Prof. Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao, (9 September 1898-20 June 1972) was an Indian physicist in the field of Spectroscopy. Rangadhama Rao is best known for his work on Spectroscopy, his role in the development of Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance (NQR), and his long association with Physics labs of Andhra University. In his later years, he became known for his position as the Principal of all the colleges of Andhra University before their divisions into separate colleges, viz., AU College of Arts and Commerce, AU College of Engineering, AU College of Law, AU College of Pharmacy and AU College of Science and Technology. Over the course of his life, Prof. K. Rangadhama Rao was known both for his scientific ability and his interpersonal relations and volatile personality.
Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was born in Vizianagaram, a coastal town in present-day Vizianagaram district of state of Andhra Pradesh, India, on 9 September 1898. His mother tongue was Telugu. His father, Kotcherlakota Venkata Narsing Rao (1860-1928), who belonged to the Hindu Brahmin community, was the Post Master of the present-day cities of Vizianagaram, Gajapathinagaram and Visakhapatnam, then small cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the Madras Presidency of British India. His paternal grandfather and grandmother were Venkata Ramaswamy and Mallampalli Bangaramma. His mother, Ramayamma, a Hindu, died in 1923 in Trichiniopoly, the present-day Tiruchirappalli in the state of Tamil Nadu. Growing up with a devout mother, a strict father and the Hindu traditions of the region, the young Rangadhama Rao had the influences that would play an important role in his adult life; these included compassion for sentient beings and vegetarianism.
Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was married to Vaddadi Perramma in an arranged marriage, as was the custom in the region. Rangadhama Rao and Vaddadi Perramma had eight children, five sons and three daughters.
Prof. Rangadhama Rao has been referred to as a strong nationalist at heart. He wore only khaddar and was simple and unostentatious in his habits. He was fond of his wife and children. It was a pleasure to stay with Rangadhama Rao and partake of his hospitality and of his inimitable wit and humour. Very few people knew that he could be extremely humorous and burst out into fits of laughter.
His elementary education was at Maharaja's High School, Vizianagaram for the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades during 1904 and 1906. He joined in different schools each year in his early education. He was shifted to London Mission High School, Vizianagaram, for the 6th grade and studied 7th and 8th grades in Hindu High School at Machilipatnam. He passed his 10th grade (SSLC) in C.B.M. High School at Visakhapatnam and 12th grade (Intermediate), from Mrs. A.V.N. College at Visakhapatnam.
Prof. K. Rangadhama Rao was in the first batch of students for the B.A. degree course in 1920 (there was no B.Sc. degree course at that time in Madras University) in the Maharajah's College in Vizianagaram. The B.A Degree course was initiated by Dr. Appadvedula Lakshmi Narayan in 1918. Prof. K.R.Rao took his M.A. in Physics from Tiruchirappalli in 1923. His research career started in 1923 when he enrolled as a Research Scholar for D.Sc. (Doctor of Science) from Madras University. He was awarded the D.Sc. Degree from Madras University and was selected for studies abroad from the Andhra University in 1928. This was a turning point in his quest for knowledge and research of his lifetime.
In 1924, Dr. K. Rangadhama Rao joined Dr. A.L.Narayan as a research scholar in University of Madras. Both of them worked tenaciously to build up a first rate spectroscopic laboratory second to none in the country. They had then with them a constant deviation spectrograph, a small quartz spectrograph and a medium quartz spectrograph. All these were of low dispersion and low resolving power. At this stage of their work, they required an instrument of high dispersion and high resolving power, which they could not afford. So, K.R.Rao went to Calcutta, where a ten-foot concave grating was available in the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science of which C. V. Raman was Director and with the facilities provided there, they further extended their work on analysis of spectra in the visible and ultraviolet regions.
He was guided in his research career by Prof. A.Fowler at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London in 1930 in Atomic Spectra for two years for which he was awarded the D.Sc. Degree from London University. In 1930, he had the opportunity of working under Prof. F.Paschen at the Physikalische Technische Reichsanstalt in Berlin for six months and under Prof. Manne Seigbahn in Upsala, Sweden on Vacuum Spectroscopy for another six months. His interest in the field of Spectroscopy was so much that he built a Vacuum Spectrograph of his design with his own expenses at Potsdam, Germany.
Prof. K.R.Rao's contribution towards physics has placed him in a high position even in his times. His contributions include development of Diatomic and Polyatomic Molecular Spectroscopy laboratory dealing with High Resolution Vibrational structure in electronic transitions, U.V.Absorption, Infrared Absorption, Raman scattering, Fluorescence and Phosphorescence and Crystal Spectra. He also reached the level of construction of microwave test benches and using these techniques he created different lines of investigations in dielectrics. He contributed to the development of Radio Frequency Spectroscopy which branched into Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance (NQR), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) spectroscopy. In India, work on NQR was first initiated by Prof. K. Rangadhama Rao in the Physics laboratories of Andhra University.
Kotcherlakota Rangdhama Rao was the Principal of Andhra University Colleges from 1949-57. He was appointed as Emeritus Professor of Physics at Andhra University (1966-72) and was special officer for the establishment of Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupathi (1954).
Honours, distinctions and awards
Prof. Rangadhama Rao was one of the foundation members for the AP Akademi of Sciences, nominated by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 1963. The Indian National Science Academy frequently conducts a Memorial Lecture Award in the honour of Prof. Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao since its inception in 1979. Prof. Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao Memorial Lecture Award is given for the outstanding contributions in the subject of Spectroscopy in Physics. The award was established by the National Institute of Sciences of India, located in Calcutta in 1979.