of land, free of cost, and promised
other facilities. Thus Jamsetji Tata's original scheme
became a tripartite venture, with the association of
the Government of India and the Mysore maharaja.
Finally, it was as late as 1911
that the Maharaja of Mysore laid the foundation stone
of the Institute and, on July 24 that year, the first
batch of students was admitted in the departments of
general and applied chemistry, organic chemistry and
electro-technology. Since then the IISc has grown into
a premier institution of research and advanced instruction,
with more than 2,000 active researchers working in almost
all the frontier areas of science and technology.
During past decades, Nobel laureate
CV Raman, Homi J Bhabha, Vikram S Sarabhai, JC Ghosh,
MS Thacker, S Bhagavantam, Satish Dhawan, CNR Rao and
scores of others who have played a key role in the scientific
and technological progress of our country have been
closely associated with the Institute.
The IISc has helped to create
and nurture other laboratories and scientific institutions
within the country. The Tata
Institute of Fundamental Research and the Atomic
Energy Commission were born here. In fact, Homi Bhabha
wrote the proposals for creating both these institutions
when he was on the faculty of the Institute. The Indian
space programme, too, was nurtured here. It also enabled
CV Raman to undertake research in light scattering,
which eventually won him the Nobel Prize in 1930.
Tata took a keen interest in the Institute. He believed
that it should contribute not just to science but to
society as a whole, while emphasising the social relevance
of science, says N. V. Raghavan, the Institute's public
relations officer. He adds that JRD was always concerned
about the well-being of the Institute's employees and,
during his frequent visits, never failed to meet the
members of the Tata Memorial Sports Club, which he was
very fond of and to which he made generous grants periodically.
JRD, who advocated the principle of population control,
while mingling with the staff of IISc would jocularly
ask, with a small grin, the number of children they
Says Mehta, "Jamsetji's
vision was that the Institute should commit itself to
the quest of excellence for the betterment of the people.
That has been the endeavour of this Institute for close
to a century: to be in the forefront of research for
the benefit of humankind and the people of India. It
is not a one-time activity, but an ongoing process."
JRD paid great attention to the
maintenance and upkeep of the buildings. This legacy
is being continued by Ratan Tata. In recent times, he
has helped promote the Sir Dorabji Tata Centre for Tropical
Diseases and assisted with the maintenance of the structure.
His contribution is not just financial; he is also a
strong motivational force.
Every institute is continually
in an evolutionary phase. The world of science and technology
has metamorphosed since the establishment of the IISc.
The Institute has tried to keep pace, both in terms
of training of human resources and its research contributions,
which are widely recognised in India and abroad.
"The contribution of institutes
like ours should be judged from how much it has enriched
the intellects of science and technology in the country,"
says Mehta with a hint of pride. "We have been
associated with some prestigious and nationally important
missions and projects."
The Institute has also started
the process of celebrating its centenary, while defining
its goals for the next century of its existence. "My
dream is to transform it into an international institute
of science," adds Mehta. "I believe that we
have done our best and maintained the vision of the
founder. His spirit is still present here."