PROFESSOR S. K. RANGARAJAN (1932 – 2008)
Sarukkai Krishnamachari Rangarajan (fondly referred to as SKR by his friends, colleagues and students) passed away on 29th April, 2008. He was a genius, a man of many talents, unique in that his ability in science was matched by his fineness as a human being.
SKR was born on September 9,
1932. He obtained his B.A. (Hon) in
mathematics from the Madras Christian College (MCC), in 1953. After graduation, he started off as a film critic,
and also wrote for a Tamil arts magazine “
At that time, the Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI) was headed by the very distinguished electrochemist, Prof. K.S.G. Doss. He had just discovered the phenomenon of faradaic rectification, and was looking for some one to develop a proper theory for the process. Doss approached SKR, expecting the theory to be developed in about a year, but the problem was solved in a day! Doss was so impressed that he persuaded SKR to join the CECRI. He did so in 1960 but left in 1970, after the retirement of Doss. Doss who had contributed very significantly to electrochemistry, is reputed to have said “my most significant contribution to electrochemistry was finding SKR”.
SKR spent the next two years as a Homi Bhabha fellow at the National Aeronautical Laboratory
and continued there as a scientist till 1975, when he was
invited by Prof. S. Dhawan, Director of the Indian
Institute of Science, to join the
Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry (IPC) as a professor. During
his term at this department, he was a visiting professor at
At the IISc, SKR had a very active group and had several bright students, who continue to be very active in the field. SKR worked mainly on theoretical problems in electrochemistry. In addition he also continued to work on mathematics, biophysical chemistry, theoretical physics and even mechanical engineering. After retiring from the IPC department in 1993, he was a senior professor at Matscience for three years, and after that he was a visitor at the Raman Research Institute. The IPC department very much wanted him to spend time in the dept. and persuaded him to visit them once in a week and he had been visiting this department roughly once in a week. He was very active until the very end, and was working on an interesting and important problem, and had solved it just the day previous to his death. A week before his death, he had come to the IPC and excitedly told us that he was planning to give a series of lectures on “Stochastic Problems in Chemical Sciences” and that he would start in a week’s time.
SKR was an outstanding theoretician and
electrochemist. Though the only
degree that he ever had was a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, he was a world
renowned theoretical electrochemist, and was in the editorial boards of
international journals in the field.
While at IISc and elsewhere, he was an
inspiration to a large number of
bright students, even though they were not working with him. To quote one such,
He was well recognized by the usual standards - was elected as FASc, FNA and FTWAS. In addition, he was given Alumni Award (1993) of the IISc and the lifetime achievement award of the Chemical Research Society of India (2008), in addition to many other awards and honors. However, to those who were privileged to know him closely, his abilities were far more than what these awards convey.
He is survived by his wife, daughter and four sons. His eldest son, Sunder Sarukkai works at NIAS, and is well known in his own right. In SKR’s death, the country has lost an outstanding scientist. Personally, I have lost my brilliant, warm hearted, affectionate, kind “Guru”, a sorrow shared by all his students and admirers. He will live on in our memory for ever.
K. L. Sebastian (
Professor, Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry
Indian Institute of Science