doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.92 Published online 25 July 2017
India's space science community received another shock today (25 July 2017) with the passing away of Yash Pal, just a day after the death of U R Rao, former director of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Pal was 90.
Scientist, academician and science communicator all rolled into one, Pal became the first director (in 1973) of Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC), one of ISRO's major units focusing on design of all payloads for its space missions.
Recipient of the civilian awards Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan for his outstanding contribution to science and space technology, Pal served as Secretary to the Department of Science, as Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and chairman of the University Grants Commission.
Born in 1926 in Jhang district of British India that is now in Pakistan, Pal received his Master's degree from Punjab University and PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and held the position of professor at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.
Yash Pal became a household name in the 1990s because of his informative and highly popular weekly science programme called 'Turning Point', the longest running science serial ever broadcast on the national television network Doordarshan. Easily recognisable with his flowing white hair, the cosmic ray physicist made science simple through his shows which fetched Doordharshan international awards and Pal the coveted UNESCO Kalinga Prize in 2009 for popularisation of science.
Pal had also served as a member of the UN Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development and as a member of Scientific Council, International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. He received the Association of Space Explorers Award in 1989.