The New Leam pays homage to Professor Yash Pal (1926-2017). He was a gifted scientist known for his path-breaking work in cosmic rays physics. He was guided by the spirit of scientific enquiry; he was an institution-builder; and above all, he was a great educationist with immense sensitivity to pedagogy, cultural fineness and civilizational issues. In a way, he was an embodiment of the oceanic flow of knowledge traditions.
Friends, what is science? Is it merely a dispassionate/apolitical/technical exercise? Do scientists come from a different planet–not affected by the flow of humanism, cultural dynamics, political turmoil and civilizational intricacies?
Yes, these days, we often see a crudely instrumental approach to science. Not solely that. Science is often equated with the spectacles of technology. Seldom does one see beyond a technically defined/narrow fragment of absurd specialization. However, as a group working in the field of education, we believe that science is above gross technical/engineering mentality. Science has a spirit– a spirit of wonder, curiosity and reflexive enquiry. A gifted scientist is ethically and culturally sensitive.
See the life-trajectory of Professor J.C. Bose–the comfort with which he walked through the trajectory of life-sciences, mythology and civilizational tales. See Professor S. N. Bose’s fascination with literature and music. And above all, think of Albert Einstein’s spiritual/metaphysical wonder. In a way, Professor Yash Pal represented this tradition. Possibly the euphoria of the Nehruvian age with a mentor like Homi Bhabha played an important role in the making of the phenomenon called Professor Yash Pal.
His Ph.D in MIT/USA; his contributions to the making of Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune–Indian science is filled with the stories of his achievements . But then, he was a great teacher–an educator who knew the art of communication. One could recall the popular TV programme TURNING POINT–the way he generated an interest in science, educated the public, and taught us the art of seeing/understanding/explaining the natural phenomenon around us.The Yash Pal Committee Report on children’s education , we believe, is a great reminder; it is a protest against what we see all around–burdened childhood, forceful learning, and death of innocence. His sensitivity to education, pedagogy and children’s psychology would remind one of another great scientist Professor D.S. Kothari.
As the Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University he played a remarkably great role; he was like a great grandparent with wisdom, clarity, conscience and love for the new generation of teachers across disciplines. Some of his speeches were profound. One would feel the fragrance of the era he saw as a young student–the cultural landscape that Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore created.
A true tribute to Professor Yash Pal, The New Leam believes, is to remind the new generation that science is humane, a creative endeavor, a philosophic act, a cultural production. At a time, when foundational science and humanities are devalued in our educational institutions, and commerce/business/market-oriented technology are worshipped as a fetish, it is important to recall a sensitive scientist-philosopher like Professor Yash Pal, and realize that civilization prospers when a scientist and a philosopher begin to converse.