Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra RaoFRS, also known as C. N. R. Rao (born 30 June 1934), is an Indian chemist who has worked mainly in solid-state and structural chemistry. He has honorary doctorates from 60 universities from around the world, and has authored around 1,600 research publications and 51 books. He is described as a scientist who had won all possible awards in his field except the Nobel Prize.
C.N.R. Rao was born in a Kannada Madhva Brahmin family in Bangalore to Hanumantha Nagesa Rao and Nagamma Nagesa Rao. His father was an Inspector of Schools. He was an only child, and his learned parents made an academic environment. He was well versed in Hindu literature from his mother and in English from his father at an early age. He did not attend elementary school but was home-tutored by his mother, who was particularly skilled in arithmetic and Hindu literature. He entered middle school in 1940, at age six. Although he was the youngest in his class, he used to tutor his classmates in mathematics and English. He passed lower secondary examination (class VII) in first class in 1944. He was ten years old, and his father rewarded him with four annas (twenty-five paisa). He attended Acharya Patashala high school in Basavanagudi, which made a lasting influence on his interest in chemistry. His father enrolled him to a Kannada-medium course to encourage his mother tongue, but at home used English for all conversation. He completed secondary school leaving certificate in first class in 1947. He studied BSc at Central College, Bangalore. Here he developed his communication skills in English and also learnt Sanskrit.
After completion of his graduate studies Rao returned to Bangalore in 1959 to take up a lecturing position, joining IISc and embarking on an independent research program. The facility at the time was so meager that he described it, saying, "You would get string and sealing wax and that's about it." In 1963 he accepted a permanent position in the Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1964. He returned to IISc in 1976 to establish a solid state and structural chemistry unit. and became director of the IISc from 1984 to 1994. At various points in his career Rao has taken appointments as a visiting professor at Purdue University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and University of California, Santa Barbara. He was the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor at the University of Cambridge and Professorial Fellow at the King's College, Cambridge during 1983–1984.
Rao is one of the world's foremost solid state and materials chemists. He has contributed to the development of the field over five decades. His work on transition metal oxides has led to basic understanding of novel phenomena and the relationship between materials properties and the structural chemistry of these materials.
Rao was one of the earliest to synthesise two-dimensional oxide materials such as La2CuO4. He was one the first to synthesise 123 cuprate, the first liquid nitrogen-temperature superconductor in 1987. He was also the first to synthesis Y junction carbon nanotubes in the mid-1990s. His work has led to a systematic study of compositionally controlled metal-insulator transitions. Such studies have had a profound impact in application fields such as colossal magneto resistance and high temperature superconductivity. Oxide semiconductors have unusual promise. He has made immense contributions to nanomaterials over the last two decades, besides his work on hybrid materials.
He shares co-authorship of more than 1600 research papers and has co-authored or edited more than 50 books.
Rao with his wife established the CNR Rao Education Foundation using the Dan David Prize money. The foundation is based in Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and offers Best Science Teacher Award to pre-university and high school science teachers.
Rao established the International Centre for Materials Science (ICMS) which offers the C N R Rao Prize Lecture in Advanced Materials since 2010.
Rao is married to Indumati Rao in 1960. They have two children, Sanjay and Suchitra. Sanjay works as a science populariser in schools around Bangalore. Suchitra is married to Krishna N. Ganesh, the Director of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Pune, Maharashtra. Rao is technophobic and he never checks his email by himself. He also said that he uses the mobile phone only to talk to his wife.
In 1987, Rao and his team published a series of four papers, of which three were in the Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences (Chemical Science), Pramana, and Current Science, all published by the Indian Academy of Sciences. A report was submitted to the Society for Scientific Values that the three papers had no mention of the dates of receipt, which were normally explicitly mentioned in those journals. Upon inquiry, it was found that the paper manuscripts were actually received after the date of publication, indicating that they were backdated. The society declared the case as "Use of Wrong Means to Claim Priority."
Rao has been subject of allegations on plagiarism. Rao and Saluru Baba Krupanidhi at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, with their students Basant Chitara and L. S. Panchakarla, published a paper "Infrared photodetectors based on reduced graphene oxide and graphene nanoribbons" in the journal Advanced Materials in 2011. After publication the journal editors found sentences copied verbatim in the introduction and methodology from a paper published in Applied Physics Letters in 2010. According to Nature report, it was Basant Chitara, a PhD student at IISc, who wrote the text. An apology was issued by the authors later in the same journal. Rao said that he did read the manuscript and that it was an oversight on his part as he focused mainly on the results and discussion.
Scientists such as Rahul Siddharthan (Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai), Y.B. Srinivas (Institute of Wood Science and Technology), and D.P. Sengupta (former professor at IISC), agreed that the plagiarised portion has no bearing on the findings, yet Siddharthan opined that the reactions made by Rao and Krupanidhi were overboard. Rao and Krupanidhi publicly blamed Chitara, and denied the publication as not a plagiarism. Rao had commented, "This should not be really considered as plagiarism, but an instance of copying of a few sentences in the text." He even extended the blame to Krupanidhi asserting that he had no role in it as it was written by Krupanidhi without his knowledge. His claims were not justified by the fact that he was the senior scientist and corresponding author in that publication.
More allegations of instances of plagiarism in articles co-authored Rao have been reported. Written with S. Venkataprasad Bhat and Krupanidhi, Rao's paper in 2010 about the effect of nanoparticles on solar cells in Applied Physics Express contains texts that are very similar to those of a paper by Matheu et al. from Applied Physics Letters in 2008, which it did not even cite. Rao had stated, referring to the 2011 incident, that "[If] I have ever stolen an idea or a result (in) my entire life, (then) hang me." But Rao's article contains similar study to and duplicated figures with that of Matheu et al. An article in the Journal of Luminescence in 2011, written with Chitara, Nidhi Lal and Krupanidhi, contains 20 unattributed lines which appear to be copied from articles by Itskos et al. in Nanotechnology (June 2009 issue) and Heliotis et al. in Advanced Materials (January 2006 issue). Another article in Nanotechnology, written also with Chitara and Krupanidhi, uses six lines from the 1995 article by Huang et al. in Applied Physics Letters.
Rao was given a Bharat Ratna by Government of India in spite of the controversy and was active as a Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR). In December 2013, brother and sister Tanaya Thakur, a law student, and Aditya Thakur, a class XII student, filed a public interest litigation in Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench, to challenge Rao's Bharat Ratna. They asserted that "a scientist with proven cases of plagiarism shall not be presented the highest civilian award." But the court ruled them out as "filing pleas for publicity." There was another plea to revoke the award in 2015, but the Central Information Commission dismissed the petition.
On 17 November 2013, at a press conference following the announcement of his Bharat Ratna, he called the Indian politicians "idiots" that caused a national outrage. He said, "Why the hell have these idiots [politicians] given so little to us despite what we have done. For the money that the government has given us we [scientists] have done much more." In his defence Rao insisted that he merely talked about the "idiotic" way the politicians ignore investments for research funding in science.
^Rao, C. N. R.; Cheetham, A. K. (23 November 2001). "[No title found]". Journal of Materials Chemistry. 11 (12): 2887–2894. doi:10.1039/b105058n.
^Rao, C N R; Cheetham, A K; Thirumurugan, A (27 February 2008). "Hybrid inorganic–organic materials: a new family in condensed matter physics". Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. 20 (8): 083202. doi:10.1088/0953-8984/20/8/083202.
^ abBasant Chitara; L. S. Panchakarla; S. B. Krupanidhi; C. N. R. Rao (2011). "Infrared Photodetectors Based on Reduced Graphene Oxide and Graphene Nanoribbons". Advanced Materials. 23 (45): 5419–5424. doi:10.1002/adma.201101414. PMID21786342.
^Chitara, Basant; Panchakarla, L. S.; Krupanidhi, S. B.; Rao, C. N. R. (1 December 2011). "Apology: Infrared Photodetectors Based on Reduced Graphene Oxide and Graphene Nanoribbons". Advanced Materials. 23 (45): 5339. doi:10.1002/adma.201190182.
^Bhat, S. Venkataprasad; Krupanidhi, S. B.; Rao, C. N. R. (22 October 2010). "A Comparative Study of the Effect of Metallic Au and ReO 3 Nanoparticles on the Performance of Silicon Solar Cells". Applied Physics Express. 3 (11): 115001. Bibcode:2010APExp...3k5001B. doi:10.1143/APEX.3.115001.
^Matheu, P.; Lim, S. H.; Derkacs, D.; McPheeters, C.; Yu, E. T. (15 September 2008). "Metal and dielectric nanoparticle scattering for improved optical absorption in photovoltaic devices". Applied Physics Letters. 93 (11): 113108. Bibcode:2008ApPhL..93k3108M. doi:10.1063/1.2957980.