ON. S. MINAKSHISUNDARAM
By. Prof. C. Musli
Dean. Vignan school of Science
Thank you very much for your kind letter inviting me to write a brief note on my reminiscences of my teacher, the Late S. Minakshisundaram. He was usually referred to as SMS (or Minakshi by his close friends). Its is my honor and special privilege to narrate a couple of rather unparalleled incidents that took place in my life centered around him. ( I was his student at the Andhra University in 1963-65- during my Master’s studies.)
Let me start with an Academically high profile incidents. This happened during my tenure (1974-76) as an Asst. Adjunct professor at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles). In the spring quarter of 1975, Prof. R.Bott from Harvard University gave a (Thursday) colloquim talk on Atiya-Singer Index theorem (one of the well known great theorems then and now of the 20th century). The lecture began with recalling the work of Minakshisundaram (in the fifties). He traced its influence on the subsequent developments in the next two decades, pointing out what needed to be done to bring it to a smooth logical high power ending. He declared; “Most of us knew what was to be done but perhaps drunkenly all misused the boat”. The much awaited refinement was brilliantly achieved by the young Vijay Kumar Patodi. If TIFR (Tata institute of Fundamental Research), Bombay. The entire lecture was centered around the works of SMS and VKP.
Who can exactly estimate the thrilling experience I had in that one hour? In addition to both SMS and VKP being fom India. One was my teacher and the other a colleague at TIFR (One year my senior). My importance before Bott went up instantly when I introduced myself to him after the lecture, as one that was associated with both.
Patodi’s office was adjacent to mine and I was a regular visitor to his office for two reasons. One was to discuss mathematics mostly with his Office-mate P. Jothilingam and occasionally with him as well and the other was to pinch (a variety of) dry fruits from his ever-ready stocks. Any one visiting his office used to be offered the dry fruits. I never saw any one else having such a princely and generous habit like this.
The same Prof. R. Bott was on the Organizing Committee of an International Colloquium scheduled to be held in January 1977 at TIFR for Differntial Equations centered on Patodi’s work. Prof. Bott came to Bomaby in December1976 on a 2-months visit to TIFR. Unfortunately Patodi was taken away prematurely in December 1976 itself despite TIFR trying its best in every way to save his life. That colloquium never took place.