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Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science

Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science is the first national science association of India. It was founded by Dr mahendralal sircir, the eminent scientist and legendary Homepath in 1876 after floating a campaign from 1867. The Government did not support it and even a vocal section of public opposed it. Their demand for a technical institute challenged Mahendralal's idea of an institute of scientific research. Mahendralal wanted to create a pool of trained Indian scientists for national reconstruction. A larger section of Indian notables contributed to its funds generously and in a historic meeting at the Senate Hall in 1876, many prominent men like Father Lafont, rajendralal mitra and keshab chandra sen supported the cause in their speeches. The opponent leaders of the Indian League ultimately retreated and Lt Governor Temple gave his nod to the formation of a science association. Right from the beginning, it was to be an autonomous institution funded, controlled and managed by the Indians. Dr Mahendralal Sircir was its first director and he held that post till his death in 1904. It was located at 210, Bowbazar Street, Calcutta.

Mahendralal's dream was to make the IACS similar to the Royal Institute of London where higher researches in science would be undertaken. For that purpose, the Maharaja of Vizianagram set up laboratories from donations. The scientists trained there would be the first generation in 1ndia to supervise the economic development. For this reason, basic faculties of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physiology, Geology, Botany etc were opened. All eminent scientists like jagadish chandra bose, PN Bose, asutosh mookerjee, Girindra Sekhar Bose, Tara Prasanna Roy etc of the day were associated with the departments during the life-time of Mahendralal Sircir and his son and successor Dr Amritalal Sircir. The other stream was planned as a course of lectures in popular science.

This was meant for common people and students who wanted to know about basic sciences. Mahendralal himself, Father Lafont and other members of the faculty gave the demonstration lectures throughout the years. About a hundred such lectures were arranged and students from different colleges of Calcutta apart from the general public attended them. The attendance on an average came to three hundred. The IACS was nicknamed the Private College of Science. The course played a pivotal role in popularising science in Calcutta and its neighbourhood. Though this programme was very successful, Mahendralal lamented that funds were not forthcoming for creation of a few chairs for advanced study in science. He thought that his life's mission had not been fulfilled. But after his death the IACS made significant contribution to higher scientific research in the first half of the 20th century, From the 20s came CV Raman who was succeeded by KS Krishnan and then came meghnad saha. They all made epoch-making contribution to physics. Sir CV Raman went on to become a Nobel Laureate. The IACS remains a premier national institute of science in India today. [Chittabrata Palit]