Obituary for Praveen Chaudhari

Professor Praveen Chaudhari passed away on January 13, 2010 at his home in Briarcliff Manor, New York, after a battle with cancer. He received his Bachelor’s degree from I.I.T.(Kharagpur, 1961) and a Doctoral degree from M.I.T. in 1966, both in Physical Metallurgy. He joined IBM in 1966 and he held various research and management responsibilities for three decades in scientific research and technology development. He was appointed Director in 1981, and Vice-President of Science in 1982. During his stewardship, IBM scientists were awarded Nobel Prizes for two consecutive years and the science programs at the IBM research laboratories across the globe grew significantly.

After retiring from IBM in March 2003, he became the Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, a position he held until April 2006. With the help of Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton, and Congressman Bishop, and with private funding by Jim Simons and his colleagues at Renaissance Technology, he enabled the Laboratory to implement a new vision and set itself on a growth curve that continues to this day. After 2006, he continued to work at Brookhaven part-time as a research scientist. He also joined Columbia University as an Adjunct Professor in the Materials Science Program of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics.

He published over a hundred and sixty scientific papers, and held over three dozen patents. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the National Academy of Engineering; he was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Physical Society. His many awards include the National Medal of Technology, awarded to him and two colleagues in 1995 by President Clinton for "the discovery and development of a new class of materials -- the amorphous magnetic materials -- that are the basis of erasable, read-write, optical storage technology, now the foundation of the worldwide magnetic-optic disk industry."

Dr. Chaudhari was active in many committees nationwide and internationally, including the Physics Policy Committee of the American Physical Society, the Governing Board of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Advisory Board of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the National Science Foundation, and the Scientific Advisory Council of the International Center for Theoretical Physics. He served as the Executive Secretary of President Reagan's Advisory Council on Superconductivity, and was a member of the National Commission on Superconductivity that reported its findings to President Bush. In 1988 he reported to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India on science and technology, and in 1993, at the request of the Indian Minister for Sciences and Technology, he led an IBM group to evaluate the Indian parallel computer activities.

Dr. Chaudhari had great enthusiasm for science and set extremely high standards for himself and those lucky enough to work with him. He will be sorely missed. He is survived by his wife, Karin, and his two children, Ashok and Pia.


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