The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, 2nd highest civilian honour of India, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar is the most renowned Indian chemical engineer and a former Director General of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). His knowledge and expertise in field of chemical engineering is the key factor for his contributions to India’s National Chemical Laboratory and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research.
Early Life and Education
Raghunath Anant Mashelkar was born in the city of Marshel, Goa. He lost his father at the age of 6 and then onwards was brought up by his mother Late Mrs. Anjani Mashelkar. They lived in a chawl which was a type of shared tenement and had to struggle hard to earn his daily piece of bread. He sometimes could not afford notebooks to write and went barefoot to his municipal school, but amidst all these adversities he shone bright and continuously excelled in academics.
After completing 7th grade he went for his admission at Union High School, Mumbai but his mother could not afford the admission fees. Their maid spent her entire saving on his admission as she believed his potential and wanted him to reach the pinnacle of success. In his high school, he was constantly motivated by his teacher Mr. Bhave using inspiring examples of a convex lens which can concentrate the sun’s rays and even spark a fire. These striking examples inspired Raghunath and he secured 11th position in Maharashtra in his board examination; even though he studied under street lamps.
From his very tender age he had curiosity to become a scientist and he was so enthusiastic that he used to sit outside the Majestic Bookstall in Girgaon, reading new books and quickly returning them as he could not afford to buy them. He thought of leaving education because of poor financial conditions but the constant support from his mother and financial support from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust helped him to get into prestigious Jai Hind College. He stood 2nd in the inter-state examinations and was felicitated with the honour of its most distinguished alumnus in 2003. This certainly proves that financial constraints can never over-shadow an indomitable will and an illuminated mind!
Later Life and Career of the Indian Chemical Engineer
Raghunath Anant Mashelkar joined University of Bombay’s (now the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai) to pursue his bachelor’s degree in the department of chemical engineering. He completed his degree in 1966 and was offered to go abroad for higher studies but he refused and completed his postgraduate from the same college under Prof. M.M. Sharma in mass transfer in chemical reactions. Later on he completed his PhD under Prof. Sharma in 1969. His outstanding work gave him fellowship at Salford University where he was given to research on a completely new topic – rheology. But he took it as a challenge and proved himself to be a distinguished Indian researcher.
Later in 1975, he met Dr. Nayudamma (the then director general of CSIR) at London where Dr. Nayudamma told him about immense potential in science and technology in India and inadequate opportunities to explore in that area. Dr. Raghunath returned back to India and started working in science, technology and innovation sector of India. He sacrificed his personal gain and came back to India which shows his true dedication to the development of his own nation.
He became the director in his self-established laboratory, the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune, in the year 1989. Later on he became the Director General of CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) in 1995 and unified 40 diverse laboratories, establishing a one-team culture and improving internal collaboration, and took CSIR to new heights.
Works which speaks of his Indomitable Will
Dr. Mashelkar had shown his concerted effort against the US patents on turmeric, neem and basmati rice and claimed turmeric to have healing properties and thus earned the moniker of ‘The Warrior of Haldighati’. He has published 25 books, 264 research papers, and has been awarded honorary doctorates by 36 universities from India and abroad. He has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and his vehement contribution to the nation and science awarded him with many honorary awards and became the first Indian to be elected as a fellow of National Academy of Inventors, US.
Presently, Dr. Mashelkar is the President of the Global Research Alliance, which is the world’s largest network of publicly funded R&D institutes having more than 60,000 scientists. He also holds the position of the chairperson of many reputed research institues like India’s National Innovation Foundation, Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR) and Reliance Innovation Council formed by Reliance Industries Limited, India. He even served as the President of the Indian National Science Academy and the UK Institution of Chemical Engineers.
Awards and Achievements
Raghunath Anant Mashelkar is a recipient of more than over fifty awards and honorary doctorates and is a member of numerous scientific bodies and committees.
- Padma Shri (1991)
- International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (1996)
- Padma Bhushan (2000)
- Gomant Vibhushan Award, the highest civilian honour of the state of Goa (2013)
- Padma Vibhushan (2014)
Dr. Raghunath Anant Mashelkar’s biography is truly an inspirational story of an indomitable will which motivates every youth to be strongly determined and focused on their ambitions. No constraints can stop you from reaching your goals. Dr. Mashelkar played a pivotal role in shaping India’s national science, technology and innovation policies in post-liberalised India and made significant contributions at both national and international level in the field of chemical engineering.
Written By: Hetal Kabra