India lost an eminent nuclear scientist on Wednesday with the death of PK Iyengar at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) hospital in Chembur, east Mumbai.
Iyengar, 80, a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, was undergoing treatment for a brief illness at the hospital. He died at 3.30 pm due to complications arising out of lung infection. He was living in Chembur with his wife, son and daughter after retirement.
Iyengar was one of the key figures in the Operation Smiling Buddha—the first peaceful nuclear explosion at Pokhran on May 18, 1974—as second-in-command of operation leader Raja Ramanna.
Iyengar’s began his career with a brief stint at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research following which he joined the Department of Atomic Energy in Trombay.
Trained under BN Brockhouse, a Nobel laureate in Physics, the nuclear physicist was soon deputed to Chalk River Laboratories of the Canadian atomic energy establishment.
After returning from Canada, Iyengar built a number of experimental facilities around research reactors APSARA and CIRUS at the BARC.
One of high points in his career came when he successfully led a team to indigenously develop a reactor called ‘PURNIMA - 1’ which was commissioned in 1972.
In 1975, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan Iyengar identifying the need for large-scale development of advanced science and technology. Research and development activities in several areas such as material science, radiation physics and molecular biology became a reality owing to his efforts.
After his retirement, Iyengar served several academic roles such as the chairman of the Council for Science and Technology and president of the Indian Nuclear Society.