Documenting Indo-French Scientific & Technological Partnership

Launch of blog by the Embassy of France/Institut Français en Inde and Mr Pranav Sharma, astronomer and science museum curator, on 28th February 2021 on the occasion of India’s National Science Day.

Did you know that Indian Railways adopted the 25 KV AC system of electrification as a standard in 1957, with the French National Railways (SNCF) providing initial technical assistance and consultancy for this? Today, France continues to boost Indian Railways by sharing expertise on world-class stations and providing the most powerful locomotives to run on Indian rails, the WAG-12!

Did you know that France was the third country to place an object, the A1 satellite Astérix, in the Earth’s orbit in 1965? India’s space ties with France had begun much earlier, in 1963, when Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space programme met Jacques Blamont, the Founding Technical Director of the French Space Agency (CNES-Centre National d’Études Spatiales). CNES went on to support ISRO’s sounding rocket program during its nascent stage. Later, the Ariane Passenger PayLoad Experiment (APPLE), the experimental communication satellite was successfully launched by Ariane-1, from Kourou, French Guiana on 19 June, 1981. This became an important milestone in India’s space programme. Rocket propulsion technology was also part of France’s support to the Indian space programme.

India and France have been working together for several decades to achieve common developmental goals. It is noteworthy that several scientific advancements in India have enjoyed unequivocal support from France. India, for its part, has provided invaluable resource support to France.

To preserve the heritage of this longstanding collaboration, the Embassy of France/Institut Français en Inde have initiated a project to document the scientific partnership between India and France across disciplines. The prime objective of the project is to revisit and document the common history of science and technology between India and France. The project celebrates decades of cooperation between India and France since the beginning of their scientific exchanges. It is a history of friendship told through personal memoirs and tales of triumphs and accomplishments presenting the human story behind this great enterprise.

The project intends to develop a virtual archive in the form of a blog that would include scholarly and popular writing, multimedia content, and public access archival documents. Furthermore, several virtual exhibitions are envisaged during the project. A coffee table book will be released and a national exhibition will be organized at the end of the project.

This project began as an extension of the exhibitions developed in collaboration with Alliance Française of Hyderabad, Institut Francais en Inde and the CNES in 2020. These were hosted at WINGS-India 2020 in Hyderabad and International Space Conference & Expo 2020 in Bangalore.

In the context of this initiative, driven by France’s scientific cooperation network in India, the Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Emmanuel Lenain commented, “It is befitting that France and India’s rich history of scientific and technological cooperation, dating back to the 1950s is being seen through the eyes of a young Indian astronomer, Pranav Sharma. For, this repository of knowledge and experience belongs to the generations ahead. It is most apt to present this extraordinary story on India’s National Science Day, which commemorates Nobel Laureate Prof CV Raman. Interestingly, the term ‘Raman Effect’ was first used by French physicists in 1928, when French scientist Yves Rocard first took note of C.V. Raman’s discovery.”

The themes of the initiative include:

  • 1. Space Sciences
  • 2. Health Sciences (Epidemiology and Immunology)
  • 3. Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • 4. Nuclear Science & Technology
  • 5. Biodiversity & Cartography
  • 6. Visual Analytics (Social Sciences, Geography, and Mathematical Modeling)
  • 7. Data Sciences and Information Technology
  • 8. Economics
  • 9. Aviation
  • 10. Technological Application & Applied Sciences

If you want to delve into the fascinating stories of science and adventure and cooperation, subscribe to the Indo-French History of Science portal and become a reader, contributor or facilitator.

H.G. Wells very succintly said “human history is, in essence, a history of ideas.” And the history of science is the history of humankind’s unity, of its sublime purpose, of its gradual redemption. Through this project, India and France will begin the formidable task of piecing together the glorious scientific history of the two countries- to not only look back in wonder and awe but inspire the future to take the tradition forward.

About the curator

The project is being curated and led by astronomer and science historian, Pranav Sharma, a national award winning science communicator who curated India’s first interdisciplinary Space Museum in Hyderabad. He was awarded for his work on the museum and India’s space history.

About the Raman-Charpak scholarship

In acknowledgement of the scientific engagement between France and India, the two countries instituted in 2013 the Raman–Charpak Fellowship programme in honour of Nobel Laureates in Physics, Prof C.V. Raman and Prof Georges Charpak, to facilitate the exchange of doctoral students between the two countries, broaden the scope and depth of future engagements in Science, Technology and Innovation. The programme boosts collaboration between Indian and French laboratories and is the only Indo-French Bilateral Fellowship programme jointly funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, and the French Institute in India (IFI), French Embassy in India, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Government of France.

About French Institute in India (IFI)

The French Institute in India (IFI) is the educational, scientific and cultural department of the Embassy of France in India. It facilitates academic and scientific exchange between higher institutes of learning and research, enables student mobility, and promotes the French language, and artistic and cultural partnerships. Cooperation between India and France takes place through a number of sectors: Arts & Culture, Books, Ideas, French Language & Education, the Study in France programme, Academic Partnerships, Science Technology, as well as Innovation and Multimedia.

Last modified on 22/03/2021

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