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Rajagopala Chidambaram

Rajagopalan Chidambaram
Chidambaram at the 2008 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Born (1936-11-12) 12 November 1936
Chennai, Tamil Nadu,
British Indian Empire
Residence New Delhi, India
Nationality India
Fields Metallurgy
Institutions Atomic Energy Commission (India)
Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai
Department of Atomic Energy
International Atomic Energy Agency
Defence Research and Development Organisation
Indian Institute of Technology
University of Hyderabad
Alma mater University of Madras,
Indian Institute of Science
Known for

Nuclear weapons programmme

Notable awards Padma Shri (1975),
Padma Vibhushan (1999)

Rajagopala Chidambaram (born 12 November 1936, PhD), is an Indian metallurgist who is known for his integral role in India's nuclear weapons program; he coordinated test preparation for the Pokhran-I (1975) and Pokhran-II (1998).

Currently serving as the principal scientific adviser to the federal Government of India, Chidambaram previously served as the director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)— and later as chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of the Government of India and he contributed in providing national defence and energy security to India. Chidambaram was chairman of the board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) during 1994–95. He was also a member of the Commission of Eminent Persons appointed by the Director-General, IAEA, in 2008 to prepare a report on "The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond".

Throughout his career, Chidambaram played a key role in developing India's nuclear weapons, being a part of the team conducting the first Indian nuclear test (Smiling Buddha) at Pokhran Test Range in 1974. He gained international fame when he led and represented the team of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) while observing and leading efforts to conduct the second nuclear tests in May 1998.


  • Academic life 1
  • Nuclear program 2
  • As Principal Scientific Adviser 3
  • Awards and honours 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Academic life

Chidambaram completed his early education in Meerut and Chennai, completing his B.Sc. with honors in physics, having stood first rank at the departmental and the university level of the Madras University in 1956. After enrolling in master's program, Chidambaram taught introductory physics laboratory courses and obtained M.Sc. in physics, writing a fundamental thesis on analog computers from the same institution, in 1958. He was accepted for the doctoral programme of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and was awarded the PhD in Nuclear Physics in 1962. His thesis contained the research work on the development of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, and was conferred with the Martin Forster Medal for the best doctoral thesis submitted to the Indian Institute of Science. Chidambaram is a versatile scholar, interest first in physics but later allied himself with metallurgy. After graduating, his interest in nuclear physics diminished and his research interest in physics did not kept him motivated to contribute in his field. Instead, Chidambaram found himself interested in material science and metallurgy, writing scientific articles which later played an influential role in the development of modern materials science. His contribution to the enhancement of metallurgy and material science led him to be conferred with a D.Sc., in metallurgy and material science by the IISc after submitting his doctoral thesis on experiments which he conducted at IISc. He has been conferred doctoral degrees in metallurgy by eight Indian universities.[1] After the test of the nuclear device at Pokharan in 1974, Chidambaram started ‘open research' in the area of high pressure physics. For this a complete range of instrumentation such as diamond anvil cells, and gas-gun for launching projectiles were indigenously built. He also laid the foundation of theoretical high-pressure research for calculation of equation of state and phase stability of materials by first principles techniques. The papers published by his high pressure group are also well cited. The one on ‘Omega Phase in Materials’ is considered a textbook by researchers in Condensed Matter Physics/ Materials Science.

Nuclear program

After receiving his doctorate in metallurgy, Chidambaram joined the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan, Chidambaram was part of a team of scientists who participated in and supervised India's first nuclear test, codename Smiling Buddha, and was one of the scientists who were honoured by Indian Premier Indira Gandhi. Finally, in 1990, Chidambaram became Director of the BARC Atomic Energy Commission. His key participation in the design and successful execution of Operation Smiling Buddha saw him leading the DAE team of Operation Shakti in 1998. As the director of BARC, he initiated the development of super-computers, which now have multi-teraflop speed capability. During his chairmanship of the Atomic Energy Commission, he accelerated the development of nuclear power. Upset by the secret manner in which the test was conducted,[2][3] and given his instrumental role in the test, Chidambaram was not positively reciprocated when he approached the US for a visa to attend the 1998 annual conference of the International Union of Crystallography, of which was the vice-president, which was followed by his withdrawal of the visa application.[4][5]

As Principal Scientific Adviser

Currently Chidambaram is the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory to the Cabinet of the Federal Government. Some of his initiatives as Principal Scientific Adviser, including the setting up of the Core Advisory Group for R&D in the Automotive Sector (CAR) to increase academia-industry interaction, the creation of RuTAGs (Rural Technology Action Groups) for effective need based technology delivery in rural areas, the establishment of SETS (Society for Electronic Transactions and Security), are making significant impact. During the last few years, he helped conceptualise and supervised, along with National Informatic Center, the setting up of the high-speed 'National Knowledge Network' to connect about 1,500 educational and research institutions in India. He has emphasised the need for 'Coherent Synergy' (a phrase he has coined) in India's Science & Technology (S&T) efforts to take India on a sustained fast-growth path. He has also focused on the importance of 'Directed Basic Research' as an addition to (not a substitute for) self-directed basic research.

Awards and honours

Chidambaram is the recipient a number of awards and honours. The Indian Government acknowledged his contribution to the successful nuclear tests by awarding the IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay, the Materials Research Society of India, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the International Union of Crystallography. In early 2008, the IAEA invited Chidambaram to be a member of the "Commission of Eminent Persons", for making recommendations to the Board of Governors, regarding long-term priorities and funding.[6]


  1. ^ "Profile of Dr. Rajagopala Chidambaram". Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  2. ^ "Pokaran-The U.S. Intelligence Failure". Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  3. ^ "India blasts take U.S. intelligence by surprise". Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  4. ^ "US denies visa to AEC Chairman". Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  5. ^ "US denies visa to AEC Chairman - Debate in Parliament". Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  6. ^ "R. Chidambaram in IAEA Panel". Retrieved 2008-10-21. 

External links

  • Information page at the Technology Information Forecasting & Assessment Council
  • Profile at zoominfo
  • Home Page of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India
  • The May 1998 Pokhran Tests: Scientific Aspects
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