JAMSETJI NUSSERWANJI TATA (1839-1904) was one of the extraordinary men who even towards the end of the nineteenth century was convinced that the future progress of this country depended crucially on research in Science and Engineering. He envisaged this University as destined to promote original investigations in all branches of learning and to utilise them for the benefit of India.
After consulting several authories in our country, he constituted a Provisional Committee to prepare the required scheme for the setting up of the Institute. On 31st December 1898, a draft prepared by the Committee was presented to Lord Curzon, the Viceroy-designate. The Secretary of State for India requested the Royal Society of England for an expert view, and the Royal Society requested William Ramsay, Nobel Laureate and discoverer of the noble gases, to help. He made a quick tour of the country and reported that Bangalore was a suitable place for such an institution. In order to finalise the scheme, Lord Curzon took advice of Prof Orme Masson of the University of Melbourne, and Lt Col Clibborn of the College of Engineering, Roorkee, who recommended Roorkee as a suitable area. However, on the initiative of the Dewan, Sir K Seshadri Iyer, the Government of His Highness Shri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore came forward with an offer of 372 acres of land, free of cost, in Bangalore and promised other necessary facilities. Thus the original scheme of Jamsetji Tata became a tripartite venture with the association of the Government of India and the Government of Maharaja of Mysore.
The report that emerged recommended that the Institute be devoted to experimental science and aim at training students in experimental methods; carrying out original research and discharging the functions of an accepted authority and referee on all scientific problems arising within its own domain'.
The constitution was approved by the Viceroy Lord Minto as Patron, and necessary Vesting Order was signed on 27th May 1909. The Council continues to be the principal authority governing the institute. It is assisted in the formulation of the academic policies of the Institute by the Court. The Director is the executive authority, and in the Management of the Institute he is assisted by the Senate and the Science and Engineering Faculties.
Early in 1911, the Maharaja of Mysore laid the foundation stone of the Institute and on 24th July the first batch of students were admitted to the Departments of General and Applied Chemistry under Norman Rudolf and Electro-Technology under Alferd Hay. Within two months, the Department of Organic Chemistry was opened. The architecture of the main building, which today houses the administration and the Faculty Hall, is in classical style, carried out in grey handsome tower which has become one of its landmarks of Bangalore. In front of it stands the work of Gilbert Bayes, a noble monument erected in memory of JN Tata.
At its feet is an inscription which will serve to remind future generations of the generosity of Jamsetji Tata and the persistence with which he worked for the welfare of India.
With the establishment of the University Grants Commission in 1956, the Institute came under its purview as a deemed university.
During the past eight decades many are the alumni and faculty who have gone out from this Institute to direct science and technology in the country, to create and nuture other laboratories and scientific institutions and to found key industries. C V Raman, H J Bhabha, Vikram A Sarabhai, J C Ghosh, M S Thacker, S Bhagavantam, S Dhawan, C N R Rao and scores of others who have played a key role in the scientific and technological progress of our country have been closely associated with the Institute. In fact, it is one of the Institutes having a large number of Bhatnagar awardees, Fellows of the Science and Engineering, National Academies and recipients of other distinguished national and international recognitions.
The Institue has been able to make many significant contributions primarily because of a certain uniqueness in its character. It is neither a National laboratory which concentrates soley on research and applied work nor a conventional University which concerns itself mainly with teaching. But the Institute is concerned with research in frontier areas and education in current technologically important areas. On account of its being a relatively small institution, it is able to innovate and introduce newer systems of imparting knowledge and educational reforms such as offering courses under a unit systems and also trying out methods of evaluation which are highly reliable.
This is also the first institution to introduce innovative Integrated Ph D Programmes in Biological, Chemical and Physical Sciences for science graduates and one of the few institutes which has introduced a four-year ME (Integrated) Programme at the post-B Sc level.
The Institute has pioneered many fields of activity like Aerospace, Communications, Electronics, Electrical, Mettallurgical and Chemical Engineering, Automation, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Materials Science, and Solid State & Structural Chemistry, and has acted as a reservoir from which the leadership and the manpower for the future scientific developments and industries can be drawn. Work has been taken up in several new emerging areas of importance, such as space science and technology, environmental and atmospheric sciences, endocrinology, genetic engineering, developmental studies in rural technology and energy problems.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research with organic links with the Institute is functioning on Campus.
The Council of the Institute confers Honorary Fellowship on eminent scholars and scientists and on those who have made noteworthy and lasting contributions to the cause of Science and Industry in India. Among the 25 recipients of this distinction are Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, M Visveswaraya, C V Raman, J R D Tata, Vikram A Sarabhai, Indira Gandhi and C N R Rao.
Besides formal education and research, the Institute has been playing an active part in offering, short-term educational and training programmes to scientists and technologists in service. The Continuing Education Programme covers a wide range of topics, and since these programmes are particularly organised with the assistance of the professional societies, the courses are popular. Over 1500 working scientists & engineers go through such courses every year.
In keeping with its aims and objects, the Institute has organised a Centre for Scientific and Industrial Consultancy and through this a significant amount of R&D work has been done on identified projects sponsored by industries. The knowhow generated in the Institute also has been transferred to industries. Transfer of technology has taken place in areas like low cost housing, and renewable sources of energy which are beneficial to common man. In a similar way, the facilities available at the Institute (like wind tunnels - low and high speed, water tunnel, major computational facilities and sophisticated instruments) have been helping both public and private sector industries and defence. There has also been a certain amount of social utilisation of work in biosciences, like the plant tissue culture of sandal wood, eucalyptus and teak wood, disease control in silk worms and nutritional value enhancement of rice strains. Some recent successful projects undertaken and completed included development of cryogenic equipment and vessels for advanced aircraft, nondescturctive testing of inaccessible active pressure vessels, fracture analysis of industrial and space launch vehicle components, seismic analysis of nuclear power stations and their elements, modelling of thermal environment of spacecraft, thermo-metallurgical modelling of steel industries, acoustic absorbers to reduce acoustic pollution in industrial environment and automobiles, and microbial techniques for gold extraction from mines. During the past decade (1984-1994) inspite of financial constraints, the Institute has extended its activities making significant contributions in several emerging areas.
In all these endeavours, the Institute strives to contribute to the scientific, academic and technological goals of our country, with a keen awareness of its noble tradition and the need for maintaining a high quality in all its activities.