Professor A.A. Krishnan

Lest We Forget:
K.P. Abraham
Former Chairman
Department of Metallurgy, Indain Institute of Science, Bangalore
Ayyappankave Ananthanarayana Krishnan was born on June 20, 1917 at Calicut, which was then a part of Madras Province. He had an excellent academic record throughout his educational career. He passed the S.S.L.C examination in 1934 with first class and first rank. He studied B.A. in Mathematics and Physics at St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore affiliated to the Madras University. He secured first class and first rank and was awarded the University Gold Medal. Then he went to the Banaras Hindu University and obtained his B.S.c. (Met) degree in 1942. From 1942 to 1946 he worked as a process metallurgist in charge of quality control at the research laboratory of Tata Iron & Steel Company Ltd., Jamshedpur. In 1946 he went to the U.S.A as ‘Govt. of India Scholar-1945’ for his doctoral studies and obtained his Ph.D. within two years from the Ohio State University. He worked under the supervision of Prof. D.J. Demorest and submitted a dissertation on “Powder Metallurgical Approach to the Study of Iron-Zinc Alloys”. After his return to India in 1948 he joined the National Metallurgical Laboratory (NML) in Jamshedpur as officer in charge of physical metallurgy section. In the words of Dr. B.R. Nijhawan, the then Director of NML, “Dr. Krishnan’s research interests have ranged wide-extending from production metallurgy to mechanical and physical metallurgy, in each of which he can hold his own. His research findings on fatigue are a distinct contribution to knowledge. His study of dihedral angles is both original and practical”.

As Dr. Krishanan desired to return to academia, he joined the Institute on June 1, 1957, succeeding Prof. Brahm Prakash as Head of the Department, a post which he held with distinction until his untimely death on July 19, 1972. When he took over, the Department was running a two year course in Metallurgy leading to the Diploma of the Indian Institute of Science and foundations were being laid for its future expansion into a major teaching and research oriented department in the engineering faculty. At that time many of the departments in the engineering faculty considered organising high level teaching, conducting examinations and carrying low profile R & D work as their main functions and with a few exceptions, the engineering departments were not fully equipped or organised to carry out original research leading to higher degrees in engineering. The Department of Metallurgy was an exception, the foundations for high class original work were laid by Professor Brahm Prakash from whom Professor Krishnan took over as Head of the Department. However, it was during Professor Krishnan’s time that the Department attained its full stature as a major department engaged in teaching and research leading to a three year B.E. degree course, a two year post graduate M.E. degree course and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. research degrees in metallurgy. These changes were brought about in an orderely and phased manner. The diploma course in metallurgy was replaced by the degree course when the Institute attained the status of a deemed university and started awarding its own degrees. The two year M.E. degree course with specialisation in physical metallurgy and chemical metallurgy was started in 1964. The two year B.E. course was replaced by the three year B.E. degree course in order to make the first degree course more broad based and more oriented towards engineering subjects. Along with these developments, teaching programmes and orientation courses were drawn up and regularised for the benefit of the M.Sc, and Ph,D research students, especially for those student scoming from science faculty wishing to carry out research in metallurgy. All these needed considerable expertise in academic planning and Professor Krishnan gave sufficient guidance and direction during those difficult days – veritably a troubled adolescence for the Department. He played a key role in bringing about these major changes and it must have been a matter of great satisfaction for him to have seen the fullfilement of his dreams, when a student from the department for the first time received the Ph.D degree in metallurgy from the engineering faculty, during his regime.

Professor Krishnan had a clear vision regarding the role that the Department had to play in the future and his guiding hands could be seen in all the activities connected with the expansion programmes chalked out by the Department. He felt that all the branches of metallurgy as was known to him at that time deserved to be encouraged with equal weightage and new staff members were recruited on the basis of this principle and consequently the Department made all round progress during his stewardship. To cover up the lacuna in the area of powder metallurgy, he personally took an interest in that subject, he started teaching that subject and initiated research activities in that area. The erection of new steel plants and the expansion of existing metallurgical industries created many job opportunities for qualified metallurgical engineers in the late 1950s and early 60s. The Department responded under Professor Krishnan’s direction by embarking on a vigorous teaching programme and the Department was able to attract some of the best science graduates and even postgraduates from all over India and these students are now holding highly responsible positions, not only in India but also in many countries outside India.

Professor Krishnan was a firm believer in maintaining high academic standards. He had strong views on academic planning and was aware of the importance of undergraduate and postgraduate engineering education in the Indian context. He presented a paper on the development of M.E. degree courses at the Annual Technical Meeting of The Indian Institute of Metals held at Banaras Hindu University in 1962. That paper was taken as the basis for postgraduate courses offered at many of the teaching institutions in the country. Professor Krishnan’s contributions to the cause of metallurgical education and research have been well appreciated.

Powder Metallurgy research got an impetus with Prof. Krishnan’s arrival. A major programme was initiated on the sintering characteristics of aluminium-manganese alloys, aluminium-chromium alloys, copper-alumina, copper-ceria, copper-titania, copper-chromium alloys and copper-nickel alloys. Even a model combination of metal-glass was investigated. Following his earlier work at NML, he initiated studies on interface energies in binary copper alloys with bismuth additions and binary aluminium alloys containing cadmium. In many system physical and mechanical properties were evaluated. Prof. Krishnan took a keen interest in mineral beneficiation. In association with Mr. R. Mallikarjunan and Mr. R.K. Ramamurthy, his studies included low grade ferro-manganese, direct reduction of zinc sulphide with iron and flotation studies of beach sand minerals. These studies formed part of guidance to B.E., M.E. and M.Sc.(Engg.) dissertations and led to high quality publications in powder metallurgy, physical metallurgy and mineral processing, covering a wide spectrum of research in metallurgy.

As a historical footnote, it is interesting to record that aluminium-manganese and aluminium-bismuth systems have been revisited by faculty in the eighties with elegant contributions to newly emerging areas of quasicrystals and nanocrystals.

Prof. Krishnan was a man of plain living and high thinking. He was also a man of firm convictions who never compromised with any injustice. He was forthright in putting forward his views however much that might displeases others. He used to say that a scientist cannot but be an ethical person maintaining high standards in both personal and professional life.

A few years before his death, he came to know that he was suffering from a mortal illness, but that did not dampen his spirit. He was not daunted by this knowledge and maintained his equanimity till the very end. As the department is celebrating its golden jubilee this year, let us remember with gratitude the services rendered by Professor Krishnan for the growth of the department and the contributions he made for the cause of metallurgical education andresearch in the country.