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Shantiswarup Bhatnagar, Scientist, Educationist and first Chairman of UGC
As the first chairman of India's University Grants Commission (UGC), the secretary of the research wing of the education department of the Government of India, and the advisor for education, Dr. Shantiswarup Bhatnagar (1894-1955) did yeomen service to the development of science education and scientific temper in modern India. Bhatnagar played pioneering role in the formation of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which leads and co-ordinates the country's research projects, and the National Research and Development Corporation (NRDC) which bridges the research activities and developmental efforts. It remains a fact that it was the Nehru-Bhatnagar effect that has resulted in India's attaining the stature of one of the leading nations of the world in the field of science and technology. This scientist had the mind of a poet and his poems too cherished the theme of his country's scientific progress.
Shantiswarup was born in a family of wealth and fame, known for its highly acclaimed and honored poets, artists and top government officers. He was born in 1894 to Parameswari Bhatnagar Sahai and Parvati in the Bheri district of Punjab. Parameswari did not go after his family's pelf or fame and never went after high jobs in the government, but chose to be a social servant and became a teacher. He even took part in the national movement for freedom. This infuriated the doyens of his family and he was thrown out of the family rights. It was against these odds and financial difficulties that Shantiswarup continued his education and passed out in 1919 with a M.Sc. in chemistry, and in 1921 a D.Sc. from London.
On his return, he joined the Banaras Hindu University as professor of chemistry and later shifted to the Punjab University, Lahore where he worked for 15 years, and led the research for practical application of science. His first product was an equipment to measure magnetic properties, which he developed jointly with K.N. Mathur, a colleague. This equipment, marketed by a firm in England came to be known as Bhatnagar-Mathur Magnetic inference Balance. He used many other indigenous skills to perfection in technology and brought out products of self reliance. Bhatnagar was decorated several times with some of the covetable honors such as the title of 'Sir' from England, and the fellowship from the Royal Society, and top positions in the running of Free India's science and technology regime. He died in 1955. The country honored his memory by instituting the top most annual awards for science and technology in his name.