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Nobel galaxy at science meet

A galaxy of six Nobel laureates and an Abel winner, along with a host of other distinguished names from the world of science, will descend on the city to take part in the 100th Indian Science Congress from January 3 to 7.

The centenary session of the congress — the focal theme is “Science for shaping the future of India” — will be hosted by Calcutta University, along with other institutions like Bose Institute and the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics. The first science congress was held at Asiatic Society from January 15 to 17, 1914, under the presidentship of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee, the then vice-chancellor of Calcutta University.

Among the Nobel laureates to attend the centenary congress is Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, an India-born structural biologist who will attend the inaugural session and be given a special award. “He will deliver several talks at the Bose Institute and at a cluster of institutes in Kalyani,” said Sibaji Raha, the director of Bose Institute and secretary of the Indian Science Congress Association.

Ramakrishnan had shared the 2009 Nobel prize in chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath. He now works at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

Samuel C.C. Ting from the US, the main architect of physics experiments in the international space station, will talk on particle physics “in the environment of the international space station”. Ting had shared the physics Nobel in 1976 with Burton Richter for discovering a subatomic particle.

Yuan Tseh Lee, a former president of Academia Sinica of Taiwan, will speak on sustainable transformation and future Earth. He had won the chemistry Nobel in 1986 with John C. Polanyi and Dudley R. Herschbach “for their contribution to the dynamics of chemical elementary processes”.

Scottish mathematician James A. Mirrlees, who won the economics Nobel in 1996 with William Vickrey, will speak at the Ramanujan session. He has taught at Cambridge, Oxford and MIT and is now Distinguished Professor-at-Large of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and University of Macau.

Japanese chemist Ei-ichi Negischi from Purdue University, best known for his discovery of the Negischi coupling, was awarded the 2010 Nobel in chemistry along with Richard F. Heck and Akira Suzuki. He will talk on the wonder of transition metal, past, present and future.

R.K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Nobel-winning Interplanetary Committee on Climate Change, will chair a session on Sustainable Knowledge and Climate Change.

Indian-American mathematician S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan, who was awarded the Abel Prize (the Nobel equivalent in mathematics) in 2007 and is famous for his contribution to the probability theory, will attend the inaugural session and the Ramanujan session.

Apart from the Nobel laureates and the Abel winner, CERN chief Rolf-Dieter Heuer; the chief of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Horst Stocker; and several fellows of the Royal Society, including the Noble Foundation Chair and Regents Professor of physics at Oklahama State University, Girish Agarwal, and the director of Climate Change at MIT, Ronald Prinn, will attend the congress.

The sessions have been named after Meghnad Saha, J.C. Bose, S.N. Bose, Ramanujan, Homi J. Bhaba and P.C. Mahalanobis. “The centenary session of the Indian Science Congress proposes to engage the attention of the scientific community to discuss, debate and deliberate the best ways of harnessing science for shaping the future of India,” said Raha.

The first technical session after the inaugural session will have the Prime Minister and his policy makers deliberate on the focal theme.