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A Stern Outlook Hid A Gentle Giant Of A Human Being

From being an outstanding, highly committed and innovative scientific researcher, teacher, mentor and strict disciplinarian at work, to a soft-spoken, sensitive, indulgent, humane and lovable person in social life, Punjab’s noted physicist Bal Mokand Anand (1905-1998) can be seen as a role model for young Indian students, especially those with limited means.

Indian edition of a book ‘Bal Mokand Anand: His Life And Science Across The Partition of India’, based on documented facts and accounts of colleagues, students, family and friends, and written by Germany based science teacher and historian Prof Rajinder Singh, has mirrored the various facets of the personality of the “life learner” who helped a fledgling Physics Department of Panjab University post Partition on its way to becoming one of the premier physics departments with international status in the area of Experimental High Energy Physics.

A Stern Outlook Hid A Gentle Giant Of A Human Being, Lifeinchd

Photo Courtesy: Panjab University Chandigarh

The book was formally released by former Panjab University Vice Chancellor Prof KN Pathak on July 21 in the auditorium of the Physics department of Panjab University Chandigarh named after Prof. Anand. Among those present were the writer Prof Rajinder Singh, who has 42 books and 140+ articles in journals to his credit, former PU Vice Chancellor Arun Grover, among others.

It has been published by The Physics Association of PU’s Department of Physics and Chandigarh Vigyan Parishad with generous support from the large Anand family.

On this occasion, Prof. SM Yusuf, Director, Physics Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, also delivered the 7th Prof. BM Anand Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Revealing Spin Quantum Entanglement By Neutrons’. He is a noted physicist with expertise in magnetism & neutron scattering.

In the preface to the book, Prof Rajinder Singh has mentioned that a large part of Indian literature, as far as history of physics is concerned, deals with big names like CV Raman, MN Saha, SN Bose and Homi Bhabha.

To set a new trend, the Germany based science historian began with biographies of equally important physicists, who majorly influenced the development of science and technology, but who were lesser known because of not having discoveries/inventions to their credit. This book on Prof BM Anand, suggested by Prof. Arun Grover, is one such effort.


A Stern Outlook Hid A Gentle Giant Of A Human Being, Lifeinchd

File Photo of Prof Bal Mokand Anand
Photo Courtesy: Prof Arun Kumar Grover

In the book, the author notes that Prof Anand, the first head of the Physics Department of Panjab University Chandigarh, was credited with noteworthy research in the fields of Vacuum UV Spectroscopy and Raman Spectroscopy. He was  known to be a wonderful mentor to the students, and always pushed them to lea to themselves make instruments for research rather than procuring them from outside.

The famous physicist and Padma Vibhushan awardee Prof Yash Pal, once his student, while delivering the 1st Bal Mokand Anand Memorial Lecture on the topic “Learning to do Physics with Bal Mokand Anand” remembered Prof Anand  as a motivator who taught him the art of learning and doing Physics in a practical way.

The book highlights that Prof Anand made up for the lack of resources in the department with his dedication and innovative ideas to maintain the standards of teaching and atmosphere of serious research.

He formed various research groups in high energy particle physics (nuclear emulsion), optical UV spectroscopy, experimental nuclear physics and mass spectrometry and was instrumental in establishing joint research programmes with the likes of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Atomic Energy Establishment Trombay (AEET), Bombay.

He also generously invited leading physicists from other parts of India and abroad for lectures/short courses to give the students the best of Physics as far as possible. Among those who visited for talks were the likes of Yash Pal, SN Biswas, Homi J Bhabha, Raja Ramanna.

The strong foundation of teaching and research in the department, laid by him, was lifted to greater heights by his successor as Head of Physics Department, Prof Harnam Singh Hans, with the induction of more mode research instrumentation.

Birth &  Early Life

Bo in a small village called Domel in Campbellpur district of Punjab province, now in Pakistan, in a family with humble means, Bal Mokand was the only child to his parents. He lost his mother when he was just two years old. The child was initially cared for by his maternal aunts (mother’s sisters).


He received his schooling at various places, starting with primary school at village Thatta, followed by elementary school at Nankana Sahib and primary school in Peshawar. Records suggest that in 8th grade he was at Frontier High School, Peshawar Cantonment. In 1922, he finished matriculation getting first class and first position in the school.


He joined DAV College Lahore taking FSc (Faculty of Science) Medical group, his first love. But with much needed scholarship not on offer in the course, he had to opt for BSc. He graduated with Honours in Physics in 1926, and in 1928 completed his MSc, getting first class and 2nd position in order of merit in the university.

Appointed lecturer in Physics at Punjab University in Lahore, he held the position from 1934 to 1947. After Partition “Panjab University” was relocated to India, partially in Hoshiarpur and Delhi. From 1947 to 1950, he had the status of Reader at the ‘East’ Panjab University.

A Stern Outlook Hid A Gentle Giant Of A Human Being, Lifeinchd

File photo of inauguration of Prof BM Anand Auditorium by Prof Yash Pal. Then PU Vice Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover and former Vice Chancellor RP Bambah look on.
Photo Courtesy: Prof Arun Kumar Grover

Quite late in life, Bal Mokand Anand availed of a Government of India overseas fellowship scheme to work with 1950 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, CF Powell, at Bristol, United Kingdom. Initially working as a research scholar, he later enrolled in the PhD programme, completing it in 1953.

On his retu to India, the PhD degree enabled him to get the position of Professor, Chairman and Head of Department of Physics Department, Panjab University, Chandigarh, holding this position from 1953 to 1963 and from 1964 to 1967.

Post Retirement Life

After retirement, he chose to join his children, most of whom were residing in different parts of the USA. Bal Mokand Anand and Ram Lubhai had 7 children and 11 grandchildren. He eventually passed away in 1998, a nonagenarian.

His family members recollect that his favourite pastimes were going out for walks which he did not miss even on rainy days, photography, playing the popular card games of the times and bridge, gardening, among others.

Probably, the greatest testimonies to Bal Mokand Anand’s indomitable spirit is one of his maternal grandchildren Vinay Chaudhary’s recollections from Anand’s three decades long stay in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

In one of his recollections, quoted in the book, Vinay, separated from his granddad by 70 years, and then living not far away from his home, shares, “I recall going to the beach. Just being a child and being surprised. Most of the time, I was seeing my grandfather sort of a fragile man. But then there I was swimming in the waves, and I looked next to me and, there was ‘bauji’ swimming, dunking under waves and really enjoying himself. The first time I saw that, it just blew me away. I never expected my 80 or 85 year old grandfather to swim in the Atlantic Ocean with me. It was a blast! It was fantastic.”  by APR Media House is an enjoyable digital reading startup, which keeps you abreast of the latest meaningful happenings of interest to large sections of folks in Chandigarh tricity, and expats from the region. It has been promoted by a public spirited senior journalist and media consultant with a view to encourage good quality and healthy journalism, a dire need of the times.

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