Since its inception in 1909, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has been fostering research in various fields of science and engineering. In keeping with the vision of its founders, it was established to conduct post-graduate scientific research on topics of relevance to the immediate environment and to the technologically evolving India of the early 1900s. At the time, it was only the second institute of its kind, the first being the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Sciences (IACS), Kolkata. Over the past century, the IISc has contributed towards the growth of other institutes, universities, and centres of learning across India, particularly in the period after the country's independence in 1947.
The IISc is located in the northern segment of Bangalore, atop a hillock and within an idyllic, sylvan setting. The nearly 400 acre campus area contains 45 departments and centres, grouped into 7 divisions. Among these are several recently added centres, including the Centre for Nanoscience and Engineering, the Centre for Neuroscience, the Centre for Earth Sciences, the Divecha Centre for Climate Change, and newest of all, the Robert Bosch Centre for Cyberphysical Systems. August 2011 saw the entry of the first batch of undergraduates enrolled in a four-year bachelors programme in basic sciences that has a unique research orientation.
The IISc contributes to the society through its various outreach programmes. The Kishore Vignan Protsahan Yojana, a Department of Science and Technology programme to encourage high school students towards research careers, is administered by the IISc. Recently, a Talent Development Centre was set up in Challakere (IISc's new campus, 220 km from Bangalore) to impart training to science teachers at all levels, and provide scientific facilities and support for meetings and workshops for school and university students. The Centre for Continuing Education is located in the main Bangalore campus, as is the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Consultancy, too.
Other scientific establishments in Bangalore
In the decades following the establishment of the IISc, several institutes have sprung up around it. These include the Raman Research Institute (founded by Sir C. V. Raman, who was India's first science Nobel laureate and also IISc's first Indian director), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), and the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the Wood Research Insitute, the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), the National Tuberculosis Institute, and the National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Insects, among several others. These apart, Bangalore is also home to numerous well-reputed science and engineering colleges.
A bit of history
Within Bangalore, one often needs to ask for "Tata Institute" to obtain directions to the IISc. This alternate name recognizes the principal role of Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata, a wealthy Indian industrialist of the middle and late 19th century, who believed that India's future critically depended on the centres of higher learning equal to the best in the world. J N Tata's generous donation of time and money eventually gave shape to his vision. A statue in his memory may be found in the courtyard on the iconic main building. The conference venue of ICORS 2012 is also named after him.
The selection of Bangalore as the location of IISc was largely due to the donation of land by Krisharaja Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore, to the government of India. The institute formally came into existence with the Vesting Order issued on 27th May, 1909, by the British government in India under the Viceroyship of Lord Minto. Unfortunately, J N Tata did not live to see the Order, for he had passed away five years earlier, in 1904. Every year, 27th May is celebrated as the Foundation Day. It was in July 1911 that the first two departments --- General and Applied Chemistry, and Electro-Technics (later, Electrical Technology) --- became operational. The building of the former is what now houses the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, the primary host of ICORS 2012.
Sir Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman arrived in IISc as its director in 1933. He was previously associated with Indian Association for the Cultivation of Sciences, Kolkata, where he had carried out his Nobel prize winning work. After his years heading the institute, C V Raman continued in IISc as a professor of Physics until 1948. The road at the south edge of the campus is named after him.
Many a well-recognized Indian scientist of the past and present has been associated with the IISc. The following are a representative subset of them. Homi Bhabha, a nuclear physicist, founded the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay as well as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai. Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan were pioneers in the Indian space programme. G N Ramachandran, very familiar to biochemists for the famous plots, was an IISc faculty who founded the Molecular Biophysics Unit. Harish Chandra (a mathematician), S Ramaseshan (a crystallographer and materials scientist), and C N R Rao (well-known for the impetus he gave to nanoscience in India, among other achievements) are a few more from a long list of names.
B. V. Subbarayappa, "In Pursuit of Excellence: A history of the Indian Institute of Science" (1992), Tata-McGraw Hill, New Delhi
P. Balaram, Current Science, 96, 1404 (2009); Current Science, 94, 5 (2008)