Scientist Prof C N R Rao expressed “complete surprise” on Saturday at being conferred the Bharat Ratna. “I came to know of it at Trivandrum airport but could not believe it until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to me over phone,” he told reporters here.
He added that he owed the award to his hard work and to his wife, family and young people who worked with him.
With 60 honorary PhDs to his credit over a career going back more than 50 years, Professor Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao said: “In India, if you work hard you will get major results.”
The scientific community welcomed the award to Rao, 79.
“He is one of the best scientists the country has produced in independent India, and he richly deserves it,” former Indian Space Research Organisation chairman K Kasturirangan told PTI.
“Dr Rao’s work is not only limited to the field of material science and nanotechnology, but he has contributed towards the growth of overall science in this country,” former president of the Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research M S R Rao said. C N R Rao is the founder and honorary president of the centre.
Rao is the third scientist to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, earlier conferred on C V Raman and former president A P J Abdul Kalam.
After studying abroad, Rao had returned to Bangalore in 1959 to join the Indian Institute of Science as a lecturer on a monthly salary of Rs 500.
Rao has made immense contributions to nanomaterials over the last two decades, besides his work on hybrid materials.
He has worked mainly in solid-state and structural chemistry.
His work on transition metal oxides led to basic understanding of the novel phenomenon, and the relationship between material properties and structural chemistry of these materials.
The author of around 1,500 research papers, and known to have written and edited 45 books, Rao is also the recipient of the Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan and Karnataka Ratna, the state’s highest civilian honour.
Two years ago, he was involved in a plagiarism-related controversy.
In December 2011, Rao apologised to ‘Advanced Materials’ — a peer-reviewed journal — for reproducing text of other scientists in his research paper.
Rao’s collaborator and the other senior author of the paper, Professor S B Krupanidhi, had accused a co-author PhD student at IISc for the mistake.