March 24, 2021 1:14:01 am
Eminent scientist Govind Swarup was a visionary and remained a driver of innovations in radio astronomy throughout his life, according to Prof Ron Ekers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia.
Ekers was speaking on ‘How innovation has driven science of radio astronomy’ at the first Prof Govind Swarup Memorial lecture, organised virtually by TIFR – National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), on Tuesday. Starting this year, NCRA plans to host an annual lecture to commemorate Swarup’s contributions to the field of radio astronomy around his birth anniversary, which is on March 23.
Swarup passed away in September last year at the age of 91, following a brief illness.
“Govind had a rare scientific pursuit which he combined with innovative instrumental opportunities to solve problems. He was a dreamer and a visionary who made things happen,” said Prof Ekers.
Swarup is credited for being among the pioneers of radio astronomy in India. He led the team of scientists and engineers who built the Ooty Radio Telescope in the 1970s and Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in Pune, which began operations in 2000. He was also the founder-director of TIFR – NCRA, which runs GMRT. Even during his final years, Swarup was actively involved in planning of the proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA), of which India is a member-country.
During his talk, the veteran Australian radio astronomer shared interesting stories about Swarup’s work and life. “The last time we met at the formal inauguration of upgraded GMRT, Govind asked me what could be done in this field next,” recalled Ekers, who hailed Swarup’s ways of pursuing science through cost-effective yet innovative ways.
While it is commonly perceived that pure scientific research precedes instrumentation, Ekers differed, stating that it did not hold true with radio astronomy globally.
Swarup always had innovative ideas, shared Ekers, and that the Giant Equator Radio Telescope (GERT) — involving Kenya, Indonesia and some more countries located along the equator — could have been the only unsuccessful project he was involved in. “But through GERT, Govind was laying the foundation stone for mega science projects like the SKA,” he said.
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