P. K. Iyengar
Born(1931-06-29)29 June 1931
Died21 December 2011(2011-12-21) (aged 80)[2]
Known forNuclear Program of India
Operation Smiling Buddha
Operation Shakti
Neutron scattering
Cold fission
AwardsPadma Bhushan (1975)
Bhatnagar Award (1971)
Scientific career
FieldsNuclear Physics
InstitutionsDepartment of Atomic Energy (DAE)
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Atomic Energy Commission of India
Government College University
Doctoral advisorBertram Neville Brockhouse

Padmanabhan Krishnagopala Iyengar (29 June 1931 – 21 December 2011; best known as P. K. Iyengar), was an Indian nuclear physicist who is widely known for his central role in the development of the nuclear program of India. Iyengar previously served as the director of BARC and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, he raised his voice and opposition against the nuclear agreement between India and the United States and expressed that the deal favoured the United States.[3]

During his last years of his life, Iyenger engaged in peace activism and greatly exhorted the normalization of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan.

Career in Department of Atomic Energy

Iyengar joined the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, Department of Atomic Energy in 1952 as a junior research scientist, undertaking a wide variety of research in neutron scattering. He later got shifted to Atomic Energy Establishment (later renamed as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) when it was formed in 1954. In 1956, Iyengar was trained in Canada working under Nobel laureate in Physics Bertram Neville Brockhouse, contributing to path-breaking research on lattice dynamics in germanium. At the DAE, he built up and headed the team of physicists and chemists that gained international recognition for their original research contributions in this field. In 1960s, he indigenously designed the PURNIMA reactor and headed the team that successfully commissioned the reactor on 18 May 1972 at BARC.

Operation Smiling Buddha

When Ramanna took over as director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 1972, the mantle of directorship of the Physics Group (PG) was handed over to Iyengar. He was one of the key scientist in the development of India's first nuclear device. The team, under Raja Ramanna tested the device under the code name Smiling Buddha on 18 May 1974. Iyengar played a leading role in the peaceful nuclear explosion at Pokharan-I, for which he was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1975.

Career with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Iyengar took over as Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 1984. As director, one of his first tasks was to take charge of the construction of the Dhruva reactor, the completion of which was then in question, and bring it to a successful conclusion under his leadership. Recognizing the importance of transferring newly developed technology from research institutes to industry, he introduced a Technology Transfer Cell at the BARC to assist and speed the process. He motivated basic research in fields ranging from molecular biology, to chemistry and material science. He nucleated new technologies like lasers and accelerators, which led to the establishment of a new Centre for Advanced Technology, at Indore.

Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India

Iyengar was appointed chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India and secretary to the Department of Atomic Energy in 1990. He was also appointed as chairman of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. Under his leadership the Department of Atomic Energy vigorously pursued the nuclear power programme with the commissioning of two new power reactors at Narora and Kakrapar, and continued with the development of new reactor systems, such as liquid-sodium based fast reactors. Equal emphasis was laid on enhanced production of heavy water, nuclear fuel and special nuclear materials. He also initiated proposals for the export of heavy-water, research reactors, hardware for nuclear applications to earn precious foreign exchange.

Cold fusion research

Regarding Iyengar's involvement in Indian cold fusion research, the Indian newspaper Daily News and Analysis wrote: "Iyengar also pioneered cold fusion experiments in the 1980s to prove the hypothesis that nuclear fusion can occur at ordinary temperatures under certain scenarios. The experiments were discontinued after Iyengar's exit from the nuclear establishment by some conservative scientists."[4]

Legacy and fame

Iyengar has been the recipient of many high civilian awards and honours. After retirement Iyengar served in various positions such as member of the Atomic Energy Commission, scientific advisor to the Government of Kerala, on the board of the Global Technology Development Centre, president of the Indian Nuclear Society, and a member of the Inter-governmental Indo-French Forum, besides serving on various national committees. Iyengar’s later interests focused on advances in nuclear technology for nuclear applications, issues of nuclear policy and national security, science education and the application of science in nation-building. He participated in various international meetings on non-proliferation issues. Most recently, as a founder trustee of the Agastya International Foundation, he focused on rural education and instilling creativity and scientific temperament in rural children and government school teachers. He was instrumental in drawing the support of the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education to help launch Agastya’s rural science fairs and its first mobile science lab in 2002.

Awards and honours


  1. ^ Documentation Research and Training Centre (Bangalore, India); Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science (1994). Library Science with a Slant to Documentation. Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science. ISSN 0024-2543. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  2. ^ "PK Iyengar, nuclear scientist, dies at 80". The Times of India. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  3. ^ "More a U.S. victory than Indian: P.K. Iyengar". The Hindu. 7 September 2008. Archived from the original on 9 September 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Ex-Atomic Energy Commission chairman PK Iyengar passes away | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dnaindia.com. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2015.