In a rare honour, Indian-American physicist Mani Bhaumik has been chosen as the sole patron for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) 2009.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are observing 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's astronomical telescope.
Announcing his appointment Wednesday, the IAU said ``it is proud to have Dr. Mani Bhaumik as dedicated supporter of IYA2009's global activities.''
It said, ``Dr. Mani Bhuamik (is a) physicist, internationally bestselling author, celebrated lecturer, entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. He is a laser physicist who announced the successful demonstration of the world's first efficient excimer laser at the Denver, Colorado meeting of the Optical Society of America in May 1973.
``This is the class of laser that would eventually eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses in many cases requiring vision correction. The procedure popularly known as Lasik takes less than a minute and has helped over fifteen million people worldwide.''
Born in a hut in Midnapore district of pre-partition Bengal, Bhaumik was the first person in India to receive a Ph.D from the IIT system in 1958 which secured him a Sloan Foundation fellowship to the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
He went on to become a multi-millionaire through his invention of the excimer laser for eyesight correction and hundreds of other patents.
Speaking to IANS from his posh home in Bel Air in Los Angeles, Bhaumik said: ``I am thrilled by this rare honour. I am happy that the UN has recognized my work on astronomy and cosmology. I have been appointed not only as a patron but also media partner for year-long celebrations to promote understanding of the cosmos.''
Bhaumik, who has specialized in quantum physics and cosmology, said: ``The celebrations would not have come at a better time. The year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope and his pioneering work. Astronomer Johannes Kelper also published two laws the same year - 1609.
``The world should know that what we are celebrating is the beginning of the modern scientific era - kicked off by Galileo and Kepler.''
Bhaumik, whose best-seller titled `The Cosmic Detective' has also been chosen as the official book for the year-long celebrations, said he will travel to different parts of the world and join the finale in Florence where Galileo was jailed.
The Indian-born scientist, who has produced the famous Cosmotoons serial for TV to popularize cosmology among children, said: ``Only awareness about cosmology can lead to enlightenment.it tells that we all come from the same source. If people understand cosmology, you won't see what happened in Mumbai in November."