Born on 26th November, 1926, in Jhang, in undivided Punjab, Dr. Yash Pal was an Indian scientist, educator, science communicator and educationist. After completing his M.Sc. degree in Physics from Panjab University, he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his PhD. His areas of specialisation included cosmic rays.
Dr. Pal started his career at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). While at TIFR, He also joined the government’s ambitious space program and was appointed as the first Director of Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad in 1973. Later on, recognising his passion for education, he was appointment as the Secretary General of the Second United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, was a member of the Planning Commission, and Secretary, Department of Science and Technology. He then became the Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC) during which he played an instrumental role in setting up Inter-University Centres, a seed from which institutes like Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) emerged.
Dr. Pal also served on various panels and committees dedicated to science and technology development. Being an educationalist, he also served as the Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). As a science communicator and advocate, Dr. Pal is famous for his appearance on the science Turning Point aired on Doordarshan. The program was an attempt at explaining scientific concepts in layman's language. He also contributed to the English daily, The Tribune, by answering readers’ question on science.
His contributions to the society were recognised in the form of many awards and honours bestowed on him. Among the many, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1976. In 2009, he received the Kalinga Prize, awarded by UNESCO for the popularisation of science. He was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2013.
An avid opposer of unscientific beliefs and superstitions, Dr.Pal was an atheist. On 24th July 2017, at the age of 90, he died due to age related illnesses and in his death, India lost a great scientist, educationalist and science communicator.