Renowned scientist Prof CNR Rao on Tuesday received the first India Science Award, the highest national recognition in the field of science, for his pioneering work in solid state and materials chemistry.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented the Rs 25 lakh award to Prof Rao, the Linus Pauling Research Professor and honorary president of the Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, at the Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad.
Prof Rao was chosen for the award by a jury headed by Dr R Chidambaram, the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government.
"Prof CNR Rao's passion as well as professional commitment are and have been among the most powerful, constructive and creative forces in Indian science," said the citation read out by Prof VS Ramamurthy, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology.
Besides a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, the award, which is given to a scientist without any age limit for major contributions of a pathbreaking nature and based on work primarily done in India, carries a gold medal and a citation.
"I am the happiest man in the world," said Prof Rao in his acceptance speech.
"I have enjoyed being a scientist. I can't think of any other profession which gives the ultimate satisfaction."
Saying that his mother was his "first teacher", he narrated how his parents allowed him as a school boy to choose any path he liked. "Conditions for experiments were limited in the early 1960s but I came back from the United States after doing PhD to work in my country."
Calling 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, best known for inventing the dynamo, his hero, Prof Rao said he went on to publish 1,200 research papers as Faraday had said, "Science is nothing but work finished and published".
"My best work came after I completed 60 years," said the 71-year-old scientist who is now helping his wife bring out educational material for children.
"My dream is to see that our people are all healthy and educated. We should prove we are not just providers of IT services, school teachers and nurses," said Prof Rao who is a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, Indian Academy of Sciences and Royal Society, London and foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Sciences.