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C. N. R. Rao

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Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, also known as C. N. R. Rao was born on June 30, 1934, in Bangalore, Karnataka, to Hanumantha Nagesa Rao and Nagamma Nagesa Rao as their only child. He was an only child, and his learned parents made an academic environment. He was well versed in Hindu literature from his mother and in English from his father at an early age. He completed his elementary education at home where his mother, who had skill in Hindu Literature and arithmetic, taught him the subjects and his father made him well versed in English. In 1940, when he was six-year-old, he first got enrolled in a middle school. He used to guide his classmates in English and mathematics even being the youngest student of the class. In 1944 he secured first class in lower secondary or class VII exam when he was just ten. He then joined a high school in Basavanagudi in south Bangalore called ‘Acharya Patashala’, where he developed an enduring interest in chemistry. Although he used to converse in English at home, his father wanted him to know and understand his mother tongue so he was enrolled at a Kannada course. One of his fondest childhood memories was meeting Professor C V Raman, a Nobel Laureate, in 1946, when the latter visited his school. In 1947 he earned secondary school leaving certificate again with first class. Convinced by one of his teachers he joined the ‘Banaras Hindu University’ (BHU), although his initial plan was to get a diploma or a postgraduate degree in chemical engineering from the ‘Indian Institute of Science’ (IISc), the oldest and the most renowned research institute in India. He completed his master degree in Chemistry from BHU in 1953 and was granted a scholarship by IIT Kharagpur for pursuing PhD. He also received offer of financial aid from 4 foreign universities namely Purdue, Penn State, MIT and Columbia, of which he selected Purdue. In 1954 the ‘Agra University Journal of Research’ published his first research paper. In 1958 he obtained his PhD in chemical physics from Purdue University, United States, completing the doctorate in an impressive two years and nine months. He then continued with his postdoctoral research work at the ‘University of California’ in Berkeley.

 

 

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Career

Rao is one of the world's foremost solid state and materials chemists. He has contributed to the development of the field over five decades. His work on transition metal oxides has led to basic understanding of novel phenomena and the relationship between materials properties and the structural chemistry of these materials. Rao was one of the earliest to synthesise two-dimensional oxide materials such as La2CuO4. His work has led to a systematic study of compositionally controlled metal-insulator transitions. Such studies have had a profound impact in application fields such as colossal magneto resistance and high temperature superconductivity. Oxide semiconductors have unusual promise. He has made immense contributions to nanomaterials over the last two decades, besides his work on hybrid materials. After completion of his graduate studies Rao returned to Bangalore in 1959 to take up a lecturing position, joining IISC and embarking on an independent research program. From 1963 to 1976 Rao accepted a permanent position in the Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, during which time he was elected as a fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1964. He returned to IISc in 1976 to establish a solid state and structural chemistry unit. and became director of the IISc from 1984 to 1994. At various points in his career Rao has taken appointments as a visiting professor at Purdue University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and University of California, Santa Barbara. He was the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor at the University of Cambridge and Professorial Fellow at the King's College, Cambridge during 1983–1984. Rao is currently the National Research Professor, Linus Pauling Research Professor and Honorary President of Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore which he founded in 1989. He was appointed Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Indian Prime Minister in January 2005, a position which he had occupied earlier during 1985–89. He is also the director of the International Centre for Materials Science (ICMS) and serves on the board of the Science Initiative Group. He shares co-authorship of around 1500 research papers and has co-authored and edited 45 books.

 

Personal life

Rao is married to Indumati Rao in 1960. They have two children, Sanjay and Suchitra. His son Sanjay Rao is engaged in popularising science in Bangalore's schools. His daughter Suchitra is married to K.M. Ganesh, the director of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Pune, Maharashtra. Rao is quite technophobic. He removed computers from his tables and never checks his email by himself. He also said that he uses the mobile phone only to talk to his wife.

 

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Awards

2014:- Bharat Ratna

2001:- Karnataka Ratna

1985:- Padma Vibhushan

1974:- Padma Shri

 

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