Professor Rajesh Kochhar, an astrophysicist turned historian of science is at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali,Punjab. He is the President of International Astronomical Union Commission 41 on History of Astronomy, 2012-2015 and Co-convenor of the Panjab University Ruchi Ram Sahni 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations Committee. He is currently working on a research project funded by Indian National Science Academy, and titled ’Advent and growth of science awareness and education in British India’.
Kochhar obtained his M.Sc. Honours School in Physics in 1967 and Ph.D. in 1973, both from Panjab University, Chandigarh, where he began his career as a lecturer. He was a Professor at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, in 1999, when he moved over to New Delhi to take charge as Director NISTADS: National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi (CSIR). He has been Professor of Pharmaceutical Heritage in NIPER: National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Government of India), Mohali. At NIPER he was additionally in charge of Communication and Soft Skill Programme.
Professor Kochhar has published original research in a number of fields :history and sociology of science & technology; science and education policy; ancient Indian history; and modern astronomy and astrophysics. His papers and articles have been well-cited by researchers; policy and opinion makers; as also by the on-line Wikipedia. His views have been sought and published by magazines like Science and Nature as also by BBC Radio.
He has lectured extensively in India and abroad including Harvard, Cornell, University of Texas at Austin, Belfast, Brighton, Royal Dublin Society ,Tubingen,Copenhagen University and National Museum Copenhagen.He has delivered a number of commemorative lectures including the 67th J.C. Bose Memorial Lecture, the first lecturer in the series being Rabindranath Tagore. Professor Kochhar has been a Jawaharlal Fellow, a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer, a Visiting Scholar at University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science; and honorary professor of History of Science and Technology at National Institute of advanced Studies, Bangalore. He is the recipient of National Academy of Sciences India’s Professor R. C. Gupta Endowment History of Science Lecture Award for the year 2006. He was the chairman of the University Grants Commission team that assesses the tenth five year plan requirements of Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. He is the national representative for teaching of astronomy, at International Astronomical Union. As Director NISTADS, Professor Kochhar focused the Institute work on societal, economic and environmental aspects of technologies in the globalization era, while he personally led the program on action research on rural development.
Professor Kochhar has been interested in various aspects of Modern Science and the Non-West in historical and contemporary contexts. As a conceptual framework for historical studies Professor Kochhar has enunciated a Principle of Cultural Copernicanism according to which no cultural, geographical or ethnic group or area can be deemed to constitute a benchmark for evaluating or judging others. This Principle thus manifestly rejects Eurocentrism as well as anti-Eurocentrism. Professor Kochhar has endeavored to develop and popularize a Trans-Cultural Civilizational Perspective whereby modern science is seen not as Western science but as the current phase of a human cultural cumulus to which contributions at different times have come from different parts of the world.
Armed with deep historical insights Professor Kochhar is particularly sensitive to the contrary pulls operating in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic work places that are so characteristic of today’s globalized world.