Renowned space scientist, educator Yash Pal dies at 90

Renowned space scientist and well known educator Professor Yash Pal passed away at his residence in Noida today morning. He was 90.

While the cause of death was not immediately known, he had reportedly recovered from cancer a few years ago.

Yash Pal, also known as Yash Pal Singh, was known for his contributions to the study of cosmic rays, as well as for being an institution-builder. He was also chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Founder-director of Isro's Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad, Professor Yash Pal was a pioneer in space applications.

A familiar face on TV, Professor Yash Pal was a great communicator on science. He became a cult figure because of the weekly science programme on Doordarshan called 'Turning Point', hosted by Girish Karnad.

He was the author of a major report, which argued for reducing the burden in the school bags for children.

In 2013, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian honour, for his contribution to science and space technology.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country has lost a brilliant scientist and academician. "Pained by Professor Yash Pal's demise. We have lost a brilliant scientist and academician who made a lasting contribution to Indian education," PM Modi said in a tweet.

The prime minister also shared his picture with the eminent scientist.

Professor Yash Pal was born in 1926 in Jhang, now in Pakistan, and was raised in Kaithal in what is now Haryana. He graduated from Punjab University with a degree in Physics in 1949.

The highly-regarded academic began his career at Mumbai's Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He was a member of the 'cosmic rays group'. He then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his PhD, after which he returned to the Tata Institute, where he remained until 1983.

In 2009, he received the Kalinga Prize, awarded by UNESCO for the popularisation of science.

Yash Pal was appointed by the government to several school and higher education reform committees. When the National Council of Educational Research and Training began work on the National Curriculum Framework, Yash Pal was roped in to chair its steering committee. In 2009, the human resources development ministry set up a committee on higher education - that came to be called the Yash Pal Committee - which Yash Pal chaired, to look into reforming higher education in the country.

He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2013.

Internationally, he was a member of the UN Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development, and was also a member of the Scientific Council, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste and Executive Committee and United Nations University.