ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan has been chosen in the top ten scientists of the world in 2014 by prestigious Nature journal, while European scientist Andrea Accomazzo, who is behind the Rosetta comet landing is also named in the list.
Others in the list include Suzanne Topalian, cancer combatant, Radhika Nagpal, a robot maker, Sheik Humarr Khan, the Ebola doctor, David Spergel, a cosmic sceptic, Maryam Mirzakhani, a surface explorer, Pete Frates, the Ice-bucket challenger, Masayo Takahashi, a stem-cell tester, and Sjors Scheres, a structure solver.
“Radhakrishnan knew the odds were against him when India’s Mangalyaan space probe closed in on Mars this year. As head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), he was well aware that half of all attempts to reach Mars have ended in failure,” said Nature journali citing ISRO chief’s challenge to undertake successfully the Mars Orbital Mission.
When Mangalyaan entered successfully into Mars orbit on 24 September, India joined the elite group of nations with the ambition and technical capability to explore the Solar System, it noted.
Radhakrishnan, in his 43 years as an engineer and manager at the ISRO, took up diverse projects from developing remote-sensing satellites to setting up India’s tsunami-warning system. The Mars mission was a gamble. “The Mars mission was a slightly more joyous occasion,” he says, while playing down his own role. “I was like a conductor of an orchestra,” he told Nature.
Intrestingly, for the first time Nature has named two Indians in the list of achievers and Radhika Nagpal, a robot maker, who led an engineering research team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts to achieve a milestone in biology-inspired robotics, taking cue from ants, bees and termites.
Nagpal’s group devised a swarm of 1,024 very simple ‘Kilobots’ of few centimetres wide and tall, moved by shuffling about on three spindly legs and working together, an unimaginable feat, according Alcherio Martinoli, a roboticist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Nagpal’s approach to achieve swarm behaviour among robots “is, to me, extremely powerful and something other people should follow”, he said.
Nagpal who once hated biology has been upbeat about the Nature works. “Looking at biology makes me think differently about computer science,” she says.