A Zuihitsu Materials Indica




1. Materials in Antiquity

Zinc: There is indisputable evidence that elemental zinc was first produced in Zawar in the 13 th century AD using a “brinjal” shaped distillation vessel. This process was copied and exported to the UK by William Champion centuries later.

Wootz Steel: This high carbon steel was produced in South India and had a remarkable combination of strength and ductility. It was used to fashion the Damascus Swords. This is ranked as one of the four major metallurgical achievements of all mankind in antiquity.

Iron: Tribal methods of iron making continue to be practised. The rustless wonder of Iron Pillar is also celebrated, because it was the largest iron object until recent times

Bronze: The Dancing girl of Mohenjadaro was made by the lost wax process centuries before Benvenuto Cellini of Italy. The Chola icons draw our admiration. The bronze mirror of Aranmula is probably the first use of an intermetallic

Gold: India produced gold and valued it as much as the dynastic Egypt and the Meso-Americans. Curiously China did not share this passion

2. Eclipse – 15 th century- 19 th century

Following the voyage of Vasco de Gama India suffered an eclipse. Its fabled wealth such as the Bazars of Hampi in the Vijayanagar Empire drew the European colonizers.

The discovery of the paradigm governing Materials Science – Structure-Properties – Performance – is due to an European effort to unravel the mystery of Wootz Steel.

3 Twentieth Century Highlights

In his book on the Coming of Materials Science R W Cahn lists a few modern contributions. It will be an interesting exercise to enlarge it. Ranganathan reviewed Indian accomplishments (Trans IIM January 2001) with emphasis on metals. As indicators one can use SSB prizes, INSA Materials Science Prize and the MRSI Distinguished Materials Scientist Awardees. The list below is partial.

NSF, USA has recognized a general and pervasive strength of Indian material research. The establishment of labs by General Electric and General Motors is also a recognition of this strength. Is it comparable to Indian prowess in Software and drug design ? is a question begging for an answer. Of course what we are looking here for peaks in materials research.


C V Raman Founding Father of Solid State Physics and Materials Science according to Prof T Ko, -Raman Effect & Diamond
S Ramaseseshan Anomalous dispersion of X-rays
S Chandrasekhar Liquid Crystals- Discotic Type
A R Verma First direct observation of Dislocations, Polymorphism & polytypism
T V Ramakrishan Density Functional Theory


C N R Rao Transition metal oxides, HTSC, Crystal engineering
G R Desiraju Crystal Engineering
J Gopalakrishnan Soft Chemistry Routes
K J Rao Glass science


T R Anantharaman Rapidly solidified metals
P Ramachandra Rao Liquids and metallic glasses
S Ranganathan & K Chattopadhyay Decagonal Quasicrystals
R Krishnan &S Banerjee Zirconium – Physical Metallurgy
D Banerjee Discovery of new Ti-Nb-Al phase

P Rama Rao Fracture mechanism maps, Ultra High Strength Steel
Y V R K Prasad Processsing Maps
K A Padmanabhan Superplasticity
A H Chokshi Mechanical properties of Nanocrystals

P K Rohatgi Cast metal matrix composites


E C Subba Rao Zirconia transformations
R A Mashelkar Novel polymeric materials

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