Glory of Bharath  »  Scientists of Bharath - Part Twenty
Suri Bhagavantam

Suri Bhagavantam B.Sc., M.Sc., D.Sc. (October 14, 1909 - February 6, 1989), famous Indian scientist and administrator. He was Vice chancellor of Osmania University and Director of Indian Institute of Science and Defence Research and Development Organization.

He was born in Agiripalli village in Andhra Pradesh. After primary education in Gudivada, he obtained Bachelor in Science degree in Physics from Nizam College, Hyderabad under Madras University. Impressed by the discoveries of C. V. Raman, he left to Calcutta and joined him in 1928. After the Nobel Prize-winning discovery, he chose Bhagavantam as his collaborator to further his research work. He did his Masters degree in Science from Madras University during this period.

When Raman joined the Indian Institute of Science as its Director in 1933, he recommended Bhagavantam to join Andhra University, Waltair as lecturer in Physics. During that period, he became a very popular lecturer and rose to become Professor and Head of the department in 1938 and Principal of University College in 1941. The university conferred on him the D.Sc. degree (Honoris causa). He wrote the well-known book titled The Theory of Groups and its Physical Applications along with Venkata Rayudu. This book was published in three editions and was translated into Russian language. It is often said that a whole generation of Spectoscopists are brought on this book. The other book he wrote here is entitled Scattering of Light and Raman Effect.

After Indian independence, he joined as scientific adviser in the Indian High Commission in London under V. K. Krishna Menon during 1948-49. He traveled many European countries and delivered scientific lectures.He returned to India in 1949 and joined Osmania University as Head of Physics department. During his period there is a spurt in research activity and more than 12 Ph.D. students got their doctorates. He was chosen as Vice chancellor in 1952.

In 1957 he joined as Director of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and served in that position for 5 year period. He was appointed as the Scientific Adviser to Government of India under the Ministry of Defence headed by Krishna Menon.He joined as Director of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in 1962 after the Indo-Chinese War when Sri. Y B Chavan was the Defence Minister. During the nine-year tenure Dr. Bhagavantam was instrumental in setting up a chain of laboratories throughout India for the development of missiles, aircraft, aeroengines, combat vehicles like tanks, electronic warfare systems, high explosives and underwater weapons. He retired from the service in 1969.

He was instrumental in making the DRDO an effective instrument to provide the country's fighting forces on land, sea and air with the latest technologies.Encryption and decryption, war gaming and training of service officers in modern warfare technologies were other disciplines in which hecreated necessary facilities.His tenure saw an explosive growth of the organisation with many, many laboratories and disciplines nucleating at various parts of the country and a large number of scientists getting inducted to defence research. But for these laboratories and competent scientists, DRDO's contribution in these areas of national defence would have been grossly inadequate.

In doing all this, Bhagavantam had to brush aside summarily the advice given by the Nobel laureate and "friend" of India Prof. PMS Blackett to Pandit Nehru that DRDO should confine itself to development of subsystems and import substitution and not attempt to develop major systems like radars, missiles, tanks etc for which India should depend on imports. The country has to be grateful to Bhagavantam for ignoring this friendly advice.

He was an erudite scholar in Sanskrit and Telugu. He had a tremendous sense of humour. Bhagavantam had a great faith in the future of this country. A teacher by choice, he continued to be one throughout his life.

- October 11
- December 09

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