Roddam Narasimha

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Roddam Narasimha (born 20 July 1933) is an Indian aerospace scientist and fluid dynamicist. He was a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Director of National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)[1] and the Chairman of Engineering Mechanics Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, India. He is now an Honorary Professor at JNCASR and concurrently holds the Pratt & Whitney Chair in Science and Engineering at the University of Hyderabad. Narasimha has been awarded the Padma Vibushan, India's second highest civilian award, in 2013.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Professor Roddam Narasimha FRS

He obtained his BE from Mysore University in 1953 and his ME from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 1955. He worked with Satish Dhawan during his time at IISc. He then worked with Hans Liepmann at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), United States to obtain his PhD degree in 1961[3](PhD thesis).

He joined the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 1962 and was associated with the Department of Aerospace Engineering in various capacities from that date till 1999. In 1982, he founded the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences (now Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences), which he headed till 1989.[4] He was the Director of the NAL from 1984 till 1993. For many years he held a visiting position at Caltech as the Clark B Millikan Professor and Sherman Fairchild distinguished scholar. Between 1989 and 1990 he was the Jawaharlal Nehru professor of Engineering at Cambridge University in England. He had also held visiting positions at NASA Langley, University of Strathclyde, University of Brussels, and Adelaide University. From 1990 to 1994 he was INSA Golden Jubilee Research Professor, and from 1994 to 1999 the ISRO K. R. Ramanathan distinguished Professor at IISc and JNCASR. He was the Director of the NIAS during 1997-2004.[5]

Narasimha’s research has been chiefly concerned with Aerospace Fluid Dynamics and certain related problems in the atmosphere. He has made extensive studies of transitions between laminar and turbulent flow (going in either direction), the structure of shock waves, various characteristics of fully developed turbulent flow (e.g. their memory, the bursting phenomenon in boundary layers), the fluid dynamics of clouds, near-surface temperature distributions and eddy fluxes in atmospheric boundary layers.[6] He has been closely associated with Aerospace technology development in India at both technical and policy-making levels. During 1977-79, he was the Chief Project Coordinator at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

As Director of NAL he initiated and oversaw several major technological programmes. He served on the Board of Directors of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for several years. As a member of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Scientific Advisory Council he was instrumental in establishing a major parallel computing initiative in the country. He was the President of the Indian Academy of Sciences during 1992 till 1994 and spearheaded a new programme on university education in science, leading to the establishment of the science journal Resonance and other Academy programmes involving teachers and students. He has served on the National Security Advisory Board and the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister Cabinet. He was a member of the Space Commission,[7] and co-chairs the Joint Steering Committee and the Joint Scientific Working Group for the Indo-French atmospheric research satellite Megha-Tropiques.

As Director of NIAS Narasimha initiated a series of major dialogues on International Security issues with the US National Academy of Sciences and other bodies, and pursued his interests in the history of science and technology.

In February 2012, Narasimha resigned from his post as the longest serving member of the Indian Space Commission in protest to the blacklisting of three former ISRO technocrats including G. Madhavan Nair, former ISRO Chairman, for their perceived role in the controversial agreement of 2005.[8][9]

He was appointed as Chairman of Review Committee of Aeronautical Engineering Department of I.I.T. Kanpur in 1986 by M.H.R.D. as part of the Silver Jubilee Review of I.I.T. Kanpur ordered by the President of India. One of the members of this Committee was Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalaam, Director D.R.D.L. Hyderabad. The review report was prepared without any member except Mr. Kalaam visiting any of the laboratories. The Review Committee talked highly of all the laboratories except High Speed Aerodynamics Laboratory. None of the laboratories except High Speed Aerodynamics Laboratory were developed by the I.I.T. Kanpur faculty. All of the laboratories were gifts from various U.S. universities under Kanpur Indo-American Program and were under advanced stage of decay and obsolescence. None of the laboratories had any enhancements or additions done in 25 years. The highly rated Flight Laboratory was at the brink of closure. The Instrumentation Tape Recorder used in the Flight laboratory that cost as much as the aircraft Cessna Skylane 182-H had gone bad in first few years and could not be repaired and was auctioned as scrap. Other advanced instrumentation like Gyroscopes had also failed and were not used. Flight Laboratory of IIT Kanpur most expansive laboratory in any of the I.I.T.s had not produced any experimental research since early seventies and was just a showpiece. The review report clearly showed the incompetence of the members of the Committee under Chairmanship of Prof. Roddam Narasimha to do their job honestly and diligently.

He thoroughly exposed himself, NAL, HAL, ADA and DRDO by their very late delivery of the Air-Frame, simplest part of the Light Combat Aircraft, whose concept he gave. The Kaveri Engine has not been delivered in 2014 though the LCA program started in 1986. Many vital components are imported or are being developed with the help of foreign companies though the LCA project was supposed to be completely indigenous project. The government of India tried to hide the inordinate delay in execution of the project by renaming LCA project as 'Tejas' project.[10]

The parallel computing effort under the leadership of Professor Roddam Narasimha was not an achievement of NAL. The Flowsolver Mk1 hardware was developed and manufactured by WIPRO from funds provided by NAL under the project co-ordination of Dr. U.N.Sinha, a Mechanical Engineer by profession.[11] At that time NAL did not have intellectual or material resources to handle this kind of complex project. For this achievement Dr. Sinha was given Distinguished Alumnus Award by I.I.T. Kanpur in 1993.[12]


He has been widely honoured for his research work as well as his scientific leadership. In 2008 he was awarded the Trieste Science Prize by TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world.[13] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Foreign Associate of both the US National Academy of Engineering and the US National Academy of Sciences.[14] He is also an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In India his distinctions include the Bhatnagar Prize, the Gujarmal Modi Award and the Padma Bhushan, among many others. He is a Fellow of all the National Academies of Science and Engineering in the country, and an Honorary Fellow of the Aeronautical Society of India. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of both Caltech[15] and IISc.[16] He has delivered numerous invited lectures at various international conferences. In 2000 he won the Fluid Dynamics Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.[17] In 2009, he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2nd Science and Technology Congress, organized by the Gulbarga University and the Science and Technology Academy on the universities campus.[18] He has been honored with Padma Vibhushan in 2013.

He is the author of more than 200 research publications and fifteen books.[19]

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