MK Vainu Bappu obtained his PhD degree (1952) from Harvard College, Massachusetts, USA. His specialization was in astronomy. He was Carnegie Fellow, Hale Observatory (1952); and Director of UP State Observatory, Nainital (1954-60); of Astronomical Observatory, Kodaikanal (1960-77), and of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore (1977-82).
Academic and Research Achievements: For Bappu, astronomy was a life-long passion. He was well known for the discovery of the Bappu-Bok-Newkirk comet and the Wilson-Bappu effect. He made an exhaustive survey of Wolf-Rayet stars, a subject in which he remained an authority throughout his life. He investigated the incidence of H and K emission from ionized calcium in late type stars; the results revealed a relation connecting the equivalent width of the H and K lines with the absolute magnitude of the star. The analysis was done jointly with Professor OC Wilson and the relation has entered the annals of astronomical literature as the Wilson-Bappu effect. This is one of the fundamental relations often used in stellar luminosity determination. He also obtained an excellent series of spectra of RT Aurigae, a cepheid variable, and the shell of Pleione. His research areas covered: physics of the sun, stars, and solar system; physical phenomena in galactic and extragalactic systems: and astrophysical techniques.
Other Contributions: Bappu's indefatigable industry and far-reaching vision led to the founding of the National Observatory in UP (now in Uttranchal), rejuvenated the Kodaikanal Observatory and created the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, and the Observatory at Kavalur, Tamil Nadu. Bappu was an INSA Council Member (1972-74). Bappu was an authority on the history of astronomy in India during the British period. He painstakingly collected material from the central and state archives and had hoped to put down the history of astronomical studies in a book. Although that dream remains unfulfilled, he has left behind a series of articles describing the endeavors of astronomers over the last two centuries.
Awards and Honours: Vainu Bappu was a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (Vice-President, 1980-82); Foreign Member, Royal Society of Science, Liege, Belgium; Honorary Foreign Associate, Royal Astronomical Society, London; Member of Astronomical Society of India (President, 1973-74), and International Astronomical Union (Vice-President, 1979-82). He was a recipient of Donhoe Comet Medal by Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1949); SS Bhatnagar Prize (1971); Padma Bhushan (1981); and Satyendra Nath Bose Medal of INSA (1983) (Posthumously).
Indian National Science Academy has instituted 'INSA-Vainu Bappu Memorial Award' in his honour.