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Subrata Roy (scientist)

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Roy (July 3, 1924 – August 26, 2010) was a physicist, born in India, who became a professor at Pennsylvania State University and was a leader in materials research. As an advocate for interdisciplinarity, he initiated a movement of materials research societies and, outside of his multiple areas of scientific and engineering expertise, wrote impassioned pleas about the need for a fusion of religion and science and humanistic causes.

Later in life he held visiting professorships in materials science at Arizona State University, and in medicine at the University of Arizona.

Early life and education[edit]

Roy was born in Ranchi, Bihar Province, India, the son of Narenda Kumar and Rajkumari Roy.[1]

Rustum took a Cambridge School Certificate from Saint Paul's School Darjeeling. Rustum studied physical chemistry at Patna University, gaining his bachelor's degree in 1942 and master's degree in 1944. The following year he began study at Pennsylvania State University and earned his Ph.D. in engineering ceramics in 1948.[2]

Rustum Roy married Della Martin on June 8 that year.[1]


In 1962 he was named the first director of the Materials Research Laboratory at Penn State.[2] He edited the Proceedings[3] of a 1968 Conference on the chemistry of silicon carbide. The next year a national colloquy was held on materials science in the United States for which Roy edited the Proceedings.[4] In 1973 he edited the Proceedings[5] of a conference on phase transitions and their applications.

In 1974 Roy and Olaf Müller published The Major Ternary Structural Families with Springer-Verlag, which described the principal crystal structures of ternary compounds. The book received two brief reviews in materials trade journals. A cement journal reviewer said it would be "Useful to the practicing materials researcher, whether in industry or university, as well as the non-specialist who needs to become informed about particular materials."[6] A chemist writing for mineral processing readers, described its depth:

The structural descriptions are at times too brief but the chapters contain valuable information such as compositional structure field maps (radius A vs. radius B), figures of unit cells or the polyhedral arrangements in some common structures, phase diagrams (P vs. T , or P vs. ionic radius), structural relationships, and phase transition data.[7]

By 1991 he was a spokesperson for the movement and his lecture "New Materials: Fountainhead for New Technologies and New Science" was published by National Academy Press.[8] Roy presented the lecture to learned audiences in Washington, D.C.; Tokyo, Japan; New Delhi, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and London in 1991 and 92. He made the case for linking a technical need to investigative effort, which he terms "technology traction", noting that the method is productive and cost-effective in comparison to science conducted with other purposes.

Rustum Roy was referred to as "[o]ne of the legends of materials science" at the time of his death.[1]

Roy was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 1973.[9]

Other interests[edit]

University reform[edit]

In 1977 Rustum Roy proposed[10] that the "science and engineering activity of a university ... [be organized] primarily around a dozen permanent mission-oriented interdisciplinary laboratories." To reach this conclusion he notes that "universities have been forced into new interdisciplinary patterns not only by the dollar sign but also by the inexorable logic that the real problems of society do not come in discipline-shaped blocks."

The daunting structural inertia of the university did not faze him:

A human being, that is both a naked ape and a fallen angel, can manage perhaps to organize the university with both the ivory tower and service-station character.[10]:30


Roy had no formal medical credentials but was an advocate of integrating science, medicine, and spirituality. In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine Roy contributed the article "Integrative medicine to tackle the problem of chronic diseases". He noted that chronic illness debilitates the lives of many seniors, and that medical interventions are often futile. He said "little of nothing is being spent on preventative medicine", and cited the ayurveda concepts of "ahara" concerned with nutrition, and "vihara" with the conduct of life. He noted the exemplary work of Dean Ornish in addressing coronary artery disease as a hopeful innovation.[11]

In 2010, close to the end of his life, Roy co-wrote a post in the Huffington Post called "The Mythology Of Science-Based Medicine" with nonscientists Deepak Chopra and Larry Dossey, which David Gorski characterized as "an exercise that combines cherry-picking, logical fallacies, and whining, raising the last of these almost to an art form."[12][13]

Personal life[edit]

Roy married Della Martin Roy on June 8, 1948. Their three children are Neill R. Roy, Jeremy R. Roy, and Ronnen A. Roy.[1]

In 1953, Roy wrote a letter to Life magazine in response to the essay "Is Academic Freedom in Danger?" by Whittaker Chambers, stating:

Chambers neglects to note that since people rarely read Congressional Records, they get their News more by headlines and the tenor of the times. Thus, most professors "know" or "feel" it is safer today to keep your mouth shut, and, if you open it, not to support any liberal or leftish views. Let Chambers continue to remind us of the very real perils of the Communist left. Fanatical preoccupation with self-preservation will lead to loss of more valuable things, not merely academic freedom, but freedom.
Rustum Roy
Assistant Professor
The Pennsylvania State College
State College, PA[14]

Roy died on August 26, 2010 at the age of 86.[15] He was survived by his wife and children.[1]

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 1973: Member, National Academy of Engineering [9]
  • 1979: Hibbert Lecturer [16]


Edited volumes[edit]

  • Materials Science and Engineering in the United States: Proceedings (1970, contributor), Pennsylvania State University Press, ISBN 0271001011 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png..
  • Materials Science and Engineering Serving Society (1998, with others), Elsevier Science, ISBN 0444827935 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png..
  • The Interdisciplinary Imperative: Interactive Research and Education, Still an Elusive Goal in Academia (2000), Writers Club Press, ISBN 0595011799 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png..

Other authored/co-authored books[edit]

Other works[edit]

  • Science of Whole Person Healing: Proceedings of the First Interdisciplinary International Conference (2003, contributor), iUniverse, ISBN 0595301533 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png..
  • Observations and Studies of the Healing Efficacy of the Life Vessel (2012) [2009].[17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Wray, P. (2010). "Rustum Roy, 1924-2010". Ceramics.org (Online, September 14). Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Somiya, Shigeyuki & Ikuma, Yasuro (2011). "Obituary: Professor Rustum Roy, July 1924-August 2010". Transactions of the Materials Research Society of Japan. 36 (1). Retrieved 16 September 2016.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  3. R. Roy (1969) Silicon Carbide, proceedings of International Conference on Silicon Carbide, University Park, Pa (1968), Pergamon Press
  4. R Roy (1970) Materials Science and Engineering in the United States, proceedings of a National Colloquy on the Field of Materials (1969: Pennsylvania State University), Pennsylvania State University Press.
  5. R. Roy (1973) Phase Transitions, proceedings of Conference on Phase Transitions and their Applications, Pergamon Press
  6. D.M.R. (1975) Cement and Concrete Research 5(3): 267,8 doi:10.1016/0008-8846(75)90011-3
  7. B. Chamberland (1975) International Journal of Mineral Processing doi:10.1016/0301-7516(75)90030-7
  8. New Materials: Fountainhead for New Technologies and New Science, link from Google Books
  9. 9.0 9.1 NAE (2015). "Members Directory: Prof. Rustum Roy". Washington, DC, USA: National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 21 November 2015. Election citation: Contributions to the development of the modern science and technology of non-metallic materials. Primary Section: Materials Engineering.
  10. 10.0 10.1 R. Roy (1977) "Interdisciplinary research on campus – the elusive dream", Chemical and Engineering News 55(35): 28–40
  11. R. Roy (2010) Integrative medicine to tackle the problem of chronic diseases, Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 1(1)
  12. Gorski, David (11 January 2010). "Be careful what you wish for, Dr. Dossey, you just might get it". Science-Based Medicine.
  13. Dossey, Larry; Chopra, Deepak; Roy, Rustum (18 March 2010). "The Mythology Of Science-Based Medicine". The Huffington Post.
  14. Roy, Rustum (22 October 1964). "Acadmeic Freedom". Life: 11. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  15. Anon. (2010). "Influential Materials Scientist Rustum Roy Dies". Penn State News (Online, August 27). Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  16. R. Roy (1979) Experimenting with Truth; The fusion of Religion with Technology, needed for Humanity’s survival, Hibbert Lectures for 1979, Pergamon Press ISBN 0-08-025820-4 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  17. Roy, Rustum (2009). "Observations and Studies of the Healing Efficacy of the Life Vessel". Lifevesselarizona.com. Scottsdale, AZ, USA: Life Vessel Arizona Advanced Wellness Center. Retrieved 21 November 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Rustum Roy Papers from Pennsylvania State University Libraries
  • Profile and interviews at PBS Faith and Reason series
  • Novella S, Roy R, Marcus D, Bell IR, Davidovitch N, Saine A (2008). "A Debate: Homeopathy-Quackery or a Key to the Future of Medicine?". Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 14 (1): 9–15. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0770. PMID 18199017.

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