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Bangalore Puttaiya Radhakrishna 1918-2012

Bangalore Puttaiya Radhakrishna 1918-2012

Doyen of 20th Century Indian geology

BPR, as he was widely known at home and abroad, was born in Bangalore, the third son of B Puttaiya, an influential public figure in Mysore government service. Puttaiya was a man of high principles, a public speaker, a writer and an admirer of ancient Indian culture. Besides taking a passing interest in geology, he was involved in social service, the promotion of quality education and industrialisation of Mysore State, which after Independence in 1947 was incorporated in the new province of Karnataka. Imbued as a teenager with his father’s mores, BPR devoted his life to raising public awareness of geology, with particular reference to economic mineral development and groundwater resources in Karnataka. He also shared his father’s profound interest in the early Hindu culture of India.

After a BSc geology degree from Central College, Bangalore, in 1937, BPR joined the Mysore Geological Department, the forerunner to the present-day Department of Mines and Geology, Government of Karnataka. BPR was director, 1967-1974. He became widely respected for his work on the Archaean Dharwar craton and its metalliferous, non-metalliferous and groundwater resources, besides keynote contributions to the physiographic evolution of the Western Ghats and the Peninsular Shield of southern India. His study of the 400km-long, linear NW-SE belt of the Neoarchaen Closepet Granite led to his doctorate from Mysore University in 1954.

From the beginning of his career, BPR took equal interest in academic and applied aspects of geology. His name is associated with the exploration of the vast deposits of banded iron formation in the Kudremukh hill ranges, chromite deposits at Byrapur and clay deposits at Bageshpura. He was also instrumental in the utilisation of banded iron formation in the Neoarchaean Sandur schist belt for a steel works at Bellary. As chairman and managing director of Chitradurga Copper Company, BPR was responsible for the development of three copper mines, notably one hosted by Neoarchaean metabasalts at Chitradurga itself. BPR was also sometime director of Hutti Gold Mines (now the only gold producer in India) and Kolar Gold Fields (now flooded to a depth of three kilometres).


As a founder of the Society in 1958, BPR was secretary for the first 15 years, editor of the journal 1974-92, and president 1993-2007. Inspired by the distinguished public service of his father, BPR devoted his years with the Society to promoting Indian geology on the national and international stage. He expanded the journal from a yearly to a monthly publication, and his high editorial standards also held sway in a long series of memoirs, of which the first, on the gold industry in India, was published in 1963. Later memoirs included BPR’s tributes to late 19th and early 20th Century geological pioneers, for example, R Bruce Foote, founder of the Mysore Geological Department in 1874; W F Smeeth; B Rama Rao; and, P Sampat Iyengar. BPR’s enthusiasm and drive also led to textbooks on the geology and mineral resources of India’s provinces, and an economic geology series (diamonds, gold, tin, radioactive minerals). BPR wrote several popular biographies in the Kannada language, for example, C V Raman and Charles Darwin. As president, he instigated field workshops and annual meetings of the Society in the different provinces of India as a means of encouraging young talent and drawing public attention to the importance of geology in India’s past and future development.


BPR’s talents were recognised by his election to the Indian Academy of Sciences (1956), Indian National Science Academy (1972) and honorary fellowships of the Geological Societies of London (1986) and America (1987). Among his awards were the National Mineral Award, Government of India (1971), P N Bose Medal of the Asiatic Society, Kolkata (1990), DSc degree, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (1992), and D N Wadia Gold Medal, National Science Academy (1993). In 1993, the President of India conferred “Padma Shree” on BPR for his service to science.

BPR was busy almost until the day he died at his home in Bangalore on 26 January. A week earlier he finished an obituary for P K Iyengar, a noted Indian nuclear physicist, and on 23 January he was visited by the organising committee of the 10th International Kimberlite Conference being held in Bangalore. His obituary of Augusto Gansser, who died on 9 January 2012, aged 101, was left unfinished.

Brian Chadwick & V N Vasudev.