Internationally renowned climate scientist Dr Ashesh Prosad Mitra, a man who carried forward India's post-independence vision of using science for development, died in New Delhi Monday at the age of 81.
Mitra, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1989 for his services to the country, was director of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) from 1982 to 1986 and director general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research from 1986 to 1991.
His funeral was attended by a number of leading Indian scientists and a wreath was placed on behalf of Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, who recently described Mitra's tenure at the head of the NPL as one of the most dynamic periods in the institution's history.
Born in Kolkata, Mitra completed his M.Sc. in Physics from University of Kolkata, before joining Prof S. K. Mitra, the doyen of ionospheric research in India, for a D.Phil. degree at a time that was considered the golden era of Indian ionospheric science.
His early work at NPL involved earth's near-space environment, with both ground- based and space techniques. As Secretary of the Indian committee in the International Geophysical Year (IGY), he steered the Indian programme for IGY and International Quite Solar Year (IQSY) in 1957-58.
He pioneered research in cosmic radio noise for studying the upper atmosphere, leading to a series of discoveries in ionosphere, and solar physics.
He set up the Radio Science Division in the NPL and his recent efforts led to the establishment of a 'Regional Facility on Radio Science for Development' (RFRS) at NPL in February 2007 for promoting applications of radio science to India's development processes, including rural communication.
During the last decade, Mitra trained his sharp focus on global environmental changes from human activities and their consequent impacts on biosphere, and helped formulate the Indian response to climate change.
He made an immediate global impact with his contributions to the chemistry of the atmosphere and measurement of greenhouse gases of India, and to global environmental chemistry including the measurements of methane emission from paddy fields.
He was a leading figure in the widely known international programmes 'Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX)' and the earlier 'Asian Least Cost Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategy (ALGAS)' Programme.
He was instrumental in developing both institutional and individual capacities across the South Asian Region in the area of global climate change research. He was the chairman of South Asian START Committee (SASCOM) during 1994-98 period but continued as the Director of the South Asian START Regional Centre (SAS RC) located at NPL until his death.
In a unique honour to Indian science, Mitra was chosen to lead investigating teams of several international global change related programmes.
Mitra is survived by his wife, Sunanda Mitra, daughters Anasua and Patralekha, and two granddaughters.