Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) is a premier scientific Research Institute located at Kolkata. Founded in the year 1876 by Dr. Mahendralal Sircar, an acclaimed medical practitioner of his time, IACS is the oldest scientific institution in Asia funded by the Government of India, Department of Science & Technology and the Government of West Bengal. Sir C.V. Raman made his historic discovery of ‘Raman Effect’ at IACS. It continues to adorn the mantle of academic and intellectual excellence in India and abroad. The various laboratories at every corner of this great institution reverberate with the resounding legacy of the unparalleled scientific excellence for which this city is proud of. For the benefit of all of you, I take this opportunity to briefly summarize our institute’s glorious past, an eloquent present and an ambitious future.
The latter half of the nineteenth century witnessed an intellectual renaissance in undivided Bengal. During this time, when there were almost no noteworthy institution in the country to impart quality education in science and culture, several eminent personalities from diverse disciplines committed themselves to the cause of institution building. One such personality was Mahendralal Sircar, who was educated as a medical practitioner but with a mission to establish an institution where “lectures on scientific subjects will be systematically delivered”. Mahendralal's cherished dream took shape when the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science was inaugurated at the Bowbazar Street campus on July 29, 1876. The founder secretary to the Association was Mahendralal himself, with the first Trustee Board comprising of persons like Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and Keshab Chandra Sen. During the early years, the IACS received handsome patronage from other eminent personalities like Gurudas Banerjee, Rajandralal Mitra, Surendranath Banerjee and Peary Mohan Mukherjee. The original mandate of delivering lectures in science was materialized soom when Father Lafont, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Asuthosh Mukherjee and Chunilal Bose began teaching in the Association.
A modest beginning, but an ambitious foresight, saw the Association catapult into a centre of repute, which found Mahendralal's creation firmly embedded into the history of science in India. The pinnacle of success was soon to be attained with the discovery of the Raman Effect and quick to follow was the Nobel recognition. Streams of luminaries who were associated with the institute were stalwarts like Nilratan Sircar, Jnan Chandra Ghosh, Satyandranath Bose and M.N. Saha. Raman's legacy of excellence in physics was aptly carried forward in IACS first by K.S. Krishnan and later by Kedareshwar Banerjee.
In 1946 the Association embarked upon a new development plan under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Meghnad Saha envisaging the creation of an active research school for investigation on the problems continuing with the fundamental studies in X-rays, Optics, Magnetism, and Raman Effect in which the Association had specialized in early years. A new campus was opened at Jadavpur which became a sprawling complex of educational research and industrial establishments, where the laboratories were shifted from Bowbazar Street. Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy played a key role to provide the land for the new campus in jadavpur through a gazette notification of November 20, 1947 of government of West Bengal. By 26 February 1948 MN Saha with the help of prominent architects in Calcutta prepared a master plan of the Jadavpur Campus of IACS.
Today 139 years after its inception, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, continues to adorn the mantle of academic and intellectual excellence in India and abroad and now stands at the crossroad of a critical era. Apart from fundamental researches in the various frontier areas of physics and chemistry, IACS has ventured in a significant way, for the past few years, into the emerging multidisciplinary areas such as non-conventional energy sources, advanced and novel nano-materials, and interdisciplinary biological sciences. The institute wishes to consolidate in the fields it has long-established reputations, and at the same time looks forward to integrating them to the emerging areas.
Now it is an autonomous research institution headed by a Governing Council. IACS receives about 95% of its yearly fund from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. Government of West Bengal also provides some matching share. Apart from that the scientists at IACS arranges extramural funding for carrying out their research in diverse areas of basic science. At present, IACS has more than 400 research students/associates working under the guidance of 70 faculty members working in physics, chemistry and biology, with an annual budgetary outlay of just above Rs 60 crores during the current fiscal year. The present Director of the Institute is Professor Santanu Bhattacharya. The Institute has dynamic programmes for the pursuit of research leading to the doctoral degree and for post-doctoral work and has Visiting Scientists Scheme. There is an excellent library, good computing facilities and is connected to Internet.