The bungalow where TIFR began, in 1945

In May 1945, the Trustees of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust decided to sponsor an Institute for Fundamental Research in co-operation with the Government of Bombay. It was decided to incorporate the Cosmic Ray Unit of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in this Institute. It was also decided to name the new Institute “The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research”.

The Institute commenced its work from June 1, 1945 at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Dr H.J. Bhabha was appointed as the Director of the new Institute.

The Provisional Council of the Institute consisted of Sir S.D. Saklatvala (Chairman), Representative of Sir Dorab Tata Trust,
Mr S.N. Moos, Representative of Government of Bombay, Dr John Mathai, Representative of Sir Dorab Tata Trust, Dr H.J. Bhabha, Director of the Institute

Soon the Institute was shifted to Bombay and it started functioning from a bungalow called Kenilworth, owned by Homi Bhabha’s aunt.

On December 19, 1945, Sir John Colville, the Governor of Bombay inaugurated the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay.

In his inaugural speech, the Director of TIFR, Homi Bhabha said,

“The pursuit of science and its practical application are no longer subsidiary social activities today. Science forms the basis of our whole social structure without which life as we know it would be inconceivable. As Marx said 'Man’s power of nature is at the root of history' and we have in our own time seen the history of the world shaped by those countries which have made the greatest scientific progress."

Bhabha continued,
"Science has at last opened up the possibility of freedom for all from long hours of manual drudgery and today we stand at the beginning of an age when every person will have the opportunity to develop himself spiritually to his fullest stature. With the mastery of atomic energy and the accelerating progress of science in other fields, the world in a hundred years time will look as different from today, as today is different from the middle ages.”

In his inaugural speech, the Governer of Bombay, Sir John Colville said,
“ …I regard the establishment of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research as an encouraging sign from a wider aspect than that simply of showing how a wise use of Trust Funds, individual initiative and Government support can be combined in the common good. India stands in urgent need of the speedy development of her resources, both agricultural and industrial. This can only be achieved with the aid of science.

He continued,
"For modern industry and agriculture rest, to an ever increasing extent, upon scientific foundations, economic progress depends on continual advances in the field of fundamental research, which provides the material on which the applied scientist can work…I therefore welcome the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, not only for itself, but also for the enlivening and original influence which it can exert on applied scientific work, which I hope and trust will increase as Indian industry expands…”

Bhabha explaining high altitude cosmic ray measurement apparatus to Sir John Colville, Dr Alban D'Souza, Mayor of Bombay, Sir Sorab Saklatvala and Sir Henry Knight during the inauguration of TIFR at Kenilworth

Homi Bhabha showing the Wilson Chamber used for studying the scattering of Mesons.

"In those days, the Institute was small if not tiny. Since the nearest tea shop was over a kilometre away, Ms Pandey allowed tea for the Institute staff to be prepared in her kitchen and she herself served tea to her favourite nephew in fine chinaware"- G. Venkataraman, Bhabha and his Magnificent Obsessions

By 1949, Kenilworth became too small to accommodate all of the Institute's activities. The Institute then moved from its old premises at Pedder Road to a more spacious building next to the Gateway of India commonly referred to as Old Yacht Club. The normal working of the Institute was resumed by the middle of October. The old premises at Pedder Road were used to house the Chemical Section and Metallurgical Section of Atomic Energy Commission.
Today the old two-storey bungalow is gone. In its place stands a multi-storeyed apartment complex with the same name occupied mainly by officers of BARC, DAE and TIFR.

Credits: Story

Photos- TIFR Archives

Finance- Tata Education Trust

Credits: All media
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