October 2nd, 2010
Chief Guest for 2nd Convocation – Prof. Yash Pal’s ProfileCampus News, Events / Functions, MessageBoard, by rmohanty_bgr.
Yash Pal was born on November 26, 1926, at Jhang, now in Pakistan. He received his B.Sc. Hon. (1948) and M. Sc. (1949) from the Panjab University, after which he started working in cosmic ray and high energy physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Bombay. He got his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958, though he continued to be on the staff of the Tata Institute till 1983. He was a professor at the TIFR, and spent few months to a year as a visiting professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, University of Maryland, California Institute of Technology and the Danish Space Research Institute. His professional interests centered around cosmic rays, high energy physics and high energy astrophysics, ranging over both the theoretical and experimental aspects, working with high altitude balloons, on mountain top and around accelerators at CERN and Brookhaven.
In 1973 Professor Pal made a transition, which took him to areas at once connected with technology, communication, education and development. He organised the Space Applications Centre at Ahmedabad, as its first Director, where one of his urgent responsibilities was to conduct a major socio-technical experiment (1975-76) to test whether a satellite-based direct television broadcast could be used for education and development of a few thousand most backward villages of India. The work in various areas of space technology was sought to be connected with the socio-economic and cultural parameters of grassroots India.
Following this Professor Pal has had varied responsibilities and enthusiasms. He was the Secretary General of the Second United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (1981-82), Chief Consultant, the Planning Commission of India (1983-84), Secretary, Department of Science and Technology (1984-86) and Chairman, the University Grants Commission (1986-91).
He was the President of the Indian Physics Association (1972-73), the Indian Science Congress (1989-90), National Telematics Forum (1991- ) and Chairperson of a “people’s science movement” called Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha. He is a Fellow of most of the science academies in India, including the Indian National Science Academy, of the International Academy of Astronautics and a Foreign Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also an Honorary Fellow of a number of institutions, including the Computer Society of India, IETE, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics and the National Institute of Education.
He was honoured by the Padma Bhushan award by the President of India (1976), the Marconi International Fellowship Award (1980), the 5th annual Award of the International Association of Space Explorers (1989), for best representing their theme of the year ‘Space for the Earth’, Arthur C. Clarke Award for Communication and Space Technology (1994), Lord Perry Award for Excellence in Distance Education 1992), the Asiatic Society’s Sir William Jones Memorial Gold Medal (1996) and three separate awards, including Sir Asutosh Mookerjee gold medal (1998), of the Indian Science Congress Association. He has received awards for ‘Outstanding contributions’ and ‘Excellence’ from a number of Foundations.
Professor Pal conceptualised and set up a number of Inter-University Institutions for the first time in the country. He has been involved in science communication activities through media, including nearly one hundred and fifty episodes of the serial ‘Turning Point’ and a series to develop meaningful children’s television. He has been engaged in answering questions over the Internet and through newspapers. He has often been referred to as Carl Sagan of India. He has received several awards for Science communication. He has written and spoken extensively on issues of communication, education and ways of creating an ‘Inclusive Society’.
Professor Yash Pal has had a deep engagement with education at all levels. He has led People’s Science Movements and has been the Presidents of the Children’s Science Congress for a number of years. He was the Chairman of the committee, popularly known as the ‘Yash Pal committee’ for “Reducing the Burden on School Children while Improving the Quality of Education”. He also led a study that produced a report titled “Real Education for the Real India”.
The Government of India appointed him as National Research Professor in 1995. He also occupied the Jawaharlal Nehru Chair in Technology of the Panjab University, Chandigarh and was the Chancellor of the Nagaland University. In 2004 he was appointed as National Mahatma Gandhi Fellow. He is the Chairman of the Steering Committee for the National Curriculum Framework – 2005. He was appointed as Chairman of the committee to advise on “Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education “ in 2008. He is the Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University
He has been recently selected for the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for Science Popularisation – 2009. He has also been awarded National Kalinga Chair by DST(2010). Recently he received the Firodia Award (2009), Yashwantrao Chavan National Award, (2010), Asiatic Society Vidyasagar Gold Plaque (2010) and Vigyan mani Award of the Punjab University.