IISC - The Citadel of Learning

There is nothing like it in India and nothing better in Great Britain - Morris Travers, IISc's first director.

IISC Bangalore


It did turn out to be providential - the chance meeting between the father of Indian industry, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, and saint-philosopher Swami Vivekananda on a ship from Japan to Chicago in 1893.

And like the epochal speech he was to make later in Chicago, the germ of an idea he shared with J N Tata has become a monument to the very idea of India. Or what would you call the city's proud and over 100-year-old Indian Institute of Science (IISc), which has been the beacon and sets the standards for everything science in the country - be it mathematical, physical or space sciences?

IISC BangaloreThe superlatives, though, have been earned. From the 13 years it took for the institute to became a reality in 1909, with generous gifts from the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, and the backing of Lord Curzon, to being the cornerstone of science in the country and the world, the institute was built brick by brick.

Others like Burjorji Padshah, a close associate of J N Tata, also played a key role in setting up the institute. Writing in Current Science, P Balram, director of IISc, described how the institute, which has many firsts to its name, came into being. "J N Tata died in 1904, unaware that his vision would indeed be realised a few years later. When the British government finally issued the Vesting Order in 1909, an unmatched experiment in higher education and research was launched in India. IISc is truly the first example of a public-private partnership in this country, an institution whose evolution over a century is testimony to the robustness of its foundations."

IISC BangaloreThe institute occupies nearly 400 acres of prime land in Bangalore, generously donated by the Maharaja of Mysore in March 1907. Indeed, the contribution from the princely state of Mysore was the decisive element in determining the location of J N Tata's proposed institution.

Remarkably, in a gesture unmatched in the annals of private philanthropy in India, Tata did not wish his name to be associated with the institute. His dream was to create an institution that would contribute to the development of India.

The name, Indian Institute of Science, which was finally chosen, reflects in every way the wishes of J N Tata. "Visitors to Bangalore who seek out IISc still have to ask local residents for directions to the 'Tata Institute', a clear recognition that Jamsetji Tata's act of generosity has remained undimmed in public memory, despite the passage of a century," Balram writes.

IISC BangaloreWhen the institute started, it had only two departments. The institute's first director, Morris Travers, oversaw the construction of the campus building. The main building, which houses the director's office, is one of the prominent landmarks of Bangalore. The lab of the physics department came up when C V Raman became the director. As the campus expanded, so did its attraction for researchers from all over the world. The institute now has departments in fields ranging from nano technologies to aerospace and continues to churn out the country's pioneering scientists.

A quick glance at the alumni and associates reveals the who's who of Indian science. Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan and JC Ghosh, were all associated with the institute.

Many like G N Ramachandran, Harish Chandra, S Ramaseshan, Brahm Prakash, A Ramachandran, C N R Rao and R Narasimha make up its illustrious alumni. While the institute's second campus coming up in Chitradurga is a pointer to its ambition, the opening of its hallowed research portals for graduation courses from this year clearly marks a new beginning. "To live and work at the institute is a special privilege. In reflecting on the past, present and future of the institute, an exchange between Morris Travers, the first director, and Lord Willingdon, the then viceroy, is worth recounting. Willingdon went around the institute in June 1914 and said: 'I had no idea that there was anything like this in India'. Travers responded: 'There is nothing like it in India; and nothing better in Great Britain'. In ensuring that this sentiment is true, a great deal of work remains to be done", writes P Balram. For us ordinary mortals, to be living in the same city is a privilege.

IISC BangalolreYou Must Know !
* The main building of this institution was completed in 1912-13. The colonial style building was designed by C F Stevens & Company of Bombay. The work was executed by TCW Skipp of Bangalore at a cost of Rs 4.11 lakh.
* A statue of J N Tata, designed by famous English sculptor Gilbert Bayes, stands in front of the main building.
* Sir William Ramsey recommended locating the institute in Bangalore, after the Royal Society of England requested him to give his views on setting up the campus.


Source: Bangalore Mirror

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