C S Seshadri
CHENNAI: Renowned mathematician and Padma Bhushan awardee C S Seshadri, who founded Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI), died in the city on Saturday. He was 88.
Seshadri’s area of interest in mathematics was algebraic geometry and algebraic groups and worked to broaden the scope of the subject and also brought in the practice of researchers teaching undergraduate students in the country, way back in the 80s.
He also worked to ensure that science students got exposed to other streams like humanities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Seshadri. “In the passing away of Professor C. S. Seshadri, we have lost an intellectual stalwart who did outstanding work in mathematics. His efforts, especially in algebraic geometry, will be remembered for generations. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” Modi tweeted.
Rajeeva Laxman Karandikar, director, Chennai Mathematical Institute, said “Seshadri was a great mathematician and his great achievements are well acknowledged and documented. His contribution to institution building is huge and he also had an entrepreneur skill. His single-minded pursuit of that skill led to Chennai Mathematical Institute. It was he who brought this idea of undergraduates to be taught by researchers as it used to be abroad. This was not done much in India in the 80s because in those days in science researchers often moved away from teaching.”
CMI was his contribution to maths. Mathematicians are often cut off from the world but he was good at picking people and delegating them to work with no control. “He will discuss ideas, but he will tell us that it is our responsibility,” he added.
Detailing his vision and the way he worked for mathematics almost till the last days, Madhavan Mukund, deputy director, CMI, said,
“His ambition was to have a high quality university to teach mathematics, computer science and all to train students from undergraduate level to the highest level and to create a new generation of students.”
He said that the aspiration was reflected in CMI whose students have passed out and have gone on to become teachers at IIT and other premier institutes.
“Setting up the institute in the early days was itself a challenge and the fact that he was able to gather resources and people who shared his views was an achievement. His main skill was to start something from scratch and make it a success which is a rare quality among academicians.”
“He was active till the last days. During the lockdown days also, he used to periodically discuss plans for the future and was concerned about the need to increase the size and scope of maths education.”
Seshadri stepped down as director of CMI around 10 years ago but he was a regular at the institute and “used to come to the institute and used to be involved in the administrative planning and other efforts,” said Mukund.
Seshadri was known for his passion for music in the classical music circle in Chennai.
Seshadri worked at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, and had held visiting professorships at University of Paris, Harvard University and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.
Conjeevaram Srirangachari Seshadri was born in Kancheepuram on February 29, 1932 and studied in St Joseph’ s Elementary School, Sri Ramakrishna School and St Joseph High School in Chengalpet before joining Loyola College in Chennai for BA Honours in mathematics in 1948.
After completing his BA, Seshadri did his PhD. in mathematics in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay University in 1958. He started his career in Tata Institute but moved to Chennai in the mid-80s.