Indians are making a lot of money; it is all over the news. Corporate houses are merging and splitting, changing hands and making it to Fortune 500 lists. But is any of this money channelled to scientific research - to drive the innovation that has the capacity to transform the nation? Unlike many institutes abroad, Indian research centres are largely dependant on government grants and there is limited philanthropic funding. Well aware of this situation, Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, Chairperson and CEO of the Symphony Technology Group is determined to make a change. In 2000 he established the Wadhwani Foundation, which will distribute 80% of his wealth to welfare and development projects. As announced during his recent visit to our campus, the beneficiaries now include Indian research institutes such as NCBS and Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.
I was honoured to be among the people who had dinner with Dr. Collins after his talk at NCBS. The students of NCBS, ever-voracious consumers of knowledge kept him busy with their questions till faculty came to his rescue. I managed to steal a few minutes from them for the interview.
István Hargittai is a professor of chemistry at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Member of several academic councils across Europe, he is also a noted science historian who has interviewed over a hundred Nobel laureates and written several well-received books. Hargittai visited NCBS during September 2011 for the first set of talks in the Science and Society series. He talked about 'Scientific, moral and ethical battles in the making of a nuclear world' which emanated from his recent book The Martians of Science. The book tells the story of five Hungarian scientists who escaped to the United States of America during World War II. Their immense contribution to science influenced the creation of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Hargittai's talk at NCBS focused on Edward Teller, the father of the American hydrogen bomb, and the moral and ethical questions that arose when the first atomic bomb was made.
Hargittai is a man with a bag full of stories - and incredibly interesting ones, which he is always ready to share. I had the honor of interviewing him, and here are some of those tales.