Astrophysicist Yash Pal, who was ‘Turning Point’ for many aspiring scientists, is no more


Prominent astrophysicist Professor Yash Pal died on Monday night at Noida due to age-related illness. He was 90. Yash Pal is known for his yeoman job in the field of cosmic rays and high energy physics. He was an ardent educationalist who was admired by children due to his programmes that articulated tough subjects in simple terms. His programme “Turning Point” on Doordarshan was very popular. Yash Pal made noteworthy contributions over the years in areas of cosmic rays, high energy physics, astrophysics, science education and communication. Yash Pal was awarded Padma Vhushan in 1976 and Padma Vibhushan in 2013. Yash Pal was the chairman of University Grants Commission between 1986 and 1991 and the Secretary Department of Science and Technology in 1984-86. Yash Pal was honorary fellow of several organisations like Indian National Science Academy, Indian Academy of Science and Indian Society of Astronautics. He was on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He was awarded the INSA award for science popularisation in 2000. Yash Pal played major roles in developing institutions like Space Development Centre, Ahmedabad, Nuclear Science Centre, New Delhi and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune. In October 2011, Yash Pal was awarded the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for excellence in public administration, academics and management.

Yash Pal was born in the year 1926 in Jhang, now in Pakistan. He grew up in Pai, Kaithal, Haryana and graduated with a master’s degree in physics from Punjab University in 1949 and received a PhD degree in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958. Yash Pal started his career at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) Mumbai as a member of Cosmic Rays group. He went for his PhD from TIFR and returned back to TIFR to remain there till 1983. In 1972 when the Government of India started its Department of Space Yash Pal took charge as the first Director of Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad. Yash Pal involved in school education from the 1970’s onwards with his revolutionary Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme. In 1993, Human Resource Development Ministry of the Indian government set up a National Advisory Committee to look into the issue of overburdening of school children and made Yash Pal as its Chairman. The report made by this committee called “Learning without Burden” is now a decisive document in Indian education.