Rustum Roy, 1924-2010Published on September 14th, 2010 | By: Peter Wray
One of the legends of materials science and of science in general, Rustum Roy,
passed away Aug. 26, 2010. Although he was a stellar researcher, he
considered himself to be a citizen-scientist and urged his colleagues to
deeply consider how science, society, art and education can interact in
productive and nonproductive ways.
It is difficult to summarize Roy’s influence on the world of science,
let alone just the fields of ceramics and glass. He held five
professorships: three at Pennsylvania State University, one at Arizona
State University and one at the University of Arizona. He was a 32-year
member of the National Academy of Engineering, with the rare distinction
also of having been elected to the National Academies of
Science/Engineering of Russia, Japan, Sweden and India.
In 2003, the Institute for Scientific Information ranked Penn State’s
Materials Research Laboratory, which he founded in 1962 and directed
for a quarter century, first in the world on the basis of the number of
highly cited scientists in the lab.
Roy left a permanent mark on the materials field, starting with its
most fundamental base: phase diagrams and crystal chemistry. His
discovery and championing of major discoveries in new materials
processing — sol–gel process — has been utilized (not only cited) in
over 50,000 papers. His work in hydrothermal reaction, microwave
processing, nucleation in glass, radioactive wastes, nanocomposites and
superconductors have also left a permanent legacy.
Roy became a Fellow of The American Ceramic Society in 1961 and
elevated to Distinguished Life Member in 1993. He had also sponsored one
of the most anticipated annual lectures of ACerS: The Frontiers of
Science Rustum Roy Lecture series that has been a fixture of the
Society’s Annual Meetings.
Roy authored or coauthored hundreds of papers, founded and edited
numerous newsletters and journals in materials science and engineering
education. One of his recent papers appeared in the first issue of
ACerS’ new International Journal of Applied Glass Science, “Glass Science and Glassmaking: A Personal Perspective” and represents something of a tour de force of his career:
“This paper demonstrates how glass has provided one of the earliest,
and still rare, examples of controlled use of science at the nanolevel
in a well-established gigatechnology. The glass community-from the
Venetian glass makers (and the science of luminaries such as Michael
Faraday and Isaac Newton) down through major industrial successes such
as glass-ceramics-are examples of excellent nanoengineers practicing
clever applications of manipulation of matter at the nano and subnano
scale. This paper describes the evolution of the understanding of
nanoheterogeneity of the structure (and composition of virtually all
useful glasses) that has been the key evolutionary “invention” in this
process. It then makes the case that glass (and polymer) technology has
an enormous advantage over all of the nanomaterial technologies that are
confronted with the enormous barrier of assembling large numbers of
very small particles into useful products on a large scale, as
recognized by the recently anointed patron saint of the present
nanofever, Richard Feynman, in his only paper in the field. Finally,
this paper introduces glass scientists to a radically new opportunity
via a totally new way to convert crystalline matter into glasses
(noncrystalline solids)-for all scientists interested in the glassy
Roy also chaired the Science Advisory Committee of the Friends of
Health, a nonprofit group that examines a range of disruptive
innovations in human healing based on materials science and physics.
In an obituary on Penn State’s website, one of Roy’s colleagues, Carlo Pantano, had this to say:
“Rustum Roy made a difference for the field of materials science and
for Penn State. He had a tremendous publication record extending back
60 years that people still refer to in their research. At every step of
the way he seemed to be ahead of the curve, in research as well as in
the way he managed the scientific enterprise. He was well-known to be
an enthusiastic and provocative lecturer by students and colleagues
alike. His crystal chemistry course was on every graduate student’s
course list, in addition to numerous special topics courses he created
in concert with the latest and hottest research topics in materials
Roy was interested in science policy as much as science, itself, and
he served as a science policy fellow at the Brookings Institution from
1982 to 1983 and was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Policy
Studies in Washington, D.C., from 1980 to 1985.
He was also a lay preacher and served on the board of the National
Council of Churches and helped found the Sycamore Community church.
Finally, it is important to note Roy’s long-time marriage to fellow
materials scientist Della Martin Roy, another legendary figure in the
world of material science and policy.
Here is Roy’s formal obituary from the Centre Daily Times:
Rustum Roy, 86, of State College, died Thursday, August 26, 2010 at Foxdale Village.
on July 3, 1924, in Ranchi, India, he was the seventh child of the late
Narendra Kumar and Rajkumari Roy. On June 8, 1948, he married Della
Martin, who survives.
Also surviving are three children, Neill
R. Roy and his wife, Evelina Francis, of State College, Jeremy R. Roy
and his wife, Lydia, of Arlington, Tex., and Ronnen A. Roy and his wife,
Sinaly, of Bethesda, Md.; two grandchildren, Simone and Naren; a
brother, Prodipto Roy of India, and a sister Ioni Dipti Sisodia of
Georgia; and by numerous nieces and nephews.
He received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Patna University and received his Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University.
was associated with Penn State for sixty-five years as a graduate
student and faculty member. At Penn State he held positions as Evan
Pugh Professor of the Solid State, as Professor of S.T.S., and as
Professor of Geochemistry. He also was a Distinguished Professor of
Materials at Arizona State University, and a Visiting Professor of
Medicine at the University of Arizona. He was appointed and served for
23 years as the first director of an independent interdisciplinary
Materials Research Laboratory in the U.S. He was elected to numerous
national and international scientific academies including the U.S.
National Academy of Engineering. He co-founded the pioneering
nterdisciplinary scientific society – the Materials Research Society-
and continued to advance the boundaries of science and technology up to
the present, including seminal research in the emerging field of water
science, as well as resonance effects in condensed matter.
outstanding aspect of his life was his capacity and dedication to
breaking artificial boundaries in order to integrate science, religion,
education, health, art and social action for human benefit. As an eight
year old, in his parent’s house he met Gandhi, who discussed with his
father how personal change was more effective for human advancement than
technological change. Professor Roy’s solution in life was to pursue
He was very active in ecumenical religious life for over
60 years and co-founded the interdenominational Sycamore Community. His
insight into the world’s main religions led him to work to break down
the boundaries between Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and other
religions. He served on the Executive Committee of the National Council
of Churches, was a leader in the Kirkridge retreat center, and was the
friend and colleague of many religious leaders including Bishop John
Robinson, John Shelby Spong, Prof. Harvey Cox, Sister Joan Chittister
and Reverend Gordon Cosby. He was also invited by the Pope to the
Vatican committee regarding the rehabilitation of Galileo.
was a champion of interdisciplinary K-12 schooling and was the driving
force behind creation of the interdisciplinary field of Science,
Technology and Society. He served as Science Advisor to a number of
successive Pennsylvania Governors and chaired for many years the Science
and Society Sector of President Mikhail Gorbachev’s State of the World
Professor Roy became a champion of integrative medicine,
resulting in alliances with pioneering figures including Andrew Weil,
Deepak Chopra, Larry Dossey, B.M. Hegde, Marc Newkirk, Patrick Flanagan,
Hans Peter Duerr, Vladimir Voeikov, and Yan Xin, with the purpose of
bringing advances in the art and science of whole person healing to the
wider public. He was founder and sponsor of Friends of Health, served as
co-chair of the Chopra Foundation, and hosted a live Internet talk
radio show on VoiceAmerica.com.
He was also a long time promoter
of art and the field of art and science, and was responsible for
bringing the works of artists, such as Barbara Hepworth, Max Bill, and
Fredrick Franck, to the University.
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