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A C Muthiah – his munificent bequeaths to science

Recently the Belgian government honoured A C Muthiah with the award of Order of Leopold II for his long service as the Honorary Consul General of Belgium at Chennai. Muthiah functioned in this capacity for 25 years till Belgium established its consulate in Chennai a couple of years ago. Belgium (population 11.2 million and per capita income $ 40,456) is one of the six founder nations of the European Economic Community (EEC)in 1957. This prosperous country, at the heart of Europe, has the headquarters of the EEC and its Parliament. Belgium has been known for its precision machine tools, aerospace and steel industries.

For some two decades from 1970, SPIC in the joint sector was registering a frenetic pace of growth. In the  1970s and 1980s, under Muthiah’s leadership, SPIC set up a large number of industrial units – Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals, Tamil Nadu Petroproducts, Manali Petrochemicals, SPIC Heavy Chemicals, SPIC Pharma, SPIC Electronics, Mac Industries... Their fortunes declined in the post-1991 liberalisation era.

Muthiah was different from the usual crop of business leaders of the state. With a liberal endowment for science, he set up the SPIC Science Foundation (SSF) and assembled a strong team of scientists and managers under Dr S Parthasarathy. Stalwarts like M D Nair and C S Seshadri functioned as part of SSF. I remember

Muthiah making a munificent grant of Rs 2 crore for the Centre for Biotechnology of the Anna University to stimulate research in the emerging area of biotechnology.

The Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI) founded and nurtured by Muthiah, has evolved into a premier institution with liberal support from Shriram Group’s

R Thyagarajan, who has bequeathed Rs 15 crore of his own funds and those of his close associates. Cognizant’s Vice Chairman Lakshmi Narayanan, who had joined CMI as a trustee, is further endeavouring to expand the corpus. Infosys has provided Rs 30 crore for the CMI.

The renowned mathematician C S Seshadri, who moved to Chennai from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), obtained for CMI generous funding from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Human Resources Development.  Remember Rajeeva L Karandikar who was presented by CNN-IBN as an expert in analysing pre-election polls of the 2014 general elections conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)? He heads CMI as Director and referred to the thrust areas of CMI as data analytics, computer science and theoretical physics, apart from striving to excel in under-grad and PG education in mathematics.

The luxurious facilities created at the Siruseri complex are in need of additional space. CMI is looking for land for expansion and also to expand the corpus to Rs 100 crore dreamed by RT to take it among global level research and teaching institutions in the fundamental science of mathematics. More of this later.


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