Honorary Degree Citation - Subramanyan Chandrasekhar*
by M. N. S. Swamy, June 1988
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, world renowned astrophysicist and mathematician, currently associated with the Enrico Fermi Institute of the University of Chicago.
Dr. Chandrasekhar, the 1983 Nobel laureate in Physics, has made major contributions in the fields stellar structure, stellar dynamics, radiative transfer and hydromagnetics. He has written numerous authoritative and definitive technical papers and textbooks in each of these fields. During his distinguished career, he has been awarded numerous prestigious honours and awards such as the Adams Prize of Cambridge University, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London, the U.S. National Medal of Science and the Padma Vibushan of India.
Dr. Chandrasekhar was born in India on 19 October, 1910. After receiving his Bachelor's degree in Physics in 1930 from Presidency College, Madras, he joined Cambridge University for his graduate studies. In his first year at Cambridge, he obtained a most startling result of his study of stellar structure. Through systematic and rigorous mathematical and statistical treatment, without any intuitive short cut, he established the presence of a finite maximum mass (now known as the Chandrasekhar Limit) for an ideal dwarf star. After receiving his PhD from Cambridge at age 22, he became a Fellow of Trinity College and continued teaching at Cambridge. In 1936, he joined the University of Chicago where he held the Chair as the Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor of Theoretical Physics from 1952 to 1986.
Dr. Chandrasekhar is recognized as one of the world's most brilliant and prolific mathematical astronomers. At the age of 18, while an undergraduate, his paper "The Compton Scattering and the New Statistics" was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Many of his subsequent publications are classics, and it is indeed a tribute to him that Asteroid 1958, originally discovered by C.U. Cesco, was officially named "Chandra" in his honour.
In addition to his eminence as a scientist, his dedication as a teacher is exemplified by the fact that, for a period in 1946, he drove about 100 miles each week from the Yerkes Observatory to the University of Chicago to lecture to a graduate class of two students. These two students, TD. Lee and C.N. Yang, later shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on the Won conservation of Parity in Weak Interactions".
It is not just for his scientific brilliance that Dr. Chandrasekhar is pre-eminent. He is equally celebrated for his aesthetic sensibility. This is evidenced in expositions such as "Astronomy in Science and Human Culture", "Shakespeare, Newton and Beethoven or Patterns of Creativity", "Einstein and General Relativity Historical Perspectives", and "Beauty and the Quest for Beauty in Science".
His contribution to the applied sciences and engineering is enormous. Most of his mathematical and statistical treatises on stellar dynamics are directly applicable to the dynamics of general stochastic systems. His work has led to the development of the mechanics of Brownian motion which is widely used in statistical communication theory and in the analysis of mechanical systems under random excitation.
It is indeed a great honour for the University that we bestow on Dr. Chandrasekhar an honorary degree and join 16 other Universities including Oxford and Harvard who have done so in the past.
Mr. Chancellor, I am honoured to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.