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Remembering Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, a name that resonates with scientific excellence and pioneering contributions in the field of Indian science. Born on February 21, 1894, in Bhera, Punjab (now in Pakistan), Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar went on to become one of India’s most renowned scientists. His exceptional work and dedication have left an indelible mark on the scientific community, making him a revered figure even today.

Early Life and Education

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar completed his early education in Punjab and later pursued his higher studies at the University of Punjab. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Science from Forman Christian College, Lahore. Recognizing his academic brilliance, he was awarded a scholarship to study abroad. Bhatnagar traveled to England and enrolled at the University of Cambridge to pursue his doctoral studies in chemistry. Under the guidance of renowned chemist Sir James Irvine, he completed his Ph.D. in 1921. During this time, he conducted significant research on the analysis of essential oils and their chemical composition.

Postal stamp in honour of Dr Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar. (Source: government of India)
Postal stamp in honour of Dr. Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar. Source: Wikipedia, used under Government of India Open Data License.

Significant Contributions and Achievements

Upon returning to India after completing his studies, Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar embarked on a remarkable journey that would shape the course of Indian science. Here are some of his significant contributions and achievements:

Establishment of CSIR

One of Bhatnagar’s most notable achievements was the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1942. As its first Director-General, he played a pivotal role in shaping India’s scientific landscape by fostering research and development across various disciplines.

Pioneer of Chemical Research

Bhatnagar made substantial contributions to chemical research during his career. His extensive work on industrial chemistry led to advancements in areas such as petroleum refining, coal utilization, and the development of synthetic fibers. His research on the extraction of sugar from sugarcane juice using activated charcoal is still considered groundbreaking.

Founder of National Laboratories

Bhatnagar was instrumental in setting up several national laboratories in India. He established the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune, which became a hub for chemical research and innovation. Additionally, he played a key role in founding the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in New Delhi and the National Metallurgical Laboratory (NML) in Jamshedpur.

Scientific Societies and Academies

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar actively promoted scientific collaboration and knowledge-sharing by establishing various scientific societies and academies. He founded the Indian Chemical Society, which continues to thrive as a platform for chemists across India. He also served as the President of the Indian Science Congress Association.

Recognition and Legacy

In recognition of his exceptional contributions to science, Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar received numerous accolades during his lifetime. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian honors, in 1954. The Government of India also instituted the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology in 1958 to honor outstanding Indian scientists.


Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar’s legacy as a pioneering scientist continues to inspire generations in India and beyond. His relentless pursuit of scientific excellence, establishment of research institutions, and significant contributions to various fields have had a profound impact on Indian science. Today, we remember him not only for his remarkable achievements but also for his unwavering commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and fostering innovation.