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Obituary: Prof. A. S. Vasudeva Murthy

A. S. Vasudeva Murthy

( 7 Sep 1957 - 29 Apr 2021 )

A. S. Vasudeva Murthy (Vasu) was born to A. Srinivasa Rao and Aripirala Suvarna on September 07, 1957 in Burla, Sambalpur district of Orissa. He passed away on April 29, 2021. The cause of death was COVID-19.

After obtaining a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Karnatak University, Dharwad, he joined the Indian Institute of Science - Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (IISc -TIFR) joint programme in the year 1979 and later became a regular member of TIFR in 1982.

During his initial days at the institute, he immersed himself in various aspects of mathematics and applications. He started his work under the supervision of Prof. S. Kesavan in numerical analysis, and published an excellent article on boundary element methods for the heat equation in 1985. Later, in the spirit of the IISc-TIFR joint programme, he started  working with Profs. Roddam Narasimha and J. Srinivasan of IISc on the Ramdas Layer problem. He observed that the Partial Differential Equation (PDE) model proposed by Narasimha and Srinivasan failed to capture the Ramdas Layer phenomenon in numerical simulations. Vasu unravelled the mathematical issues involved in the underlying PDE which was responsible for the failure of the model and his proof of this mathematical result also threw light on the modification to be incorporated in the model to capture the phenomenon. The work eventually led to the model exhibiting the Ramdas Layer phenomenon and his PhD thesis. He  obtained his PhD from the Mechanical Engineering department of IISc in the year 1991.

Vasu made further progress on this problem in the later years and also moved on to various theoretical and applied problems. He did several interesting works in numerical analysis in collaboration with Prof. Vidar Thomee, from Chalmers University, Sweden. For his scientific contributions, Vasu was awarded the Sir M. Visvesvaraya award by Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology in the year 1998.

At TIFR Centre for Applicable Mathematics (CAM), he was the face of applications for many decades and took up many projects of national importance. One of the notable projects in which he contributed significantly was the CSIR-initiated New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) project to develop a weather prediction code for Indian monsoon. He actively took part in the execution of several other research projects including the study of sea breeze phenomenon near Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, India with his students at CAM. Even as he was approaching retirement, he was always keen to take up new challenges, the most recent being the application of image processing tools to aid farmers detect initial stages of crop decay. Sadly, after his retirement from TIFR in 2019, he could not follow up and pursue this actively.

Vasu was an excellent communicator and was popular across the country among mathematicians and students working in applied mathematics and numerical analysis. Many young researchers from CAM and also from other institutions in the country immensely benefited from their interactions with him. At CAM he enthusiastically participated in the visiting students programme and advised many students from across the country. In addition to his research and mentoring, he was a member of the editorial board of “The Mathematics Student”, brought out by the Indian Mathematical Society. He was an active participant in scientific administration. He never declined an invitation to join national level committees for the evaluation of scientific projects and to serve in faculty selection/evaluation committees of various institutions. He also served as the Dean of TIFR CAM for a short period during 2018-19.

Vasu’s mother Suvarna was a famous Telugu novelist and his father was employed in Coimbatore cotton mills. Having grown up in different parts of the country, he was well versed in many languages, including, Telugu, Kannada, English, Hindi and Tamil. Vasu is survived by his wife Nirmala and son, Vinod. Sadly, his daughter, Varshini passed away a week prior to his death, also due to COVID-19. Several of us at CAM knew her personally, and her death was a rude shock to us.

The mathematics training at TIFR and the real applied research he carried out make him unique among the mathematicians of his generation. He was one of the very few in the country who could understand and talk with ease, engineering science and sophisticated modern mathematics. With his passing away, we have lost a great human being, a great scholar and an excellent applied mathematician.