A Man of Science is No More: professor Yashpal

Written by All India People's Science Network | Published on: July 26, 2017

Condolence at the passing of Professor Yash Pal, former Chairman, University Grants Commission.

Yash Pal
Prof. Yash Pal

The All India People's Science Network (AIPSN) expresses deep grief at the passing of Professor Yash Pal, a well known scientist and a guide to many, who are committed to the promotion of science and scientific temper amongst our citizens. He was one of the prominent scientists of his time, who reminded the Indian State of its societal duties in these areas and contributed his energies towards creating platforms from where message of scientific temper could be addressed. Professor Yash Pal passed away in NOIDA on 24th July 2017, i.e. on the same day when his one time colleague, Professor U.R. Rao passed away in Bengaluru. Both these stalwarts shared in their heart the love for their fellow citizens, and respect for the pluralistic, composite cultural ethos of India, which is now being threatened with the rise of divisive, hedonistic, majoritarian attacks.

The AIPSN sends its heart-felt condolences to Professor Yash Pal's family.

Professor Yash Pal was born on 26thth November, 1926, in Jhang, undivided Punjab, which now falls in Pakistan. Interestingly, it was the same Jhang district that the Nobel Laureate Professor Abdus Salam hailed from. Yash Pal's childhood was spent in the Baloch town of Quetta, from where they moved after the 1935 Quetta earthquake, in which Yash Pal's house was completely devastated. Such devastation revisited Yash Pal a second time, with the partition of the country that coincided with our independence. Yash Pal was then studying for his M.Sc. in Lahore but could not complete the degree since he had to leave for India as a refugee.

Jobless and without a masters degree, he would have had to give up hopes of doing research but for the kind advice of Professor D.S. Kothari and the chance that the newly founded Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay ( now Mumbai)  offered. With his fellow colleague, Devendra Lal and guidance from Bernard Peters (an American scientist,  former student of Robert J Oppenheimer, who came to India on self imposed exile, to escape the McCarthy era) the TIFR group did some pioneering work in cosmic ray research in the 1950's. Later, Yash Pal went to the MIT in the US for his Ph.D. under the guidance of the famous scientist, Bruno Rossi. Professor Yash Pal returned to the TIFR in 1958 and served there till 1973 until he shifted to Ahmedabad to set up the Satellite Application Centre (SAC, now called the Space Application Centre).

Being inspired by the tradition of our freedom movement, Yash Pal responded with great energy to the demands of the SAC. It was Dr. Vikram Sarabhai's dream that the benefit of India's Space programme must reach the homes of every Indian. This was taken forward with an expanded vision when Professor Satish Dhawan took over the reins of the space commission, after Sarabhai's premature death. The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) of the SAC was one of the first trials towards that, in bringing educational programmes to Indian villages. And this was the beginning of the “turning point” which finally led to the immensely popular science programme “Turning Point”, twenty years later, in which Professor Yash Pal himself would answer TV viewers.

Professor Yash Pal was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1976 and Padma Vibhushan in 2013. He was the Chairman of the University Grants Commission from 1986-1991. It was during his tenure that the concept of Inter University Centres took shape. Even in retirement, he served in many committees to look into the problems of education, the last one being the Yash Pal Committee on Higher Education, set up in 2009.

Professor Yash Pal was awarded the Kalinga Prize for his contributions in science communication. We, in the AIPSN fondly recall that he was the National President of the Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha (BGJVJ) 1990, in which the AIPSN played an important role.  It may be recalled that the Literacy campaign, emerged through the BGJVJ in which the BGVS and AIPSN played prominent role.
S.Chatterjee,                                                                                            T.Ramesh
President, AIPSN.                                                                                   General Secretary, AIPSN

Courtesy: Newsclick.in