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CNR: A great builder of institutions

M. Somasekhar
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C.N.R. Rao
C.N.R. Rao

If Sachin Tendulkar has been the most prolific run-getter for India, his equivalent in the scientific field is surely Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, popularly known as CNR.

It is perhaps coincidence that the contributions of these two icons should be recognised at the highest level with the conferring of the Bharat Ratna on Saturday.

While the master blaster’ ‘has hung up his boots after 24 years at the crease, CNR continues to relentlessly pursue his passion — scientific research.

In a career spanning over half a century, CNR has published over 1,400 research papers in top scientific journals and written or edited close to 50 books.

CNR is known for stellar contributions in the fields of hybrid and nano-materials, the thinner than human hair stuff that promises to revolutionise several fields ranging from healthcare to defence.

Talent spotter

At 79, CNR is one of the foremost proponents in his chosen field — chemistry. “He publishes on an average 40 papers a year and three books. He lives science and is a fighter for scientists. He is a great builder of institutions, and spots talent,” said R.A. Mashelkar, former Director-General of CSIR.

The tough-talking Professor has been a familiar figure at two premier scientific research houses in Bangalore — the Indian Institute of Science and the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Scientific Research — for over 40 years.

Ever approachable to young researchers, CNR minces no words when it comes to his pet peeve, the lack of talent taking up the cause of basic research.

The obsession with Information Technology is draining out bright science students and leading to a shortage of talent in cutting-edge research, he has often lamented.

The Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister has won many major awards, including the Third World Academy of Sciences Award. Only the Nobel has eluded him, say well wishers.

Beginning with a stint at IIT-Kanpur, in 1963, CNR has had his share of controversies, including allegations of allowing plagiarism in one of his scientific publications in 2011.

After Sir C.V. Raman, CNR is the second scientist to receive the country’s highest honour.

Former President and India’s ‘missile man’ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is the other eminent technologist to have received the Bharat Ratna.

somasekhar.m@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 16, 2013)
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