to Prof. V. V. Raman, recipient of the Raja Rao Award 2006 for outstanding
contribution to the culture of the Indian diaspora:
RAMAN, the recipient of the Raja Rao Award this year, is a multifaceted
personality. He is an eminent philosopher, physicist, writer, author of
superb quality original work in each of those categories, and a man
distinguished by a sense of humor and wisdom as well. Raman's breadth of
knowledge, expertise and interests is impressive. Raman was born on May
28, 1932, in a Tamil family which had settled down in Bengal. Blends of
opposites, as of the North and the South in the case of his upbringing as
a child, characterize him and may explain the keen insights he always
displays into the nature of his surroundings. As a small boy, he learned
to recite Vedic hymns in Sanskrit and Pater Noster in Latin. He read the
Koran and the Torah. He has an impressive facility in German and Spanish,
in handling equations of theoretical physics and in constructing verses,
in pragmatic practice and historical scholarship, in science and art. His
undergraduate work was in physics, his first postgraduate degree in
mathematics. His doctoral work in Paris, carried out in the medium of the
French language under the supervision of the Nobel laureate Louis de
Broglie, was in theoretical physics, specifically on the mathematical
underpinning of quantum mechanics.
As a youth, Raman was drawn to
poetry and philosophy, to mathematics and music, to languages and
literature. He was fascinated by the depth and scope of meaningful
knowledge that science has brought to humanity, and impressed by the power
and coherence of scientific methodology. He grew up reading and reflecting
on humanity's heritage. With strong links to his own tradition, he now
regards himself as a human being most of all, with respect and sympathy
for all that is enriching, ennobling, and enlightening in human culture.
After obtaining his doctorate from the Sorbonne, and publishing
his research in the Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, he returned
to India and worked at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.
he served the UNESCO for a few years, during which time he became more
interested in the history and philosophy of science. His varied interests
and abilities led him into avenues of work well outside the narrow
confines to which many brilliant physicists are limited.
Eventually, he settled down at the Rochester Institute of
Technology in the USA as a professor of Physics and Humanities. He went on
to publish extensively on the historical, philosophical, and social
aspects of science. His scholarly papers on those matters have been on the
history of thermodynamics, the origins of physical chemistry, the genesis
of the Schrödinger equation, the early reactions to Einstein's theory of
relativity, the impact of the Copernican revolution, and on the
Euler-D'Alembert controversy in 18th century mathematical physics. He has
also written on such topics as the history of the theory of gravitation,
of the energy conservation principle, and of acoustics.
writings were published in various scholarly journals, Proceedings of the
French Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Physics, The Physics
Teacher, The Journal of Education, Chronicle of Higher Education,
Mathematical Intelligencer, Impact of Science on Society (UNESCO), Science
and Culture, Indian Journal of History of Science, Journal of Chemical
Education, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, Dictionary of
Scientific Biography, Science and Sprit, CHOICE Magazine (Journal of the
AALS), Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Prajna Vihara: Journal of
Philosophy and Religion (Thailand), Hermeia (Germany).
following are books by Professor Raman on these topics: "Science and
Relevance;" "Scientific Perspectives: Essays & Reflections of a
Physicist-Humanist;" "Variety of Science History;" "Glimpses of Ancient
Science and Scientists." His book "Variety in Religion and Science"
discusses the religious visions from intercultural perspectives as well as
scientific insights from various people and cultures.
Raman has received numerous citations from his students about his teaching
excellence. In 1988, nominated by his university's president, he was a
recipient of the Outstanding Educator award, presented in Washington D.C.
by the American Association of Higher Education.
As to Raman's
contributions to the elucidation and propagation of Indic culture, he has
lectured profusely on many aspects of Indian heritage and culture. He is
the author of multiple books on that theme. In the early 1980s he
initiated a journal called INDHER (Indian Heritage) to educate children of
Indian origin living beyond the shores of India on aspects of their
culture and heritage. Out of the articles in this journal grew two books:
"Glimpses of Indian Heritage," and "Satanama: Hundred Names from India's
Past," both published by Popular Prakashan in India. He gave a series of
lectures on Verses from the Bhagavad Gita of relevance to the Modern
World, which were published later as "Nuggets from the Gita" by Bharatiya
Vidya Bhavan. He wrote a series of articles on Indian perspectives for
India Abroad which are the basis of his "Reflections from Alien Shores,"
also a Bhavan's Book.
Since the 1990s Professor Raman has been
very involved with the emerging academic field of Science and Religion. In
this field he has published papers in ZYGON: the international journal on
Science and Religion, as well as in SCIENCE AND SPIRIT. The following
articles are relevant in this context: "Science and Religion," Connections
and Contradictions, CHOICE July, August 1996; "Vedanta and Modern
Science," International Vedanta Conference, January 1996, Madras; "Science
in the face of religion and mysticism," World & I, October 1996;
"Science and Religion: Some Demarcation Criteria," Zygon, September 2001;
"Science and Spirit: A Hindu Perspective," Science and Spirit, November
1998; "Science and Humanism in the Modern World," Prajna Vihara: The
Journal of Philosophy and Religion, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2001; "Which is More
Dangerous? Science or Religion," Science and Spirit; "Science and
Spirituality from a Hindu Perspective," Zygon, March 2002; and "Was heisst
Kulturelle Differenz?" in Die Macht der Diffetenzen, Hermeia, Band 4.
Over the years, Raman has been a member of the Calcutta
Mathematical Society, American Physical Society, American Association of
Physics Teachers, Philosophy of Science Association, History of Science
Society, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. He has served on
the Editorial Board of The (American) Physics Teacher. He has served as
the President of various cultural/social organizations including The
Interfaith Forum of Rochester, The India Community Center of Rochester,
The Bengali Association of Rochester, the Rochester Tamil Sangam which he
founded, The Martin Luther King Commission of Rochester, The METANEXUS
Institute on Science and Religion, the Institute on Religion in an Age of
He was elected the 2004-2005 METANEXUS Fellow on Science
and Religion, in which capacity he delivered six lectures at the Hillel
Hall of the University of Pennsylvania on Indic Visions in an Age of
He is currently writing a web column entitled
"Reflections on Remote Roots," which is widely circulated to people of
Indian heritage in many parts of the world. It is another grand survey of
various aspects of Indian heritage and culture with deep insights. The
erudition and intelligent understanding of our brilliant past (and
present) in India and also of other human cultures he displays in that
column are impressive indeed.
To those who know him from close,
Raman is also an intelligent and inspired prankster. This unusual but
charming facet of his that arises from his great sense of humor reminds
one of Krishna. Listening to Raman is always an educational experience.
Conversing with him is always a pleasant event. It is impossible to come
in contact with this person without coming away awed, inspired, and
warmed. The enormous work that Raman has done even in his 'retired' years
is definitely deserving of the Raja Rao award.