It is with great joy that we present a collection of essays written in
honour of Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, who completed 60 years of age on
July 19, 1998, by his friends and colleagues, including several of his former
students. Jayant has had a long research career in astrophysics and
cosmology, which he began at Cambridge in 1960, as a student of Sir
Fred Hoyle. He started his work with a big bang, expounding on the
steady state theory of the Universe and creating a new theory of gravity
inspired by Mach’s principle. He also worked on action-at-a-distance
electrodynamics, inspired by the explorations of Wheeler, Feynman and
Hogarth in that direction. This body of work established Jayant’s reputation
as a bold and imaginative physicist who was ever willing to
take a fresh look at fundamental issues, undeterred by conventional wisdom.
This trait, undoubtedly inherited from his teacher and mentor,
has always remained with Jayant. It is now most evident in his untiring
efforts to understand anomalies in quasar astronomy, and to develop
the quasi-steady state cosmology, along with a group of highly distinguished
astronomers including Halton Arp, Geoffrey Burbidge and Fred
Hoyle. In spite of all this iconoclastic activity, Jayant remains a part of
the mainstream; he appreciates as well as encourages good work along
conventional lines by his students and colleagues. This is clear from the
range of essays included in this volume, and the variety and distribution
of the essayists.
After a long stay in Cambridge, Jayant moved to the Tata Institute
of Fundamental Research in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1972. There he
inspired several research students to work in gravitational theory and its
many classical and quantum applications to cosmology and astrophysics,
and established collaborations with his peers, which led to a fine body
of work over the next 15 years. But perhaps his most enduring contribution
of this period was to forge a link between distinguished relativists in India, and the younger generation of aspiring researchers.
This has led to the formation of a warm and congenial community, spread
throughout the country, working in relativity, cosmology and theoretical
astrophysics. During this period Jayant also worked hard at the popularization
of science, through the press, television and most importantly
through talks to ever increasing audiences. This not only exposed people
to good science, but it also helped to establish Jayant as one of the
public figures of science in India. Jayant has used his formidable reputation
and influence, developed during this period, for the advancement
of science in India, always in a very quiet manner.
In 1988, inspired and aided by Professor Yashpal, then Chairman of
the University Grants Commission, Jayant set up the Inter-University
Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pune. Through this centre
he has been able to open up for the university community avenues for
excellent research in these areas. Jayant’s broad vision, and his readiness
to encourage every shade of opinion and to bring out the best in his
colleagues, has enabled IUCAA to develop an international reputation.
The centre is now seen as an example of how the energies of the research
institutes and universities in India, usually considered disparate, could
be harnessed together to excellent effect.
It is the general practice to list, in a volume of this kind, the scientific
and other works of the person it seeks to honour. The list in the
present case would have been rather unusually long, and we have therefore
decided, in consultation with Jayant, that we will enumerate only
his scientific books. These expose much of the work he has presented
elsewhere in the form of research papers and review articles. They also
present highly readable and often pedagogic accounts of modern astrophysics,
and will surely continue to be read for a long time to come.
Amongst the works that we will leave unlisted will be his contributions
to the annals of science fiction, which have helped much to endear him
to the general public. In this matter too Jayant has followed in the steps
of Fred Hoyle.
posted Apr 20, 2018, 5:34 AM by Shifu RC