Born On: September 9, 1898
Born In: Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh, India
Died On: June 20, 1972
Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was one of the greatest physicists of 20th century India. His work in spectroscopy led to the development of the Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance in Physics. Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao is also known for his long association with the Andhra University in which he served as professor of Physics and subsequently, became the Principal of all the colleges under the institution. Apart from his role as physicist, Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao has always been known as a nationalist for his simple tastes in lifestyle and clothing. In spite of being professionally successfully, family was the first priority for Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao. He always wore khaddar and loved the company of people. And this is why Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao is known not only as a physicist but also a delightful companion.
Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was born on September 9, 1898 in a Hindu Brahmin family residing in the small town of Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh. His father was a post master in various cities across the state of Andhra Pradesh. He was a very devout Hindu who followed religious rites with the utmost care. Being a Brahmin, Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was deeply influenced by religion and had to practice vegetarianism. Young Rao attended the Maharaja High School in Vizianagaram till he completed his fifth standard studies in the year 1906. His subsequent years of schooling till the completion of his intermediate examinations in the twelfth standard took place in a number of schools including the London Mission High School, the Hindu High School, the C B M High School and the A V N College.
The family was settled in Tamil Nadu and Rao was forced to undertake the B A degree in Physics in the year 1920 in college as a B. Sc degree was unheard of in Madras University during his college days. Rao completed his masters in Physics in 1923 from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. Meanwhile, in the same year, when Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was a 25 year old, his mother Ramayamma passed away. Once Rao earned a D. Sc degree after completing his research paper from Madras University, he was selected as part of a group of students to be sent abroad to complete their studies by the Andhra University in the year 1928. The opportunity to travel abroad for completion of his studies opened new doors in the career of Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao.
In the year 1924, when Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao was completing his research to earn the D. Sc degree from Madras University, he joined hands with research scholar A L Narayan to set up a high quality spectroscopic laboratory in India. Dr Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao's aim was to build such a laboratory which would be equipped to conduct the most effective researches in the field of spectroscopy in the future. However, he and his partner had very low dispersion and low resolving power of constant deviation, small quartz and medium quartz spectrographs. There were no funds to purchase the alternative. Therefore, it was Dr Rao who took the initiative to travel to Calcutta. He arrived at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Calcutta and continued his research on spectra in visible and ultraviolet regions.
In the year 1928, Dr Rao was sponsored to be sent to England for further studies by the Andhra University. From 1930 to 1932, he conducted a research on atomic spectra at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London under the guidance of Professor A Fowler. He was awarded a D. Sc degree from London University at the end of two years. In the year 1930, Dr Rao also traveled to European countries Germany and Sweden to explore the possibilities of research in spectroscopy in the countries. He worked under Professor F Paschen of the Physikalische Technische Reichsanstalt in Berlin, Germany for six months. Rao then visited Upsala, Sweden to study vacuum spectroscopy under the guidance of Professor Manne Seigbahn.
It is said that his interest in the field of spectroscopy was so high that Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao built a vacuum spectrograph spending his own money and had it installed in Potsdam, Germany. Dr Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao subsequently returned to India to start research work on the nuclear quadrupole resonance in the laboratories of the Andhra University. He was appointed the Principal of the Andhra University colleges in the year 1949, a post that he held till the year 1957. He was also the special officer managing the establishment of the Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupathi in 1954. He later became the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the Andhra University from 1966 to 1972.
Professor Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao's contribution to the world of physics in general and spectroscopy in particular is immense. He remains one of the most respected physicists in India and around the world. Some of the notable contributions made by Kotcherlakota Rangadhama Rao are: