B N Raghunatharao: A legendary geologist

We are talking about Dr Raghunatharao, who was one of the first to identify the Mardihalli Pillow lavas (circa 2750 million years old) in Chitradurga district, which, subsequently, has been declared as a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).

He also identified banded ferruginous quartzite, volcanic bombs, volcanic chutes, volcanic plugs, ripple lava and other geological structures like the “subsidence caldera” in the Chitradurga region.

His work received public recognition in 1985, when Dr B P Radhakrishna, former director of mines and geology, Karnataka, published a paper in GSI Journal, highlighting the work done by Dr Raghunatharao.
Dr Raghunatharao conducted the geological survey of about 1,800 sq miles, walking on foot! He had mapped 1,200 sq miles of the area for his work on volcanic activity in Chitradurga schist belt. According to colleagues, the geological maps and studies made by him in 1953 are identical with satellite pictures taken after two decades. They have been confirmed by the work done in the area by other geologists in later years.

During the study of Chitradurga schist belt, he used to walk 25 to 30 miles a day, through fields and jungles, to study the rocks, fault lines, and to trace the schist belt. He would return to camp in bullock carts and would analyse and map the day’s work till late in the evening. This was a geologist’s life during that period.

Dr Raghunatharao with his team of geologists in the department, estimated the volume of magnetite ore availability and the economic viability of the same in Kudremukh, Chikmaglur district (after Prof Sampath Iyyangar identified magnetite ore availability in the area). He also estimated the volume of magnetite ore availability in Kodachadri hills in Western Ghats in Karnataka.

Belur Narayanmurthy Raghunatharao was born on July 10, 1908 at Mysore and was brought up in the temple town of Belur. He completed his matriculation with merit in Hassan. He passed the Mysore University entrance examination, receiving a scholarship to study Natural Sciences. Under the guidance of Prof Sampath Iyyangar, he stood first in Geology for the university and was awarded the very first Maharaja’s gold medal in natural science by the university.

After his marriage to Leela, he left to pursue post-graduate studies in Presidency College, Calcutta. He started his career as a research scholar in Central College, Bangalore. Raghunatharao published his first academic paper in 1935 on “Origin and Petrography of the Felsite and Porphyry Dykes in Mysore District”. In 1936, he joined the Mysore geological department.

In 1937, he published a paper on “Pillow Structures in the Mica Traps of the Chitaldrug schist belt” in Current Science, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore. He was awarded a doctoral degree for his thesis on “Some studies in the geology of the Chitaldrug schist belt, Mysore state” in 1958 from Calcutta University.

He retired in 1963 as deputy director of mines and geology. He passed away on January 29, 1975. Dr Raghunatharao was a sensitive and warm person, who took great pride in his work. He took every task as a challenge, and personally attended to addressing every minute detail. He was a perfectionist. He was progressive in his ideas as well as in practice. He encouraged his wife to complete her matriculation. She completed her matriculation in 1941 while expecting her fourth child. He similarly encouraged and supported his junior colleagues to further their education.

He was a true nationalist. In the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, he spun cotton yarn on a charakha in the house and wore only khadi clothes until Independence.

On the occasion of this birth centenary, his family has handed over his thesis and other academic works, with available maps to the Geological Survey of India (Airborne mineral Exploration), Bangalore.


2 thoughts on “B N Raghunatharao: A legendary geologist”

  1. respected sir
    i am the student of university of pune MSc geology and doing the desertation on pillow lava, so i wanted more information on this topic.
    requesting for your help, if u have any sort of information about pillow lava or its morphology.
    other e-mail id:- marhabaa_4278@rediffmail.com

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