Prof. Roddam Narasimha

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Born in Bengaluru on July 20, 1933, Prof Narasimha's early education was completed in Acharya Pathashala and University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering, Bengaluru while his PhD was obtained from California Institute of Technology, USA in 1961. He joined the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science in 1962 and later founded the Centre of Atmospheric Sciences there. He served as the Director of the National Aerospace Laboratories from 1984 to 1993. His research centred around Aerospace Fluid Dynamics. He served three terms on the National Security Council. He was a fellow of the Royal Society. Prof Narasimha was decorated with many honours and awards including the Padma Vibhushan. He was also the DST Year-of-Science Chair Professor at JNCASR, Bengaluru and concurrently held the Pratt and Whitney Chair in Science and Engineering at the University of Hyderabad.


That Prof Narasimha, a passionate scientist throughout his life was also interested in the history and philosophy of science became clear during his tenure at NIAS. His fascination with classical Indic studies, history of institutions and the role of science in society was evident soon after he took over as director. He began to delve into archival documents, lectures and correspondences to write about history and evolution of NIAS. Sri JRD Tata, founder of NIAS had pursued the idea for over 24 years before the Institute was finally established in 1988. Prof. Narasimha endeavoured to put the vision of JRD into practice and came up with a simple and precise way to state the mission and the broad goal of NIAS. In fact, Prof Narasimha's fascination with the NIAS logo took him back to an ancient Sanskrit work called Sulva-sutra (The Manual of the Cord) to which the falcon shaped logo owes its origin. With his knowledge of the Sanskrit language and his deep interest in the history of science, he studied the text and wrote clarifying its significance in the context of the NIAS mission. His lecture on 11th October 2019 about the topic described the rich cultural and scientific values encoded in the NIAS logo. He pursued his research interests on the history of science and technology and also initiated a monthly seminar on the History of Ideas in which several scholars and thinkers from different disciplines delivered lectures.

Prof Narasimha's tenure saw NIAS's engagement with panchayat raj leaders, city bureaucrats and policy makers to address the problems of the growing city of Bangalore and other related issues.

Prof Narasimha was instrumental in organising a first-of-its-kind dialogue between Indian experts and members of U.S. Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC), a standing Committee of the US National Academy of Sciences at NIAS in May 1999. The CISAC-NIAS bilateral dialogues have continued periodically since then and have resulted in a better recognition of the overall concerns regarding nuclear policy issues between India and the United States.


Prof. Narasimha was a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His other distinctions included the Bhatnagar Prize, the Gujarmal Modi Award, the Ramanujan Medal, the Aryabhata Award, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. He won the Fluid Dynamics Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2000 and the Trieste Science Prize for Engineering Sciences in 2008.

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