Kenya to Cambridge: Amazing journey of Sir Harry Bhadeshia

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 16, 2015 00:49 IST

From leaving Kenya for Britain amidst a political turmoil in the 1970, it has been an unlikely journey for Harshad Kumar Dharamshi Bhadeshia, a renowned metallurgist whose career and inventions have now been recognised with a knighthood.

Bhadeshia, better known as Harry Bhadeshia, is the Tata Steel professor of metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, and has developed new steels that are now used on railway lines on the Channel Tunnel, the Swiss rail network and the France tram system.

Bhadeshia told HT: “My parents were born in Rajkot and emigrated to Kenya, where all the children were born. I was therefore born in Kenya but of Indian origin. We all emigrated to the UK when we had to leave Kenya due to political circumstances, in 1970.”

An award-winning authority in the field, Bhadeshia is the latest Indian-origin scientist to be knighted in recent years for contributions to Science and Technology after Tejinder Virdee (2014), Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2011) and Nilesh Jayantilal Samani (2015).

Bhadeshia’s inventions include super bainite, now available as armour, a new welding alloy, and a steel tailor-made for pipes going down oil wells. “Perhaps the world leader in metallurgy, he is also an inspirational teacher and researcher,” an official note on his knighthood said.

“I took up a job at the age of 16 at a metallurgical quality control laboratory of the British Oxygen Company. They sponsored me for further studies and I eventually ended up in Cambridge to do a PhD in 1976. I stayed there and progressed to a personal professorship”.

Bhadeshia added: “Throughout my career, I have worked on the metallurgy of steels. Tata Steel in 2008 generously endowed my Chair, which became the Tata Steel Chair in Metallurgy. This means that the Chair will be there in perpetuity, and even after I retire, another Steel Metallurgy Professor will be appointed.”

Other recent Indian-origin individuals knighted include educationist Asha Khemka (2014), jurist Mota Singh (2009) and sculptor Anish Kapoor (2013).

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