Govind Swarup

Govind Swarup
Born (1929-03-23) 23 March 1929
Thakurdwara, Uttar Pradesh
Residence Pune
Nationality Indian
Fields Radioastronomy
Institutions TIFR;
Doctoral advisor Ronald N. Bracewell
Known for Radioastronomy; R&D;
Notable awards FRS;Padma Sri;Bhabha Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Prime minister of India; S S Bhatnagar;

Professor Govind Swarup, (born 23 March 1929 in Thakurdwara, Uttar Pradesh India) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), is a radio astronomer and one of the pioneers of radio astronomy. He is known not only for his many important research contributions in several areas of astronomy and astrophysics, but also for his outstanding achievements in building ingenious, innovative and powerful observational facilities for front-line research in radio astronomy. He has been the key scientist behind concept, design and installation of the Ooty Radio Telescope (India) and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) near Pune. Under his leadership, a strong group in radio astrophysics has been built at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research that is comparable to the best in the world.[1]

Early life and education

Govind Swarup was born at Thakurdwara, Uttar Pradesh in 1929. He received BSc degree in 1948 and MSc in Physics in 1950 from the Allahabad University and PhD from Stanford University in 1961. He was awarded Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa), University of Roorkee in 1987 and Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), Banaras Hindu University in 1996. He was at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi (1950–53 and 1955–56), CSIRO, Australia (1953–55), Research Associate at Harvard University (1956–57), Research Assistant at Stanford University (1957–60) and Assistant Professor at Stanford University (1961–63). Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), Banaras Hindu University in 1996 and Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur in 2010.


Initially he joined National Physical laboratory for two years. Returning from Stanford to India in March 1963, he joined TIFR as a Reader at the request of Dr. Homi Bhabha. In 1965, he became Associate Professor, Professor in 1970, and Professor of Eminence in 1989. He became Project Director of the GMRT in 1987, Centre Director of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) of TIFR in 1993 and retired from TIFR in 1994.

Major Contributions

During 1953–65 Prof. Swarup made the discovery of 'Type U' solar radio bursts; developed a gyro-radiation model for explaining the microwave solar emission and made studies of the radio emission from the Quiet Sun. In 1959 he developed a round trip transmission technique for phase measurements, which has been used in almost all the radio interferometers in the world. In 1962 he found the first example of a steep spectrum 'bridge' of radio emission between the two radio lobes of the powerful radio galaxy, Cyg-A, using the Stanford Compound Interferometer; such bridges allow estimates of the age of a radio galaxy.

During 1963–70, he constructed a 530 m long and 30 m wide parabolic-cylindrical radio telescope of a unique and innovative design at Ooty in South India, which was placed on a suitably inclined hill so as to make its long axis of rotation parallel to that of the earth, enabling it to track celestial radio sources in hour angle for 9.5 hrs. Using the method of lunar occultation, it provided for the first time high-resolution angular data (1 to 10 arc sec) for more than 1,000 weak radio sources, which provided an independent evidence for the Big Bang model. Ooty Occultation observations of the galactic centre source, Sgr-A, yielded the first 2-dimensional separation of its thermal and non-thermal emission. During the 1980s, Swarup studied characteristics of jets, cores and hot spots of quasars based on polarisation observations.

During 1984–96, he conceived and directed the design and construction of the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), consisting of 30 fully steerable parabolic dishes of 45m diameter that are located in a Y-shape array of about 25 km in extent in Western India. A novel concept developed by him made it possible to construct such large antennas very economically. GMRT is a highly versatile instrument. It is the world's largest radio telescope operating in the frequency range of about 130–1430 MHz. At present he is making observations with the GMRT of the emission and absorption of atomic hydrogen from objects in the early Universe. Recently, along with S.K. Sirothia, he has investigated deficiency of radio sources at 327 MHz towards the prominent cold spot of the cosmic microwave background radiation. To summarise, during the last 40 years he has made important contributions in areas such as solar radio emission, interplanetary scintillations, pulsars, radio galaxies, quasars and cosmology. He has published over 125 research papers and edited 4 books. He has two patents.

Awards and Memberships of technological Committees

Membership of Professional Societies: Royal Society, London; Indian National Science Academy; Indian Academy of Sciences; National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad, India; Third World Academy of Sciences; Indian Geophysical Union; Maharashtra Academy of Sciences; Institution of Electronics & Telecommunication Engineers; Indian Physics Association; Indian Physical Society; International Academy of Astronautics; Pontifical Academy of Sciences; Royal Astronomical Society, London;Astronomical Society of India (President 1975–77); International Astronomical Union (IAU) (President, Commission 40 on Radio Astronomy, 1979–82); Executive Committee, Inter Union Commission for Frequency Allocation (IUCAF till 1995); IAU Working Group for Future Large Scale Facilities (1994–2000); Chairman, Indian National Committee for International Union of Radio Science (URSI) (1986–88 & 1995–97); Post-detection Sub-Committee of SETI of International Astronautical Federation (Chairman, 1994–98); Chairman, URSI Committee for Developing Countries (1996–2002); URSI Standing Committee for Future General Assemblies (1999–2002). Editorial Boards, Indian Journal of Radio & Space Physics (1990–2000), National Academy of Sciences, India; (1997–2000).

Awards: 1973 Padma Shri; 1972 S.S. Bhatnagar, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India; 1974 Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship for 2 years; 1984 P.C. Mahalanobis Medal, Indian National Science Academy; 1986 Biren Roy Trust Medal, Indian Physical Society, Calcutta; 1987 Dr. Vainu Bappu Memorial Award, Indian National Science Academy; 1987 Tskolovosky Medal, Federation of Cosmonautics, USSR; 1987 Meghnad Saha Medal, National Academy of Sciences, India; 1988 The Third World Academy of Sciences Award in Physics; 1990 John Howard Delinger Gold Medal, International Union of Radio Sciences; 1990 R.D. Birla Award in Physics, Indian Physics Association; 1991 FIE Foundation Award for Eminence in Science & Technology, Ichhalkaranji, India; 1993 Gujar Mal Modi Science Award, Modi Foundation, India; 1993 The C.V. Raman Medal, Indian National Science Academy; 1994 Sir Devaprasad Sarbadhikari Medal, Calcutta University; 1995 M.P. Birla Award, Birla Institute of Astronomy and Planetarium Sciences, Calcutta; 1999 12th Khwarizmi International Award, Iran; 2001 H.K. Firodia Award; 2005 Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society; 2006, Lifetime Achievement Award by the University of Pune; 2007 Grote Reber Medal; 2007, Presidents Medal by the Indian Science Congress; 2009 Homi Bhabha Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Prime minister of India.

Personal life

Prof Govind Swarup is married to Bina Swarup and resides in Pune, India. He has one daughter and one son. His daughter Anju Basu is married to Rajiv Basu and his son, Vipin Swarup is married to Natasha Swarup. Prof Swarup has an elder brother in Kanpur, Mr Mahesh Swarup Agarwal, who is an industrialist.


  1. "2007 Grote Reber Medal to Professor Govind Swarup" CSIRO Newsletter
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