raja rao annual award 2006

Citation presented to Prof. V. V. Raman, recipient of the Raja Rao Award 2006 for outstanding contribution to the culture of the Indian diaspora:

V. V. RAMAN, the recipient of the Raja Rao Award this year, is a multifaceted personality. He is an eminent philosopher, physicist, writer, author of superb quality original work in each of those categories, and a man distinguished by a sense of humor and wisdom as well. Raman's breadth of knowledge, expertise and interests is impressive. Raman was born on May 28, 1932, in a Tamil family which had settled down in Bengal. Blends of opposites, as of the North and the South in the case of his upbringing as a child, characterize him and may explain the keen insights he always displays into the nature of his surroundings. As a small boy, he learned to recite Vedic hymns in Sanskrit and Pater Noster in Latin. He read the Koran and the Torah. He has an impressive facility in German and Spanish, in handling equations of theoretical physics and in constructing verses, in pragmatic practice and historical scholarship, in science and art. His undergraduate work was in physics, his first postgraduate degree in mathematics. His doctoral work in Paris, carried out in the medium of the French language under the supervision of the Nobel laureate Louis de Broglie, was in theoretical physics, specifically on the mathematical underpinning of quantum mechanics.

As a youth, Raman was drawn to poetry and philosophy, to mathematics and music, to languages and literature. He was fascinated by the depth and scope of meaningful knowledge that science has brought to humanity, and impressed by the power and coherence of scientific methodology. He grew up reading and reflecting on humanity's heritage. With strong links to his own tradition, he now regards himself as a human being most of all, with respect and sympathy for all that is enriching, ennobling, and enlightening in human culture.

After obtaining his doctorate from the Sorbonne, and publishing his research in the Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, he returned to India and worked at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Then he served the UNESCO for a few years, during which time he became more interested in the history and philosophy of science. His varied interests and abilities led him into avenues of work well outside the narrow confines to which many brilliant physicists are limited.

Eventually, he settled down at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the USA as a professor of Physics and Humanities. He went on to publish extensively on the historical, philosophical, and social aspects of science. His scholarly papers on those matters have been on the history of thermodynamics, the origins of physical chemistry, the genesis of the Schrödinger equation, the early reactions to Einstein's theory of relativity, the impact of the Copernican revolution, and on the Euler-D'Alembert controversy in 18th century mathematical physics. He has also written on such topics as the history of the theory of gravitation, of the energy conservation principle, and of acoustics.

These writings were published in various scholarly journals, Proceedings of the French Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Physics, The Physics Teacher, The Journal of Education, Chronicle of Higher Education, Mathematical Intelligencer, Impact of Science on Society (UNESCO), Science and Culture, Indian Journal of History of Science, Journal of Chemical Education, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Science and Sprit, CHOICE Magazine (Journal of the AALS), Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Prajna Vihara: Journal of Philosophy and Religion (Thailand), Hermeia (Germany).

The following are books by Professor Raman on these topics: "Science and Relevance;" "Scientific Perspectives: Essays & Reflections of a Physicist-Humanist;" "Variety of Science History;" "Glimpses of Ancient Science and Scientists." His book "Variety in Religion and Science" discusses the religious visions from intercultural perspectives as well as scientific insights from various people and cultures.

Professor Raman has received numerous citations from his students about his teaching excellence. In 1988, nominated by his university's president, he was a recipient of the Outstanding Educator award, presented in Washington D.C. by the American Association of Higher Education.

As to Raman's contributions to the elucidation and propagation of Indic culture, he has lectured profusely on many aspects of Indian heritage and culture. He is the author of multiple books on that theme. In the early 1980s he initiated a journal called INDHER (Indian Heritage) to educate children of Indian origin living beyond the shores of India on aspects of their culture and heritage. Out of the articles in this journal grew two books: "Glimpses of Indian Heritage," and "Satanama: Hundred Names from India's Past," both published by Popular Prakashan in India. He gave a series of lectures on Verses from the Bhagavad Gita of relevance to the Modern World, which were published later as "Nuggets from the Gita" by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He wrote a series of articles on Indian perspectives for India Abroad which are the basis of his "Reflections from Alien Shores," also a Bhavan's Book.

Since the 1990s Professor Raman has been very involved with the emerging academic field of Science and Religion. In this field he has published papers in ZYGON: the international journal on Science and Religion, as well as in SCIENCE AND SPIRIT. The following articles are relevant in this context: "Science and Religion," Connections and Contradictions, CHOICE July, August 1996; "Vedanta and Modern Science," International Vedanta Conference, January 1996, Madras; "Science in the face of religion and mysticism," World & I, October 1996; "Science and Religion: Some Demarcation Criteria," Zygon, September 2001; "Science and Spirit: A Hindu Perspective," Science and Spirit, November 1998; "Science and Humanism in the Modern World," Prajna Vihara: The Journal of Philosophy and Religion, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2001; "Which is More Dangerous? Science or Religion," Science and Spirit; "Science and Spirituality from a Hindu Perspective," Zygon, March 2002; and "Was heisst Kulturelle Differenz?" in Die Macht der Diffetenzen, Hermeia, Band 4.

Over the years, Raman has been a member of the Calcutta Mathematical Society, American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, Philosophy of Science Association, History of Science Society, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. He has served on the Editorial Board of The (American) Physics Teacher. He has served as the President of various cultural/social organizations including The Interfaith Forum of Rochester, The India Community Center of Rochester, The Bengali Association of Rochester, the Rochester Tamil Sangam which he founded, The Martin Luther King Commission of Rochester, The METANEXUS Institute on Science and Religion, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.

He was elected the 2004-2005 METANEXUS Fellow on Science and Religion, in which capacity he delivered six lectures at the Hillel Hall of the University of Pennsylvania on Indic Visions in an Age of Science.

He is currently writing a web column entitled "Reflections on Remote Roots," which is widely circulated to people of Indian heritage in many parts of the world. It is another grand survey of various aspects of Indian heritage and culture with deep insights. The erudition and intelligent understanding of our brilliant past (and present) in India and also of other human cultures he displays in that column are impressive indeed.

To those who know him from close, Raman is also an intelligent and inspired prankster. This unusual but charming facet of his that arises from his great sense of humor reminds one of Krishna. Listening to Raman is always an educational experience. Conversing with him is always a pleasant event. It is impossible to come in contact with this person without coming away awed, inspired, and warmed. The enormous work that Raman has done even in his 'retired' years is definitely deserving of the Raja Rao award.

Prof. Nitant Kenkre