Devendra Lal earned his BSc (1947) and MSc (1949) degrees from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi after which he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai and worked on problems of cosmic ray research under the supervision of HJ Taylor and B Peters. He obtained the PhD degree (1960) from Bombay University and DSc (hc) from BHU (1981). Lal held positions of a Fellow, Associate Professor, Professor and Senior Professor at TIFR. He was a Visiting Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego (1967-85) and at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics Los Angeles, University of California (1966-67, 1983-84). He assumed the post of Director, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad (1972) and retired from there in 1983.
Academic and Research Achievements: The primary thrust of Devendra Lal's work is in the fields of cosmic ray physics, nuclear physics, earth and planetary sciences and astrophysics. His early work was in fields of composition and energy spectrum of primary cosmic radiation, and elementary particle physics. Subsequently, he initiated a major programme on studies of cosmogenic radionuclides, with emphasis on their production rate calculations and their applications to learn about nature and rates of physical and biogeochemical processes occurring in major earth surface reservoirs. These studies, along with cosmic ray tracks, were extended to meteorites and lunar samples to evaluate the composition and energy spectrum of cosmic rays over different time scales, lunar regolith dynamics and exposure history of meteorites in space. His current interests are on the studies of: radionuclides in the solar wind; records of climate found in terrestrial minerals, e.g. corals, polar ice sheets, soils, etc; chemical history of ocean waters based on marine biogenic minerals, and ocean sediments and site specific erosion rates and evolution of geomorphic surfaces, based on radionuclides produced in-situ by cosmic ray interactions in the surfaces of interest.
Other Contributions: Lal set up a National Radiocarbon Laboratory at TIFR to facilitate chronological studies of Indian archaeological sites going back to the Harappan era and established an accurate chronology of the sites. He also set up a Tritium Laboratory at TIFR, which was later moved to NGRI, Hyderabad. He has also served on the Editorial Boards of Earth, Moon and Planets; Space Science Reviews; Proceedings of Indian Academy of Science (Earth and Planetary Sciences Section) and Scientific World Journal. He is Fellow, Indian Geophysical Union (1963), American Geophysical Union (2005), TIFR, Mumbai (1996) and PRL, Ahmedabad (1991); Member, Advisory Committee on Environment; ICSU (1988-93); Associate, Royal Astronomical Society of London (1984); Member, International Academy of Astronautics (1985). He served the INSA Council Member (1974-76), and as its Foreign Secretary (1981-84). He was President, International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (1983-87); President, International Association for Physical Sciences of the Ocean, (1979-83); Member, ICSU Executive Committee.
Awards and Honours: The number of awards and honours that he received include: Krishnan Medal (1965); SS Bhatnagar Award (1967); Padma Shri (1971); FICCI Award (1974); NASA Special Recognition Award (1979); KS Krishnan Memorial Lectureship of INSA (1981); NASA Group Achievement Award (Skylab III) (1986); Jawaharlal Nehru Award (1986); Hans Petterson Medal from Royal Swedish Academy (1989); Honorary Fellow, Geological Society of India (1992); Fellow of Geochemical Society, USA (1997), American Association for the Advancement of Science (1997), Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1964), National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1988), the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) (1983) and the Royal Society, London (1979); Foreign Associate of National Academy of Sciences, USA (1975) and Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of arts and Sciences (1989).