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Little known: Panjab University's big contribution to science
Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:43 AM, Jaideep Sarin, IANS

Panjab University, known for its alumni like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nobel Laureate Hargobind Khorana, contributed to science in India and internationally -- a facet that is not well known. Now that is about to change.

Panjab University was in the news recently after it emerged as the top ranked Indian university in the Top-250 universities in the world.

"PU has made rich contributions to Indian science and to the world. This has not been known much or acknowledged. We are now trying to highlight that contribution made by pioneers of science who were associated with this university," PU Vice Chancellor Arun Grover told IANS.

In this context, PU is organizing a seminar (Oct 24-26) as part of the celebration of the foundation day of the university and the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of eminent scholar Professor Ruchi Ram Sahni. This will also commemorate the 150 years of higher education in Punjab.

"Prof. Ruchi Ram Sahni was one of the first-generation scholars of Punjab who contributed immensely to science, education and public life and greatly influenced the making of modern Punjab. He pioneered the interest of the people in science through his teaching, experiments and research," said Grover who has been closely associated with the move to highlight PU's contribution to science and higher education.

"He (Sahni) was the first Indian meteorologist in colonial India. He was the first nuclear physicist of India and also the first professor of the science at Government College Lahore, which was set up in 1864 to impart higher education to young scholars.

"Sahni, along with his sons Dr. Mulk Raj Sahni and Dr. Birbal Sahni, Dr. Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, Dr. Shiv Ram Kashyap and Dr. Sarvadaman Chowla were invited by Nobel Laureate C.V. Raman to be among the Foundation Fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences set up in Bangalore in 1934," said Grover.

The vice chancellor said that PU's scientists in the 19th and 20 centuries made pioneering contribution to science, including nuclear physics, and mathematics.

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, in whose name a leading science award has been instituted and is known as the `father of research laboratories', was part of the university in the early 20th century.

Knighted by the British government in 1941, he was the first director general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the first chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Bhatnagar made a significant contribution with scientists Homi J. Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai to propel India's science and technology story after independence in August 1947.

Sarvadam Chowla, a London-born Indian-American mathematician who once taught and headed the department of mathematics at Government College-Lahore (now in Pakistan), has several theorems in his name.

Originally called the University of Punjab, the institution was established at Lahore Oct 14, 1882, and it was reinitiated in independent India from Oct 1, 1947. The university shifted to its present campus, spread in a beautiful and sprawling 550-acres, in Chandigarh in 1956.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at

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