AP Mitra, one of the world's leading atmospheric scientists, former head of India's top science body and a Padma Bhushan awardee, died in New Delhi on Monday. He was 81.
Mitra, a leading crusader against greenhouse gas emission and its effects on human health, died of a kidney problem at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the morning. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
A climate scientist of repute, he was last working as a professor of eminence in the Department of Radio Atmospheric Science at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in New Delhi.
Mitra was the director of NPL during 1982-86 and held the prestigious post of the director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) during 1986-91.
"He never retired in life. A beacon light for every single scientist in India and abroad, Mitra sir brought fresh ideas for the development of science," said MK Tiwari, head of the NPL's Department of Radio Atmospheric Science.
"He was senior to us and I felt privileged to work alongside him. He is a name to reckon with both in India and aboard," Tiwari told IANS.
Born in Kolkata on Feb 21, 1927 to a schoolteacher, Mitra had his education the same city. He inculcated academic values from his father and raised them to the highest standards.
He was a brilliant student all through his educational career and stood first in all the examinations he appeared. After obtaining a master's degree in physics from University of Kolkata, he joined SK Mitra, the doyen of ionospheric research in India, for his doctorate at a time that was considered the golden era of Indian ionospheric science.
Besides being bestowed with several awards, he had over 200 research publications and a number of books to his credit and guided over 20 PhD students.
Mitra joined NPL in 1954 and his early work involved earth's near-space environment, with both ground-based and space techniques.
An SS Bhatnagar award winner, he pioneered research in cosmic radio noise for studying the upper atmosphere leading to a series of discoveries in ionosphere and solar physics.
He set up the Radio Science Division in the NPL with which he remained associated till the last day of his life.
During the last decade, Mitra had concentrated on global environmental changes from human activities and their consequent impacts on the biosphere. His contribution to the chemistry of the atmosphere and measurement of greenhouse gases of India and to global environmental chemistry including the measurements of methane emission from paddy fields have been taken note of internationally.
He was a leading figure in the widely known international programmes - Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) and the earlier Asian Least Cost Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategy (ALGAS) Programme. He had been instrumental in developing both institutional and individual capacities in the South Asian region in the area of global change research.
Mitra guided the research activities under India's Initial National Communication (NATCOM), which was submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in June 2004.
He was cremated in the capital on Monday with scores of top scientists paying their heart-felt homage to him.