Rajagopala Chidambaram

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Not to be confused with P. Chidambaram.
Rajagopalan Chidambaram
Rajagopala Chidambaram - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008.jpg
Rajagopalan Chidambaram at the 2008 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Born (1936-11-12) 12 November 1936 (age 78)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu,
British Indian Empire
Residence New Delhi, India
Nationality India
Fields Physics and Nuclear Technology
Institutions Atomic Energy Commission (India)
Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai
Department of Atomic Energy
International Atomic Energy Agency
Defence Research and Development Organisation
Indian Institute of Technology
University of Hyderabad
Alma mater University of Madras,
Indian Institute of Science
Known for

Indian nuclear programme

Notable awards Padma Shri (1975),
Padma Vibhushan (1999)

Rajagopala Chidambaram (born 12 November 1936), popularly known as R. Chidambaram, is an Indian condensed matter physicist and nuclear scientist, currently serving as the principal scientific adviser to the federal Government of India. Previously, Rajagopala Chidambaram served as the director of the premium Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)— and latter as chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of the Government of India and he contributed in providing national defence and energy security to India. Dr. Chidambaram was chairman of the board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) during 1994–95. He was also a member of the Commission of Eminent Persons appointed by the Director-General, IAEA, in 2008 to prepare a report on "The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond". Throughout his career, Chidambaram played a key role in developing the Indian nuclear programme, first being a part of the team conducting the first nuclear test (see Smiling Buddha) at Pokran Test Range in 1974. He gained international fame when he led and represented the team of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) while observing and leading efforts to conduct the second nuclear tests in May 1998.

Academic life[edit]

Chidambaram completed his early education in Meerut and Chennai, completing his BSc(Honors) in Physics, having stood first rank at the university level of the Madras University in 1956. After enrolling in master's program, Chidambaram obtained MSc in Physics, writing a fundamental thesis on analogue computers from the same institution, in 1958. He was accepted for the doctoral programme of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and was awarded the PhD in 1962. His thesis contained research work in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and he was conferred the Martin Forster Medal for the best doctoral thesis submitted to the IISc. The non-linearity of hydrogen bonds received real attention after his paper on the bent hydrogen bond model in the structure of ice-I was published during this period. In 1962, he joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and established a school on neutron diffraction and crystallography. His choice of problems was very appropriate to the power of the neutron diffraction technique for locating hydrogen atoms and attracted immediate attention. The fist paper published by his group using this technique on the structure of potassium oxalate monohydrate: lone-pair co-ordination of the hydrogen bonded water molecule in crystals has been cited over 200 times. He pioneered the automation of data collection with neutron diffractometers at CIRUS reactor. He was also instrumental in introducing crystallographic computing in India. In fact, his efforts to develop Crystallography in India mirrored the development of this field in the world. He was elected Vice-President of the International Union of Crystallography for term 1996–1999. After the Test of the nuclear device at Pokharan in 1974, Chidambaram started ‘open research in the area of high pressure physics. For this a complete range of instrumentation such as diamond anvil cells, and gas-gun for launching projectiles were indigenously built. He also laid the foundation of theoretical high-pressure research for calculation of equation of state and phase stability of materials by first principles techniques. The papers published by his high pressure group are also well cited. The one on ‘omega Phase in Materials’ is considered a textbook by researchers in Condensed Matter Physics/ Materials Science.

Nuclear program[edit]

At BARC, he rose to become one of the senior nuclear scientists involved in various classified projects, and was one of the central figures building the nuclear programme. In 1967, Chidambaram joined the nuclear weapon designing effort and along with his fellow scientists in constructing and building the metallurgical and physical aspects of the nuclear weapons. He and his colleagues worked out the equation of state of plutonium, which is still classified by all the nuclear weapon states. He chose the implosion method and initiated research at BARC in very close interaction with TBRL of DRDO to achieve this. Chidambaram also assisted the Indian Army to construct a nuclear test site at long-constructed Indian Army base, Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan, Chidambaram was a part of team of scientists who participated and supervised India's first nuclear test, codename Smiling Buddha, and was one of the scientists who were honoured by Indian premier Indira Gandhi. Finally, in 1990, Chidambaram became Director of the BARC Atomic Energy Commission His key participation in the design and successful execution of Operation Smiling Buddha saw him leading the DAE team of Operation Shakti in 1998.As the director of BARC, he initiated the development of super-computers, which now have multi-teraflop speed capability. During his Chairmanship of Atomic Energy Commission, he accelerated the development of nuclear power. Upset by the secret manner in which the test was conducted,[2][3] and given his instrumental role in the test, Dr. Chidambaram was not positively reciprocated when he approached the US for a visa to attend the 1998 annual conference of the International Union of Crystallography, of which he was the Vice-President, which was followed by his withdrawal of visa application.[4][5] In 1994—95, Chidambaram chaired the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

As Principal Scientific Adviser[edit]

Currently he is the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory to the Cabinet of the Federal Government. Some of his initiatives as Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, including the setting up of the Core Advisory Group for R&D in the Automotive Sector (CAR) to increase academia-industry interaction, the creation of RuTAGs (Rural Technology Action Groups) for effective need based technology delivery in rural areas, the establishment of SETS (Society for Electronic Transactions and Security), headquartered in Chennai, etc., are making significant impact. During the last few years, he has helped conceptualise and has supervised,along with National Informatic Center the setting up the high-speed link 'National Knowledge Network' to connect about 1500 educational and research institutions in the country. He has emphasised the need for 'Coherent Synergy' (a phrase he has coined) in India's Science & Technology (S&T) efforts to take India on a sustained fast-growth path. He has also focused on the importance of 'Directed Basic Research' as an addition to (not a substitute for) self-directed basic research.

Awards and honours[edit]

To his credit, Dr. Chidambaram is the recipient a number of awards and honours. Indian Government acknowledged his contribution to the successful nuclear tests by awarding the Padma Shri, the fourth highest Civilian honour of the nation, in 1975 and the Padma Vibushan, the Second highest civilian honour, in 1999. His other prominent awards are the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Indian Institute of Science (1991), the C.V. Raman Birth Centenary Award of the Indian Science Congress Association (1995), the Distinguished Materials Scientist of the Year Award of the Materials Research Society of India (1996), the R.D. Birla Award of the Indian Physics Association (1996), the H. K. Forodia Award for Excellence in S & T (1998), the Hari Om Prerit Senior Scientist Award (2000), the Meghnad Saha Medal of the Indian National Science Academy (2002), the INS Homi Bhabha Lifetime Achievement Award of the Indian Nuclear Society (2006), the Life Time Contribution Award in Engineering (2009) from Indian National Academy of Engineering, the C.V. Raman Medal of the Indian National Science Academy. He has been awarded D.Sc. degrees (Honoris Causa) by more than twenty universities in India and abroad. Dr. Chidambaram is a Fellow of all the science Academies in India and the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), Trieste (Italy). He has also served as a member, chairman and president of a number of organisations which, among others, include IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay, the Materials Research Society of India and the International Union of Crystallography. Early 2008, IAEA invited Dr. Chidambaram to be a member of the "Commission of Eminent Persons", for making recommendations to the Board of Governors, regarding long-term priorities and funding.[6]


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