Kashmiri born scientist, father of nuclear fusion dies

June 21, 2017 NATIONAL 246 Views

The father of India’s nuclear fusion reactor research programme, Padma Shri Prof Predhiman Krishan Kaw, died late on Sunday night. He was the founder director of Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar, an institute that catapulted India to being one among the seven member entities that is building the world’s largest fusion experiment — the US $ 14 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Kaw was the first chairman of the ITER Council Science and Technology Advisory Committee and led the committee’s deliberations from 2007 to 2009.
Prof Kaw was a researcher at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad in its new plasma division in 1982, after working under John Dawson of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, US. In 1986, Kaw began a full-fledged institute that spearheaded the establishment of a national magnetic fusion program in Ahmedabad, founding the Institute for Plasma Research and playing a leading role in gaining international recognition for the national program. He began building India’s first Tokamak fusion reactor ‘Aditya’ which continued into the Steady State Tokamak reactor (SST-1). His collegues at IPR remember how he used to spent 10 to 12 hours a day managing the institute and in the evening dedicated his time for plasma physics.
Kaw, born in Kashmir, had an unusual childhood. He was an extraordinary student and was home schooled by his uncles and grandfather. Kaw passed his MSc at the age 16 from MMH College in Ghaziabad. He then joined IIT-Delhi and was awarded the premier institute’s first PhD at the age of 18. Kaw always remembered his professors at MMH college Gazhiabad — especially Dr Chandra Bhushan, Dr P K Agarwal , and Dr Singh who inspired him to study physics. At IIT he was a researcher under Prof MS Sodha, who introduced him to plasma physics, while Kaw’s initial interest lay in high-energy physics.
Recently, he was named the 2015 laureate of the Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar Prize for “outstanding contributions” in the field of plasma physics. He has authored some 308 research papers. Among the 15 awards and fellowships he had won in his lifetime Kaw cherished the SS Bhatnagar award he received in 1986 and the Indian National Science Academy’s Young Scientists Award of 1974, which was conferred on him by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
He had one advice for his students. He would say: “As young physicists of this country you should think very seriously about taking an opportunity to develop some areas of science for your country.”

Related articles