M.K. Vainu Bappu Biography

M.K. Vainu Bappu is the man behind the inception of the Indian Institute of Astro-Physics. One of the greatest astronomers of India, Vainu has contributed much to the revival of optical astronomy in independent India.

M.K. Vainu Bappu was born in 1927 and from childhood he was exposed to astronomy. Bappu joined the prestigious Harvard University on a scholarship after receiving his Masters degree in Physics from Madras University.

Very soon as he joined the Harvard University, Bappu discovered a comet and it was named Bappu - Bok-Newkirk after him and his colleagues Bart Bok and Gordon Newkirk. He completed his Ph. D. in 1952 and joined the Palomar University. He and Colin Wilson made an important observation about the luminosity of particular kind of stars and it came to known as the Bappu - Wilson effect.

He returned in 1953 and played a major role in building the Uttar Pradesh State Observatory in Nainital. In 1960, he took over as the director of the Kodaikanal observatory and contributed a lot in the modernization of it. In 1986, he established the observatory with a powerful telescope in Kavalur, Tamil Nadu.

He was awarded the Donhoe Comet Medal by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1949. He was elected as the President of the International Astronomical Union in 1979. He was also elected as the Honorary Foreign Fellow of the Belgium Academy of Sciences and was an Honorary Member of the American Astronomical Society.