It is rather ironic that Presidency College,the place where Matscience was born exactly 50 years ago, is in the news today for student clashes!

“So the miracle has happened,” said Professor Alladi Ramakrishnan as he rose to speak on 3rd January 1962. The event was the inauguration of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Madas, better known as Matscience today. This took place at the Presidency College, the building in which several educational institutions of the city had taken birth. And declaring Matscience open was Prof S Chandrasekhar, FRS, later to become a Nobel laureate.

It had indeed been a miracle. The idea for such an institute had first come to Prof Alladi Ramakrishnan at Kyoto in Japan where at Yukawa Hall, “young Japanese physicists, the hope and pride of their country gathered together in enlightened leisure to discuss the most abstruse problems of modern physics.” Back in India, he set in motion the process of obtaining official sanction. And when that took its time, he began informally creating an atmosphere for such research at his own residence – the sprawling Ekamra Nivas, from where his father the legendary Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar had practised his legal profession. A subsequent visit to the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, served to strengthen his resolve.

In this effort he was greatly encouraged by C Subramaniam, Minister for Finance and Education, Government of Madras. CS arranged for a meeting with Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, which took place at the Raj Bhawan on 8th October. The PM asked Ramakrishnan if he really felt that such an institute was necessary and on receiving an emphatic yes promptly agreed to be its patron. And thus Matscience was born.

In his speech Chandrasekhar characteristically decried the Indian tendency to make anything and everything bureaucratic, and hoped that Matscience would remain free of “hierarchical disease.” He hoped that the kind of atmosphere needed for those devoted to research would be obtained there. Soon visiting professorships, in the names of Neils Bohr and Srinivasa Ramanujan were instituted. The Institute also pioneered the concept of a summer school with an international faculty, the first of which was held at the TVS Guest House in Kodaikanal.

Matscience is now a national institution coming under the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India and is located in a verdant campus in Taramani. Several researchers have qualified from here. It would be relevant to point out here that this institution dedicated to mathematics is turning 50 when the 125th birth anniversary of Ramanujan is being observed all over the world.

This story appeared in The Hindu today but I am unable to trace the weblink.