Venkatraman Radhakrishnan

Venkatraman Radhakrishnan

Venkatraman Radhakrishnan (18 May 1929 – 3 March 2011), was an internationally renowned Radio Astronomer and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He was Professor Emeritus of the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India, where he had been Director from 1972 to 1994.

Early Life

Radhakrishnan was born on 18 May 1929 in Tondiarpet, Madras to Nobel laureate physicist Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman and his wife Lokasundari Ammal.

Sir CV Raman and wife Lokasudhari Ammal, father and mother of Venkatraman radhakrishnan
Father Sir CV Raman and Mother Lokasudhari Ammal Image credit: Videograb via

Young Radhakrishnan had a deep fascination with all sorts of devices and vehicles.

Education and Career

Venkatraman Radhakrishnan completed his early schooling in Madras and graduated from Mysore university in 1950 with a BSc in physics.

He started his career as a researcher in the department of physics at the IISc(Indian Institute of Science), followed by a brief stay at the British Acoustic films, a UK based company focused on research on sound to improve film equipment.

Radhakrishnan joined the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden as Research Assistant during 1955-58, where he became fluent in Swedish. 

At age 26 he was Senior Research Fellow during 1959-64 at CIT( California Institute of Technology, USA). Here, Radhakrishnan worked at Owens Valley Radio Observatory, focusing on the polarisation of radio waves and radio interferometry.

In 1965, Radhakrishnan moved to the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)  Division of Radio Physics in Sydney, Australia and worked to understand hydrogen in the universe.

He also worked on understanding atomic hydrogen in the Milky Way.

His team worked on understanding pulsars and considerably helped in understanding the working behind neutron stars.

Radhakrishnan’s work made him one of the world’s leading experts on pulsars.

He carried out detailed surveys on the intergalactic space map, besides studying a huge variety of pulsars.

Raman Research Institute
Raman Research Institute (Source)

Radhakrishnan was invited to work at RRI (Raman research institute) in 1970. He joined as a director in 1972 and rapidly built a reputation for RRI for scientific research, especially in his field of radio astronomy.

Eventually, he brought RRI to the very top of the ladder in terms of radio science.

He was a part of several scientific communities including the IAU(Indian astronomical union)

Radhakrishnan: “Sailor-At-Heart”

A few months before his demise, he would set sail to circumnavigate the world, on the ‘El da mer‘ named in honour of his wife Mrs Francoise-Dominique Barnard.

He started sailing on 12 March 2008 from Goa, India to Salalah, Oman with Devvart Rana, Mahalaxmi Bhobe and Keith Dunstan. This leg of the trip, which was meant to be 7–10 days long, ended after 27 days due to sea conditions, with the Omani Navy finally coming to the rescue of this “sailor-at-heart” scientist on 7 April 2008.

Awards and Accomplishments

Amsterdam University conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 1996.

He was the recipient of several awards like Gujarmal Modi Award (2003), M P Birla Memorial Award (2005), Sir Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Award.

Venkatramana Radhakrishnan passed away due to cardiac complications, two months before his 83rd birthday, on 3 March 2011.

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