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Jagadishwar (Jay) Mahanty (1932–1995)

by Mukunda Das

Jagadishwar (fondly known by his friends as Jay) Mahanty was born on 13 November 1932 in Puri, a coastal town in the state of Orissa in India famous for the Jagannath temple. He obtained his undergraduate education at Ravenshaw College, Cuttack, and did a MSc at Calcutta University. After working for a few years in the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi, he went to the University of Maryland in the United States, where he completed a doctorate in theoretical condensed matter physics.

Jay returned to India and joined the Faculty of Physics at Panjab University, Chandigarh. In 1961 he moved to the American-aided recently established Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kanpur and worked there as a Professor of Physics until 1972. During this period he chaired the Department from 1967 to 1972. Under his leadership, a fine school of physics was established in the IIT, Kanpur.

In 1972, Jay came to the Department of Theoretical Physics in the Research School of Physical Sciences (as it was then known) at the ANU. The 1970s were the most productive years for Jay. In collaboration with Professor Barry Ninham, he co-authored a monograph on dispersion forces, that still remains an important reference book in the field. He was a Senior Fellow from 1974 until he retired from the University in July 1995 due to ill health.

He worked in many physics institutes in India, USA, Canada, France, Japan, Chile, Taiwan and Brazil. He was a versatile condensed matter physicist, whose research interests included the dynamics of crystal lattices, electron band theory, dispersion forces, bulk and surface collective modes, the interaction of charged particles with surfaces, scanning tunneling microscopy, phonon generation from semiconductor surfaces and superconductivity. His collaborative work with the ANU and overseas colleagues has resulted in many lasting impacts in the field.

He was the author or editor of five books and he wrote more than 100 research papers. He supervised 14 graduate students on various topics in condensed matter physics. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institutes of Physics of the UK and Australia. Lately he visited Hyderabad Central University, India, as Jawaharlal Nehru Professor in Physics.

Jay was a fine physicist with a very modest and kind personality. His helpful nature to both students and colleagues was a great asset of his character. He was a warm and caring human being all his life. Undoubtedly he will be greatly missed.

Original publication

Citation details

Mukunda Das, 'Mahanty, Jagadishwar (Jay) (1932–1995)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 July, 1932
Puri, Orissa, India


1995 (aged ~ 62)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.