The international community of glass scientists in general and the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur in particular suffered a grievous blow on 23 November 1990 when Professor Amal Paul died suddenly and unexpectedly from a severe heart attack at the age of 53. His loss will be felt heavily not only at his Institute but also throughout the world wherever the chemistry of glasses is studied. Nevertheless, the corpus of his considerable output of scientific writings forms a fitting memorial and one that will be useful to glass scholars for generations to come.
Amal was born on 10 February 1937 in what is now Bangladesh, and at the partition of the Indian subcontinent his family migrated to Calcutta where he was educated. No doubt the experience of having to establish himself without the cushioning of a privileged background was a factor leading to the characteristic energy, hard work, and self reliance which he brought to his work throughout his life and which have been such an example to the many students he has supervised. He completed his graduate and postgraduate studies in chemistry at the University of Calcutta and, in 1963, was accepted by Professor Douglas to the Department of Glass Technology at Sheffield University where he was awarded an Owens Illinois Research Scholarship. Douglas launched him onto the study of redox reactions, a challenge he took up with characteristic vigour, and in 1965 he successfully submitted his PhD thesis ‘Redox reactions in glass’.
He was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship in 1966 and following his appointment to a Lectureship at the University of Sheffield in 1967 there followed a most productive decade in which he established himself as a world authority on the chemistry of glasses. In 1975 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Technical Science by the University of Sheffield, and in the same year was elected to the Fellowship of the Society of Glass Technology and also to the Institute of Ceramics. Also in that year he was appointed Abstracts Editor of the Society, a post he filled until his return to India in 1977. After his return he became very actively involved in the Indian Section of the Society, taking on the task of Secretary and serving a distinguished term of office as President. He was awarded the degree of DSc by the University of Calcutta and had professional affiliations to the Royal Institute of Chemistry and the American Ceramic Society. He was the recipient of several scientific awards including the Madan Mohan Malaviya award (twice) and the Ganpule award.
For a brief period after his return to India, Paul was on the Faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and in 1978 was appointed to a Chair at the Materials Science Centre of the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur. Here he undertook a considerable burden of administration for sponsored research and industrial consultancy covering a wide range of materials science topics, and he was also Dean. He was the Founding Chairman of the highly sophisticated Central Research Facility of IIT at Kharagpur and was the motive force behind obtaining British Government aid and collaboration for the central research facility and the optical fibre unit.
In a busy scientific life he supervised the work of numerous postgraduate students, both in Sheffield and in India, and published more than a hundred and fifty original research papers, jointly or as sole author. In 1982 he collected this material, together with much else besides, in his well known monograph The chemistry of glasses.
Staff and students who worked with him will remember him not only as a strict disciplinarian but also as a humane person with a unique sense of humour, always ready to extend his help when needed. We extend our sympathy to his friends and colleagues at IIT, where he will be sadly missed, but more especially to his wife and family.