BANGALORE: Who doesn’t know the Indian Institute of Science (IISc)? It is the pride of the city. Even before the IT boom took over Bangalore, the city was well-known for IISc. It is the heart of all research and development; it is the city’s cradle of science.
Do we know more than that? Here is what IISc Director P Balaram wrote about the Institute — The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was conceived as a ‘Research Institute’ or ‘University of Research’ by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, in the final years of the 19th century. A long period of almost 13 years was to elapse from the initial conception in 1896 to the birth of the Institute on May 27, 1909.
The early history of the Institute is a fascinating chapter in the story of higher education and scientific research in India. The cast of the characters in the drama that led to the establishment of the Institute includes, JN Tata and other figures from the pages of Indian history. There is Swami Vivekananda, whom JN Tata befriended on his famous voyage to the United States, the Maharaja of Mysore, Shri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his mother who was then acting on his behalf and Lord Curzon the Viceroy of India. Curzon’s first task on arrival on December 31, 1898 was to receive a draft proposal prepared by the Provisional Committee set up to plan the establishment of the Institute.
The plan was shepherded through many difficult years by Burjorji Padshah, a close associate of JN Tata. Unfortunately, JN Tata died in 1904 unaware that his vision would indeed be realised only 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.
The 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 JN 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 JN 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.
The Physics department came into being in 1933, when CV Raman became the first Indian Director of the Institute. In the century that has passed since its inception, IISc has grown to become India’s premier centre for research and postgraduate education in science and engineering. The evolution of the Institute over the past 100 years has mirrored the development of science and technology in India.
A long history, a strong tradition of academic research and an ambience that favours scholarly activity have been important elements in making the Institute an attractive place for students and faculty. As the Institute has grown, several new areas of research have been established, many of them for the first time in India. The Institute’s departments in fields ranging from Biochemistry to Aerospace Engineering have served to nucleate research and development in both the public and private sectors.
IISc’s other prestigious alumnus and faculty that include Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan and CNR Rao.