Some people carry a vision so powerful that even after they are dead and gone, the momentum of the idea carries itself forward. Jamsetji Tata was one such visionary and his idea of “university of science” was one such vision. It was presented to the new viceroy Lord Curzon in 1898, the day after his arrival in
In September 1898, Jamsetji announced an offer that astonished men of his day. He decided to set aside fourteen of his buildings and four land properties in
What was Jamsetji’s vision? He felt – what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members as to lift up the best and most gifted so as to make them the greatest service to the country. According to the original plan – the university was destined to promote original investigations in all branches of learning and to utilize them for the benefit for
How difficult would it have been for the new CEO to summarily reject the seemingly wild idea? However, an experiment was conducted to validate the doubts raised by Curzon. Secretary of state for
Later Curzon appointed a committee to draw up a “less ambitious plan” susceptible to expansion according to circumstances. He asked the committee to submit a scheme whose annual expenditure will be limited to £10,000; £2000 of which will be provided by Govt. of India for 10 years. Jamsetji’s endowment alone provided £8000 a year. Jamsetji died in 1904. Finally, in 1905, Lord Curzon gave the green light to Dorab Tata by agreeing that government would meet half the cost. Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was born in 1909 and was operational in 1911 with three departments – General and Applied Chemistry, Electro-technology Chemistry and Organic Chemistry. The first Director M. W. Travers was a student of William Ramsay.
Jamsetji was an amazing visionary. At the same time, I also appreciate Lord Curzon for being open to validating his doubts and Prof. Ramsay for carrying out a truthful experiment.
Sources: The creation of wealth by R. M. Lala, Indian Institute of Science: the first hundred years by Prof. Srinivasa Ranganathan.