For over three decades from the 1970s Dr M G K Menon rode the Indian science scene like a colossus. This scientist was deeply involved in the making of scientific policies even amidst the rich contribution he was making as a scientist and scholar; he functioned as a Member of Parliament, a Member of the Planning Commission for seven years, also as Minister of State for Science & Technology in the VP Singh government and worked earlier as Secretary in the Departments of Electronics, Environment and Science & Technology.
Menon took his doctorate from the University of Bristol at the young age of 25. He was a widely acknowledged physicist in the field of cosmic rays and particle physics. Homi Babha spotted him and invited him to join the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). Later he became Director, TIFR and shifted to Delhi as Secretary, Department of Electronics.
Menon had the rare distinction of functioning simultaneously as Chairman of ISRO, in the National Physical Research Laboratory in addition to heading TIFR and the Department of Electronics.
His work also extended to defence research when he functioned as Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister and later as Director General, CSIR and Secretary, Department of Science & Technology.
Quite articulate, Dr Menon used to make lucid explanations on scientific issues and the need for focus on research in his addresses at the Economic Editors’ Conferences.
From saving the Silent Valley of his own state of Kerala to the evolution of India International Centre as a veritable think-tank, Dr Menon was deeply involved in nurturing the scientific temper.
Menon also had the rare distinction of heading the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy and National Academy of Sciences and extended his expertise to the Third World Academy of Sciences. (Notice the Indian penchant for creating multi-bodies for every discipline? More the merrier!). He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.