M. K. V. Bappu: A biographical essay

Rajesh Kochhar

Manali Kallat Vainu Bappu ( 19 Aug. 1927-10 Aug. 1982) can truly be called the modernizer of optical astronomy in India. He came of age at a time when India had just gained independence. Idealism and nationalism permeated the whole atmosphere and foreign training was seen as an aid towards institution building back home. Bappu was the first full-time director of Uttar Pradesh State Observatory, Naini Tal, where he served from 1954 till 1960. He then took over as the director of Solar Physics Observatory, Kodaikanal, under India Meteorological Department (IMD). In 1968 he set up an additional stellar observational facility in Kavalur in Javadi Hills, Tamil Nadu, and finally overcoming stiff opposition from the parent department succeeded in 1971 in converting the Kodaikanal Observatory into an autonomous Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA). Interestingly, once the creation of IIA as an autonomous institute became unavoidable, IMD yielded with good grace and suggested that the new institute carry a befitting name; the suggestion of the name IIA came from IMD.

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