C.N.R. Rao (Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao) is an Indian scientist who is regarded as one of the world’s premier solid state and materials chemists. Over the course of his five-decade scientific career, he made substantial contributions to the advancement of the profession, including his research on transition metal oxides. The research contributed in the understanding of a novel phenomena and the relationship between material qualities and structural chemistry of such materials. He was a pioneer in the creation of two-dimensional oxide materials such as La2CuO4. Apart from hybrid materials, he has made major contributions to nanomaterials over the previous two decades. He currently serves as Chairman of the Prime Minister of India’s Scientific Advisory Council, a position he has held under many regimes and which speaks eloquently about the government’s tremendous faith in him. He has received honorary doctorates from more than sixty universities around the world. Rao has over 1500 academic publications and 45 scientific books to his credit. President Pranab Mukherjee bestowed the ‘Bharat Ratna’ to him on February 4, 2014. After C.V. Raman and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, he became the third scientist to earn India’s highest civilian honor. He has won numerous national and international honors and awards, including honorary membership in the ‘Royal Society of Chemistry’ in London in 1989 and the French title of ‘Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur’ in 2005.
Childhood and Adolescence
As the only child of Hanumantha Nagesa Rao and Nagamma Nagesa Rao, he was born on June 30, 1934, in Bangalore, Karnataka.
He received his primary education at home, where his mother, who was knowledgeable in Hindu literature and mathematics, taught him the subjects while his father ensured that he was well-versed in English.
He first enrolled in a middle school when he was six years old, in 1940. Even though he was the youngest in the class, he used to tutor his peers in English and maths.
When he was ten years old, he received first place in the lower secondary or class VII exam in 1944.
He then enrolled at ‘Acharya Patashala’, a high school in Basavanagudi, south Bangalore, where he established a lifelong interest in chemistry. Despite the fact that he spoke English at home, his father insisted that he learn and understand his mother tongue, so he enrolled in a Kannada course.
One of his happiest childhood memories was meeting Nobel Laureate Professor C V Raman in 1946 when the latter paid a visit to his school.
In 1947, he received a first-class high school diploma once more.
He subsequently enrolled at Bangalore’s ‘Central College,’ where he studied Sanskrit in addition to improving his English communication skills.
He graduated from ‘Mysore University’ with a first-class bachelor’s degree in 1951, when he was seventeen years old.
He enrolled in the ‘Banaras Hindu University’ (BHU) after being persuaded by one of his lecturers, despite his initial intention of obtaining a diploma or postgraduate degree in chemical engineering from the ‘Indian Institute of Science’ (IISc), India’s oldest and most prestigious scientific institute.
In 1953, he received his master’s degree in chemistry from BHU and was awarded a PhD fellowship by IIT Kharagpur. He also received financial assistance offers from four international universities: Purdue, Penn State, MIT, and Columbia, from which he chose Purdue.
His first research work was published in the ‘Agra University Journal of Research’ in 1954.
He earned his PhD in chemical physics from Purdue University in the United States in 1958, finishing it in a record-breaking two years and nine months. He subsequently returned to the ‘University of California’ in Berkeley to continue his postdoctoral research.
Career of C. N. R. Rao
In 1959, he went to Bangalore and began working as a lecturer at the Indian Institute of Science, earning Rs. 500 per month. During this period, he also began his solo research.
His early research focused on spectroscopy and molecular structure, and he published his first book, ‘Ultraviolet and Visible Spectroscopy,’ in London in 1960, followed by his second book, ‘Infrared Spectroscopy,’ in the United States in 1963.
In 1963, he accepted a permanent job in the Department of Chemistry at the ‘Indian Institute of Technology’ (IIT) Kanpur, where he remained until 1976. Meanwhile, he was named a fellow of the ‘Indian Academy of Sciences’ in 1964.
Due to budgetary constraints, he had to overcome various obstacles to begin his scientific work in India. He gradually established facilities at IIT Kanpur for studying solid-state and materials chemistry.
In 1976, Rao returned to the IISc and established a solid-state and structural chemistry unit.
His work on transition metal oxides has aided in the understanding of a novel phenomenon and the relationship between material qualities and structural chemistry.
He was a pioneer in the development of two-dimensional oxide materials such as La2CuO4. His research had a significant impact in domains such as high-temperature superconductivity and massive magnetoresistance.
He has been conducting considerable research on various nanomaterials, including graphene, nanowires, and nanotubes, for the past two decades.
He was the Director of the IISc for over a decade, starting in 1984 and ending in 1994.
From 1985 to 1989, he served as Chair of the Indian Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council. In January 2005, he reclaimed his position.
Rao was appointed as the founding president of the ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research’ (JNCASR) by the Indian government in 1989. He held the position until 1999. He is currently the JNCASR’s Linus Pauling Research Professor, Honorary President, and National Research Professor.
His reputation, however, was tainted by plagiarism allegations and scandals. In December 2011, he apologized to the peer-reviewed publication ‘Advanced Materials’ for a paper he co-wrote with an IISc PhD student. The publication includes text that was copied without crediting the work of other scientists. The student accepted full responsibility for the incident and issued a formal apology. Rao later offered to withdraw the essay from publication, but the editor declined.
He was a visiting lecturer at a number of famous overseas universities throughout his career. ‘Purdue University,’ where he received his PhD, ‘University of California, Santa Barbara,’ ‘University of Cambridge,’ and ‘University of Oxford’ were among them.
The ‘International Centre for Materials Science’ is directed by Rao (ICMS).
Achievements & Awards
On February 4, 2014, he received the highest civilian honor, the ‘Bharat Ratna.’
Among his many awards are the ‘Padma Shri’ (1974), ‘Padma Vibhushan’ (1985), and ‘Karnataka Ratna’ (2001).
Personal History and Legacy
He married Indumati in 1960, and the pair had a son, Sanjay, and a daughter, Suchitra.
His son devotes himself to popularizing science in Bangalore schools. K.M. Ganesh, his son-in-law, is the Director of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, Maharashtra.
Cnr Rao’s Net Worth
Cnr is one of the wealthiest chemists and is on the list of the most popular chemists. Cnr Rao’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
He is a technophobe who refuses to use computers or check his emails on his own. He claims that he solely uses his cellphone to communicate with his wife.