Indian Science Congress: Idea of 2 UK chemists lands in Mysuru again promising S&T push

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M

Mysuru, Dec 12: The Indian Science Congress (ISC) is hitting Mysuru for the second time, the first being in 1982 under the leadership of legendary physicist Prof M G K Menon.

Post-Dasara celebrations, Mysuru city has again being decked up to host top brains from the world of Science and Technology (S&T) for the 103rd Indian Science Congress (103ISC), to be held here from January 3-7.

Indian Science Congress

Interestingly, the idea for this international movement came from two British chemists. The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA), headquarted in Kolkata, duly credits the origin of the movement to Prof J L Simonsen and Prof P S MacMahon - both leading chemists of their times.

ISCA records veal that Prof Simonsen and Prof MacMahon strongly felt that scientific research in India might be stimulated only through an annual meeting of research workers.

They wanted the then yet-to-be-named on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Among the primary missions envisaged by the duo were: to promote the cause of science in India, to hold an annual meet in India, to publish journals from the meet and to manage funds for promotion of science.

"It's inspiring to see that the ISC has grown over the years and we have crossed 100-plus sessions now. It has been a long journey for the Congress from the first one held at the Asiatic Society premises in Calcutta in January 1914," says Prof N B Ramachandra, Local Secretary for 103ISC.

[Read: Mysuru races ahead to host 103rd Indian Science Congress]

According to him, the success of various sessions held across different cities every year, was mainly due to the inspiring philosophies adopted by the organsiers.

"It's a sort of carnival for the large network of scientists across India. The idea of embedding the culture and traditions of each host city adds value to the event. This year with the University of Mysore (UoM) celebrating its 100 year, the 103ISC will get more attention," says Prof Ramachandra, a top brain in the area of Genetics.

For the record, 105 scientists attended the first ISC in 1914 and 35 papers were presented then. Today, with over 10,000 members, over 5000 speakers are expected to be presenting papers at 50 different venues in Mysuru.

S&T can remove national barriers: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Narendra Modi, who caught the attention of the scientific fraternity at the 102ISC in Mumbai early this year, is scheduled to inaugurate the event on January 3, 2016.

In his historic Mumbai speech this year, his first one at ISC after taking over as the PM, Modi said that S&T is an invaluable ally in governance and development.

"Science may be the product of human brain. But, it is also driven by the compassion of human heart - the desire to make human life better. S&T has helped reduce poverty and advance prosperity; fight hunger and improve nutrition; conquer diseases, improve health and give a child a better chance to survive; connect us to our loved ones and the world; spread education and awareness; and, given us clean energy that can make our habitat more sustainable," Modi said in 2014.

He said that S&T can also remove national barriers, unify the world and advance peace. It can bring nations, rich and poor, in a shared effort to address global challenges.

"Whenever the world shut its door on us, our scientists responded with the zeal of a national mission. When the world sought our collaboration, they reached out with the openness that is inherent in our society," he said.

PM's speech to set the tone for S&T activities

Regulars at the ISC are eagerly waiting for PM's statement and read the mind of a government that has made many promises to push S&T in India.

"There's a lot of hope pinned on his speech and normally that's what sets the pace for the S&T activities every year. Mere talking about taking the benefits of S&T to rural areas will not help. Action on ground matters," says a retired professor of UoM, now part of the volunteer group.

While post Mumbai speech, the government launched many scientific missions, New Delhi's approach towards dealing with the Central Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has offended many scientists.

The CSIR remained without a permanent DG for a long time and many of its projects are stuck mid-way for wants of funds from the government.

Responding to a query from OneIndia in April this year, Union Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the S&T research is meaningless, if it doesn't get connected to the people.

[Read: Union minister Harsh Vardhan seeks white paper on civil aircraft project, NAL activities]

"I am of the opinion that we need to re-orient our research. The CSIR needs to definitely take a fresh look at the activities they have been doing in the last six decades," the minister had said.

Mysore Palace

Photos, courtesy: ISC Organising Wing

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with University of Mysore, he is a Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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