Prof Roddam Narasimha (1933-2020): A Tribute

Photo: Souvik Mandal

Prof Roddam Narasimha was a distinguished alumnus, former faculty member and Chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at IISc.

He joined the Department of Aeronautical Engineering (now the Department of Aerospace Engineering) at IISc for a two-year diploma (equivalent to a Master’s degree) in 1953 and worked on fluid mechanics under Prof Satish Dhawan. He then moved on to the California Institute of Technology to complete his PhD. In 1962, he returned to IISc as an Assistant Professor in the same department, and went on to serve as its Chair from 1983 to 1984. In 1982, the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences (now the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences or CAOS) was set up at IISc with him as the Convenor.

Prof Narasimha has made outstanding contributions to the fields of aerospace and fluid dynamics. He is renowned for his studies on the transitions between laminar and turbulent flows, shockwave structure, fluid dynamics of clouds, near-surface temperature distributions and eddy fluxes in tropical atmospheric boundary layers. He conceived and led MONTBLEX, the country’s first major attempt to understand the Indian summer monsoon.

Prof Narasimha has also made significant contributions to national aeronautics programmes. In 1984, he was appointed as the Director of the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bengaluru. At NAL, he oversaw the development of carbon composite wings and flight control systems for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), as well as the development of India’s first parallel computer. He also served as the Director of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) from 1997 to 2004.

Prof Narasimha has served on the National Security Advisory Board and the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, as well as the Space Commission. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Engineering and the US National Academy of Sciences. He received not one but two Padma awards (Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan), as well as the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize. He has also been a recipient of the IISc Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Prof Narasimha will be greatly missed by the Institute community.