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Rediff.com  » News » Dr K R Sreenivasan elected to National Academy of Sciences

Dr K R Sreenivasan elected to National Academy of Sciences

May 28, 2007 08:35 IST
Dr Katepalli R Sreenivasan, director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, where he holds the Abdus Salam Honorary Professorship, has been elected a member of the esteemed National Academy of Sciences in the United States.

Dr Sreenivasan was one of the 72 new members, whose election was announced by NAS. Besides, the academy also elected 18 foreign associates from 12 countries, including one from India -- Prabhu L Pingali, director, division of agricultural and development economics, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, Rome.

The election, which was held during the Academy's 144th annual meeting, recognises the new members for 'distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.'

The Academy now has 2,025 members and 387 foreign associates who are non-voting members with citizenship outside the US.

The academy is a private organisation of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a United States Congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

With a PhD from the Indian Institute of Science and post-doctoral work in Australia and Johns Hopkins University, Dr Sreenivasan taught at Yale for 22 years as the Harold W Cheel Professor of Mechanical Engineering, holding concurrent appointments in the departments of physics, applied physics and mathematics.

He moved to the University of Maryland in 2002 as Distinguished University Professor, Glenn L Martin Professor of Engineering and Professor of Physics, and served as the director of the Institute of Physical Science and Technology for a year-and-a-half. He then became director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste.

His research expertise is fluid dynamics. He is also a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the Indian Academy of Sciences and the African Academy of Sciences.

The awards and honours he has received include the Guggenheim Fellowship, Otto Laporte Memorial Award of American Physical Society, TWAS Medal Lecture in Engineering Science, the Indian Institute of Science's Distinguished Alumnus Award, the International Prize and Modesto Panetti and Carlo Ferrari Gold Medal of the Torino Academy of Sciences, UNESCO Medal for Promoting International Scientific Cooperation and World Peace from the World Heritage Centre, Florence, Italy, and the President Dr Zakir Husain Memorial Award from the Indian Society of Applied and Industrial Mathematics.

Founded in 1964, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics is a United Nations institution jointly

run by UNESCO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Italian government. It supports advanced research in basic physics and mathematics especially (although not exclusively) among researchers in developing countries.

"It requires no great insight to observe that we now live in a world of increased connectivity in which we travel far, communicate quickly and easily and conduct business with distant customers," Dr Sreenivasan was quoted as saying. "It is also a world in which we share the tragedies of disasters."

"Despite our interconnectedness, it is also clear that we live in a divided world. The average per-capita income in industrialised nations is $27,000 per year, compared to just about $2,000 in the developing world. Literacy rates approach 100 per cent of the adult population in developed countries, but the figure falls to below 50 per cent in developing nations," he noted in a speech delivered, during a World Year of Physics celebration.

"Unfortunately, the disparities are widening. Mitigating them is not just a moral imperative, but is also in our self-interest as the resources that will be needed tomorrow to redress the neglect of today are too vast to contemplate. After all, most of the Earth's people live in developing nations, which means that everyone must be involved in solving these problems. We are in it together if only because we share both the fruits and perils of the future," he said.

"Science -- and physics in particular -- can play a major role in solving the problems facing humanity. Of course, science does not have all the answers and not all scientific advances have been used for the benefit of society. One needs to look no further than nuclear weapons, which were dropped on Japan 60 years ago, and still remain a major international concern. Yet, on balance, the contributions of science have been fundamentally positive and significant. Being largely devoid of political, economic and religious influences -- unadorned by ulterior or political motives -- science has the power to form consensus between people."

"Developing countries must invest in talented young scientists to ensure that they fulfill their potential," he said. "The focus should be on gifted and young people, regardless of other extraneous considerations. To emphasise the point that trained people form the best investment, recall that China, for example, made a concerted effort in the 1980s and 1990s, during which it enhanced its pool of trained personnel by sending young students to overseas universities and by taking advantage of its accomplished diaspora. That it is reaping the benefits of that investment policy seems pretty obvious," Dr Sreenivasan said.

"Developing countries must also make a concerted effort to create institutions that reward dedication and excellence so that young scientists can see a future in their own nations," he said.

A Correspondent in New York