Origin and Aspirations

Madras, the home of Sri Ramanujam, whose contributions to Mathematics are well-known internationally, is also the home of late Mr.C. Rajam, the Founder of the Madras Institute of Technology. On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee, it is but appropriate to look back and review the progress of the Institute and its role in the development of our country.

With the dawn of Independence, the need for establishing a sound technological basis for proper industrial advancement of the country was realised. Towards the fulfilment of this need, a number of Engineering Institutions were established by several State Governments. It was at this juncture that Mr. Rajam, with his characteristic pioneering spirit, patriotic fervour and unwavering enthusiasm came up with a munificent donation of Rs. 5 lakhs through the sale of his house and founded the M.I.T., with the blessings of the Sage of Kanchi, the Jagadguru Sankaracharya Swamigal. In this noble effort, Mr.Rajam enjoyed the inspired assistance of a few distinguished citizens, notably Messrs.Subbaraya Aiyar, M.K. Ranganathan, L.Venkatakrishna Iyer, K.Srinivasan and C.R. Srinivasan and also generous donations from the public and industries. Thus in July 1949, the M.I.T. was established as an All India Technological Institution with the two-fold object of providing (1) Engineering education of University standard in specialised fields and (2) Facilities for research in these and allied fields, free from regional limitations both in regard to its staff and students.

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Unique Experiment

At a time when all other Engineering Institutions were offering conventional courses in Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the Under-graduate level, it was the rare genius and foresight of Mr. Rajam that impelled him in the evening of his life to launch on a bold experiment of introducing for the first time in our country, totally new areas of specialisation in Engineering, viz. Aeronautical Engineering, Automobile Engineering, Electronics Engineering and Instrument Technology, the entrants to these disciplines being Science graduates. This was a pioneering step in engineering education in India. How wise and far-seeing this selection was, is shown by the striking growth that India has made in road transport and in the manufacture of road vehicles of all types; in the progress of civil and military aviation and the manufacture of military aircraft; and in the enormous growth in the applications of electronics and the electronics manufacturing industry. Instrumentation and Control which form the bedrock of industry did not exist in India as a subject of study in 1949; even the name was still below the horizon. Now this branch of applied science and technology has become all important in every industry, small or big, light or heavy. How useful and relevant trained manpower in these fields has been, is borne out by the fact that a significantly large number of the past students of M.I.T. are now holding key positions in research and development organisations, manufacturing industries and educational institutions within the country and abroad. The broad-based curriculum at the M.I.T. has indeed proved to be particularly advantageous with the ever-increasing need for engineers adequately equipped to handle a wide range of problems.

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Humble Beginnings and Herculean Efforts

The Institute owes its present stature to the unstinted efforts and dynamic leadership of its Founders, Chairmen and Members of the Governing Council, Directors, Staff and Alumni and also, in no small measure, to the quality and character of its students during the last 50 years.

Moments of 1949

Late Rao Bahadur M.K. Ranganathan, Retd. Chief Engineer, P.W.D. Composite Madras State, took up the challenge of building up the Madras Institute of Technology as its first Director. Those were trying times and the finances of the Institutes were at the lowest ebb. Mr. Ranganathan toiled day and night to get the necessary support from the Central and State Governments. He secured the services of distinguished foreign Professors as the Heads of the Faculties to plan the curriculum and develop the Laboratories. By his own example, he was able to inspire the staff of the Institute to render devoted service. He approached the appropriate authorities and with the limited finances available, obtained equipment from the Second World War disposals to set up the various Laboratories required for instructional purposes. He impressed upon the Government of INdia the need for support to the INstitute as a consequence of which a Visiting Committee headed buy Sir Lala Sri Ram was appointed to go into the working of the Institute. This Committee recommended Governmental support to the Automobile, Electronics Engineering and Instrument Technology Faculties of the Institute. By the time the first batch of students completed the course, Rao Bahadur Ranganathan secured the recognition of the diplomas by the Central and state Governments and other bodies. The Institute had the honour of the First Convocation Address being delivered by our beloved Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

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Moments of 1954

March from the Past to the Present

The late Mr. N. Srinivasan, a specialist in the field of Aeronautical Engineering and former Dy. Chief Designer, Hindustan Aircraft Ltd., Bangalore took over as Director of the Institute in 1954. With his valuable experience in the U.S.A. and in this country, Mr.Srinivasan was able to forge ahead using to good purpose the solid foundation laid by his predecessor. He submitted detailed proposals and obtained sanction for the further development of the Faculty of Aeronautical Engineering. Mr. Srinivasan was very much concerned with the welfare of the students and staff and took necessary measures to improve the amenities in the campus. He was the Architect who established the M.I.T. Athenaeum, a student organisation for extra-curricular activities.

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Moments of 1960

Prof. K. Sreenivasan, former Professor and Head of the department of Electrical Communication Engineering and Acting Director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, took over as the third Diretor of the Institute in 1960. Convinced that the under-graduate courses were sufficiently consolidated, Prof. Sreenivasan, a leading Communications Engineer and a devoted teacher, turned his attention to the starting of post-graduate courses as a first step to fulfil the second objective of the Institute, viz., promotion of Research and Development activities. P.G. Courses affiliated to the University of Madras were started in the Faculties of Aeronautical Engineering and Electronics Engineering. The implementation of the recommendations of the Reviewing Committee appointed by the Government of India in 1963 and the successful financial agreement between the Centre and the Tamil Nadu Government took place during his tenure as Director.

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Moments of 1971

Prof. K. Sreenivasan was succeeded by Prof. T. Krishnan as Director of the Institute in 1971. A specialist in the field of Radio Astronomy, he inspired the staff of the Faculty of Instrument Technology to set up a laser with the help of the Central Instruments Organisation of the Indian Institute of Science, bangalore. Prof. Krishnan also submitted detailed proposals to the State Planning Commission for the setting up of advanced research, development and testing centres in the fields of Instrument Technology and Automotive Engineering with the active collaboration of these two disciplines of the Institute.

Till 1960, the M.I.T. had on its staff several German and American SCientists --Prof. W.Repenthin for Aeronautical Engineering, Prof. R. Filipowsky for Electronics Engineering, Dr. R. Wallauscheck for Instrument Technology. Under the Technical Co-operation Mission Scheme of the Government of the U.S.A., Prof. W.R. Hill of Washington University was Visiting Professor of Electronics Engineering during 1957-58. Under the Bilateral agreement betweeen the Government of India and the Government of U.S.S.R., Prof. N.F. Alexeyev, Professor of Electronics in the Aviation Institute of Moscow was at the M.I.T. as an expert Professor of Electronics for two years. Dr. S.A. Patel of Brooklyn Polytechnic, New York, served as Visiting Professor in the Aeronautical Engineering Faculty. Under the UNESCO U.N.D.P. Programme, Dr. J.R.H. Perin served as an expert in Aeronautical Engineering for two years.

Equally with the instructional work for the students, the design and fabrication of equipment for research and development work has formed part of the activities of the institute. The Aeronautical Engineering Faculty has designed and built up with indigenous materials an open circuit subsonic wind tunnel for air speeds up to 350km per hour, a blow-down tunnel for speeds up to Mach 2.4 and an induction tunnel for speeds up to Mach 1.4. Among the Research projects sponsored by the C.S.I.R., mention may be made of the design and construction of a single seater Glider and a two-seater high performance Sail Plane by the Aeronautical Engineering Faculty, the design of an opposed Piston Engine and a Multi-fuel Engine by the Automobile Engineering Faculty; the development of Optical Flats, design and development of a Disc Recorder and Air Speed Indicators by the Instrument Technology Faculty; Investigations of the Ionosphere and the Generation of Milli-Micro Second Pulse Generator by the Electronics Engineering Faculty. Currently investigations are being carried out in the Aeronautical Engineering Faculty on three projects in the field of Aircraft Structural Mechanics, sanctioned by the Aeronautical Research and Development Board of the Ministry of Defence. Work is also being carried out on Upper Aeronomy and Ionospheric Studies, under sponsorship, in the Faculty of Electronics Engineering. In close, collaboration with M/s Toshniwal Industries, the Instrument Technology Faculty of the Institute is designing and fabricating prototype models of Electrical Torque Motors, Electromagnetic Flow Meters and X-Y Recorders.

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For more details/comments write to Prof. K.V. Narayanan kvn50@hotmail.com

Last updated on 22nd Feb, 1998
M K Saravanan, 48th Batch Elex, MIT, India