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Unlike his co-Bharat Ratna awardee, Sachin Tendulkar who breathes cricket, Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao breathes science. Even in this age of technology, he shies away from using a mobile or computer.
“This honour is greater than any other international award. It is an honour for science, an honour for the future of science,” Dr Rao told HT over phone.
For a scientist to excel, Dr Rao said one should have doggedness, perseverance and a sense of creativity. “All of us have limitations but we must stretch beyond our limitation.”
On how was he able to work so passionately even at this age, he said: “I love to work with young people. You have to be childlike to get that energy to work.”
Born in Bangalore, Dr Rao obtained his bachelor’s degree from Mysore University in 1951, a masters from BHU and Phd in 1958 from Purdue University. He joined the faculty of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1963.
Rao is currently the national research professor and Linus Pauling research professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. He is also the founding president of the institution.
As chairman of the scientific advisory council to the Prime Minister, he has unfolded a plethora of reforms in science education and has been the driving force for the setting up of the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research.
A true disciplinarian and a strict believer in time management, Dr Rao does not like to take his work home. He works from 8am to 5pm and once at home, he likes to listen to classical music and news, and indulge in cooking once in a while.
“Once when I had gone to Cambridge, he invited all my colleagues for dinner and cooked all the food himself,” said Dr Rao’s son in law Dr KN Ganesh, director, Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, Pune.
Ganesh recalls how Dr Rao till five years back used to write his papers as hard copies. “I once asked him how always his first draft was his last, and he said this was because he spends a lot of time thinking what to write.”