Padma Shri Prof Predhiman Krishan Kaw, a Kashmiri born scientist, father of nuclear fusion passed away on June
20 at the age of 69. Prof Kaw was known as the father of India’s nuclear fusion reactor research programme.
Prof Kaw was the founder director of Institute for Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhi Nagar. The institute catapulted India to being one among the seven member entities that is building the world’s largest fusion experiment — the US $ 14 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
Prof Kaw also served as the first chairman of the ITER Council Science and Technology Advisory Committee and led the committee’s deliberations from 2007 to 2009.
Prof Kaw was a researcher at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad in its new plasma division in 1982, after working under John Dawson of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, US.
In 1986, Kaw began a full-fledged institute that spearheaded the establishment of a national magnetic fusion program in Ahmedabad, founding the Institute for Plasma Research and playing a leading role in gaining international recognition for the national program.
He began building India’s first Tokamak fusion reactor ‘Aditya’ which continued into the Steady State Tokamak reactor (SST-1).
His colleagues at IPR remember how he used to spend 10 to 12 hours a day managing the institute and in the evening dedicated his time for plasma physics.
Prof Kaw had an unusual childhood. He was an extraordinary student and was home schooled by his uncles and grandfather. He passed his MSc at the age of 16 from MMH College in Ghaziabad and later joined IIT-Delhi and was awarded the premier institute’s first PhD at the age of 18.
Recently, Prof Kaw was named the 2015 laureate of the Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar Prize for outstanding contributions in the field of plasma physics.
Prof Kaw has authored some 308 research papers. Among the 15 awards and fellowships he had won in his lifetime Kaw cherished the SS Bhatnagar award he received in 1986 and the Indian National Science Academy’s Young Scientists Award of 1974, which was conferred on him by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Prof Kaw would always say to his students: “As young physicists of this country you should think very seriously about taking an opportunity to develop some areas of science for your country.”
Prof Kaw’s brother M K Kaw founded the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). – M Raafi.