Renowned Indian astrophysicist who popularized science, Thanu Padmanabhan dead

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Eminent Indian theoretical physicist and cosmologist Thanu Padmanabhan died in Pune, aged 64, on Friday after a massive heart attack, The Hindu reported.

Professor Padmanabhan moved to Pune in 1992 and began his long and fruitful association with the city-based Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) where he became a Distinguished Professor and served as Dean, Core Academic Programmes, from 1997-2015.

A colossus in the realm of Indian astrophysics, Professor Padmanabhan’s influence at the IUCAA was second only to the great Jayant Narlikar, emeritus professor at the IUCAA.

A prolific writer and science populariser, Professor Padnamabhan authored several books which have become the standard texts, including the comprehensive three-volume Theoretical Physics (2000), the hugely accessible After the First Three Minutes: The Story of our Universe (1998), and a masterful exposition of quantum theory for the layman titled Quantum Themes: The Charms of the Microworld (2009).

Along with his wife Vasanthi, Professor Padmanabhan also authored the popular Dawn of Science (2019), a lively 24-chapter history of science whose narrative arc stretched from antiquity to the age of Newton that was translated into Chinese, Portuguese and Polish.

Notable among his many awards was the Infosys Science Prize, which was given to him in Physical Sciences by the Infosys Science Foundation in 2009.

In addition to being an adjunct faculty at several IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research) across the country, Professor Padmanabhan served in various capacities at institutes abroad: he was the Sackler Distinguished Astronomer of the Institute of Astronomy (IoA), Cambridge, U.K.; Visiting Faculty at Princeton University, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge; and the Pauli Center/ETH in Zurich.

He is survived by his wife and daughter Hamsa Padmanabhan, who is a Scientific Collaborator and principal investigator of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Ambizione Grant at the University of Geneva, said The Hindu.

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