A story about the finest Education Institute of India from its establishment to current status, a worth read and share !!
Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) is truly the first example of a public-private partnership in this country; an institution, whose evolution over a century is testimony to the robustness of its foundations. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was conceived as a ´Research Institute´ or ´University of Research´ by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, in the final years of the 19th century. A long period of almost thirteen years was to elapse from the initial conception in 1896 to the birth of the institute on May 27, 1909.
The early history of the Institute is a fascinating chapter in the story of higher education and scientific research in India. The cast of characters in the drama that led to the establishment of the Institute includes, in addition to its charismatic and generous founder J.N. Tata, figures from the pages of Indian history. There is Swami Vivekananda, whom J.N. Tata befriended on his famous voyage to the United States, the Maharaja of Mysore, Shri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his mother then acting on his behalf, and Lord Curzon the Viceroy of India, whose first task on arrival on December 31, 1898 was to receive a draft proposal prepared by the Provisional Committee set up to plan the establishment of the Institute.
And so, the story goes that Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata was once, travelling to Germany (This excerpt is taken from the writings of Mr. Mohan Guruswamy). As he stood there, at the door of his First Class Cabin in the Steam-liner, he noticed a lot of activity on the lower decks of the Ship. On enquiring, he learnt that a great Indian Saint Shri Swami Vivekananda was on board the same ship.
Out of genuine respect and curiosity J.N. Tata decided to pay a visit to the great saint. Swami Vivekananda had of-course heard about the respected industrialist. As the conversation grew J.N. Tata explained that he was on his way to Germany.
“I have with me sacks of soil : From various parts of India. I am taking these samples of soil to Germany. I wish to know IF Iron can be extracted profitably from any of these districts.” said J.N. Tata to the Saint.
To which Swami Vivekananda replied, “Well, Sir, Even IF these sacks contain Iron-rich soil, do you honestly believe that the Germans will tell you the TRUTH??? You must understand that No / NONE of the European Nations wish to see a Strong / Steel-Rich / Economically Independent India. The soil is probably rich in Iron-ore but the sad truth is all you will get from your enquiries across Europe is Disbelief and Pessimistic reactions.”
Needless to say, having interacted with several Europeans J.N. Tata knew this to be true. Swami Vivekananda continued, “Why don’t you start an excellent / up-to-date Research Facility and College here in India??? Why don’t you train some good Indian Youngsters to identify soil and conduct these tests and find ways of profitably extracting metals??? It may seem like a wasteful; burdensome expenditure right now, but in the long run- It will save you many trips to Europe and you can have the assurance of knowing the Truth quickly- rather than taking multiple opinions due to Doubt”.
As he could clearly sense J.N. Tata’s mood was in acquiescence he further elaborated, “Seek an audience with the Maharaja of Mysore H.R.H. Wodeyar. Though a subordinate of the British, he will definitely help you in every way he can. H.R.H. Wodeyar has been generous enough to sponsor my own trip to Chicago to attend the Parliament of Religions”.
And this way the earliest plan for the institute was conceived. The plan was shepherded through many difficult years by Burjorji Padshah, a close associate of J.N. Tata.Unlike setting up hotels or industry, he needed Government’s permission for setting up educational institute. The man in power and who had to give permission was Lord Curzon ( the man who partitioned Bengal ). When he told Curzon of his plan, Curzon replied – “You mean the Indian students have the ability to undertake scientific research. Where will you find teachers for such advanced courses and where will you find students who can grasp such concepts and what will students do with such advanced degrees if they are anyway going to work as a clerk after completion.” In short “Surely, you are joking Mr.Tata”. After the meeting with Curzon, every one in Tata’s team was heart broken. Tata replied to them “Lets wait for Curzon’s mind to change – there must be some good in him somewhere”
In addition, the form that Jamsetji Tata’s endowment for the institute should take became contentious. The colonial government did not wish to extend the financial support that was essential for the institution. The clashes, sometimes stormy, between Lord Curzon and the colonial government on the one hand, and Tata and his supporters on the other, over these and other matters took time to resolve. The path that led to the creation of the IISc was tortuous indeed.
Two sets of experts were asked for advice. At the invitation of the Provisional Committee, with the approval of the colonial government, Professor William Ramsay of University College, London, spent some two months in India during 1900-1901. (An outstanding chemist, Ramsay was later knighted and received the Nobel Prize in 1904 for his discovery of inert gases.)
Originally the institute was to be setup in Bombay. The Noble prize winning scientist Ramsey was asked to tour India to find the best place conducive to research. He suggested Bangalore, but Tata favored Bombay. Jamsetji Tata and Padshah took Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. as the model. Johns Hopkins had the distinction of being the first in the world to be founded as a post-graduate institution, pointed out B.V. Subbarayappa in his history of the IISc titled In Pursuit of Excellence. In October 1898, Jamsetji Tata offered property in Mumbai that would yield a sizeable annual income to help start the institution.
Jamsetji Tata had established a modern silk farm near Bangalore in the mid-1890s and become acquainted with Sir Seshadri Iyer, Dewan of Mysore. When the idea of creating an institute for research took shape, Seshadri Iyer was able to persuade Maharani Kempa Nanjammani Vani Vilasa Sannidhana, who ruled as regent during the period when her son Maharaja Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar Bahadur IV was a minor, to pledge support for it. The Mysore government would, in the end, provide more than 371 acres of land for the institute, as well as grants to help set it up. This help from the Mysore government also ensured that the institute was situated in Bangalore.
Unfortunately, J.N. Tata died in 1904 unaware that his vision would indeed be realized a few years later. When the British Government finally issued the Vesting Order in 1909, an unmatched experiment in higher education and research was launched in India.
The opening words of the order recognised the role of the great man whose vision had driven the whole enterprise. “Whereas Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee Tata, late of Bombay, Parsee gentleman, some time before his death, which took place on the 19th day of May 1904, made a proposal to the Government of India for founding an Institute of Research in India and endowing such Institute with immoveable properties in the City of Bombay….,” began the order that established the Indian Institute of Science. The very less known fact is : Jamsetji Tata in his will donated one third personal wealth (14 buildings and four landed properties in Bombay [now Mumbai]) for the creation of this institution.
The Institute began with only two departments: General and Applied Chemistry and Electro-Technology. The first Director, Morris W Travers began the task of organizing the Institute shortly after his arrival in India at the end of 1906. Travers began the construction of the main building, which is one of Bangalore´s landmarks today. The Departments of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry were among the earliest to be established. The Physics department came into being in 1933, when C.V. Raman became the first Indian Director of the Institute. At that point of time many reputed scientists were forced to leave Germany because of Hitler’s racist policy. Raman wanted to bring some of these scientists to IISc. Raman had many names on his list, both foreign and Indian’. However, he was only successful in bringing Max Born, that too for a short time.
The Institute´s departments in fields ranging from Biochemistry to Aerospace Engineering have served to nucleate research and development in both the public and private sectors. The faculty and alumni of the Institute have been responsible for establishing and spearheading many new institutions and programs across the country, reflecting in a real sense, a major contribution of this centre of learning to national growth and development.
The forties are a decade of miraculous years impacted in an intriguing way by the World War -II. Homi Bhabha, while working in Physics Department, got his inspiration at IISc for a future of nuclear energy. After that Homi Bhabha went to establish Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and an Atomic Energy Program for India. Following him, Vikram Sarabhai had joined IISc to work under C.V. Raman. It is possible that his vision for the Indian Space Programme got nucleated here. When Satish Dhawan was offered the chairmanship of ISRO, he took it but kept the directorship. In fact he moved the space program head quarters to Bangalore. Thus began a long synergistic link with ISRO. In turn this led to remarkable schools of research in fluid mechanics, starred by Roddam Narasimha, a graduate of Caltech. These developments naturally led to a further alliance with the Defense Research and Development Organization. It is interesting to record that Brahm Prakash moved to Trivandrum to oversee the Space programme in 1972, who was the first Indian Head of the Department of Metallurgy, during the period from January 1951 till March 1957.
The first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur was established by J.C. Ghosh, who was the Director of IISc in the critical period 1939-48, during which much of the activity in engineering was initiated at the Institute. The high profile of the IITs is in no small measure due to the formative influence of IISc. Several faculty members were drawn from IISc, as the IITs got established.
The idea that TIFR should start a Centre for Biological Research was mooted in 1982, following a suggestion by S. Ramaseshan, then Director of IISc, that a joint TIFR-IISc Centre could be located on the IISc campus. This move did not materialize but, in 1984, the Planning Commission of the Government of India agreed to fund a centre for fundamental research in biological sciences at Bangalore. This has matured into the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), which was initially located on the IISc campus.
In 1988, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research came to be established to commemorate the Birth Centenary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Its founder president C.NR. Rao was concurrently the Director of IISc at that time. JNCASR and IISc are working together in many areas. At the same time as JNCASR was established, the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) came into existence at the edge of IISc campus as a separate institution. NIAS encompasses Natural and Social Sciences and Humanities and is the realization of the original vision of J.N. Tata. It is noteworthy that all the three Directors of NIAS, Raja Ramanna, Roddam Narasimha and K. Kasturirangan were working in IISc.
Nowhere else is this transformation more dramatic than in the information, communication and computer technologies. If Bangalore is hailed as the Silicon Valley of India, part of the credit is due to the scientific ambience radiating out of IISc. The Department of Computer Science and Automation has led this revolution. Wipro Technologies had its modest beginnings in one of the research laboratories of the department. The Texas Instruments, which was the first significant MNC to set up R & D operations in India, began their operations from the portals of the department. In yet another bold departure IISc permitted its faculty to become venture capitalists. Picopeta Simputers and Strand Life Sciences were initiated by four of the departmental faculty. The Simputer led to the vision of a laptop for every child. There are numerous examples of IT companies started by the alumni both in India and abroad.
Now Institute houses nearly 40 departments and centres pursuing R&D and teaching in all departments of science, engineering and technology. Its library, established in 1911 devoted to science and technology, is the largest in the country which has subscription towards periodicals alone is about Rs. 90 million per year. It houses biggest computing facilities in any educational institute which has the fastest supercomputer of India. The US imposed sanctions on IISc, stating that its supercomputer was used for the design of the Pokhran nuclear bomb. Even now on this day, Boeing has collaboration only with IISc in whole Asia. Pratt & Whitney, Robert Bosch, Brahmos and many others have R&D centres in the campus. Institute houses advanced facilities in the field of nanotechnology, quantum physics, supercomputing, microbiology, high speed aerodynamics (houses a number of wind tunnels which are used in R&D in field of rockets and launch vehicles), electronics design, organic and inorganic chemistry etc.
The Institute serves as a national consultant on issues pertaining to space research, electronic designs, power projects, civil constructions and environmental planning. It works in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Defence Research and Development Organisation on many projects.
(Article is compiled by Parveen Kaswan, alumni of IISc. The pictures and information are taken from various sources which are available in public domain, not for any commercial purpose. The intent of this article is not to infringe copyright law but to disseminate the information. )