Sir M Visvesvaraya


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Prelims: General Science

Mains: Achievements of Indians in science & technology

Bharat Ratna Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (1861-1962), widely known as Sir MV, was a distinguished and India’s pioneer civil engineer, statesman, and scholar. He held the position of Dewan of Mysore from 1912 to 1918, and for his outstanding contribution, he is known as the Father of Modern Mysore.

Sir M. Visvesvaraya is known for various outstanding works in engineering and administration, including block systems of irrigation, automated flood gates, and a strategy on economic planning called the Visvesvaraya Plan, to name a few. Engineer's Day is celebrated in India in his honour. 

Early Life of Sir M Visvesvaraya

Sir M. Visvesvaraya was born in Muddenahalli village in Karnataka, in a Tamil Brahmin family. His ancestors were from Mokshagundam, a village in present-day Andhra Pradesh, and had migrated there years before Visvesvaraya's birth. 

  • He completed his B.A. (Bachelors of Arts) from the University of Madras.
  • Later, he completed civil engineering from the College of Science in Pune.

The Career of Sir M Visvesvaraya

Sir M. Visvesvaraya initially commenced his career with the Government of British India, serving in the Bombay Presidency and other British-administered territories in the Middle East. Later, he took up positions in Hyderabad State. 

  • Even after his voluntary retirement in 1918, he undertook both administrative and statesmanship roles while also maintaining his involvement in engineering projects in the Kingdom of Mysore.

Career in Engineering

  • Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya began his career as an assistant engineer in the Public Works Department, Bombay, in 1885. 
    • Known for his innovative contributions, in 1899 he joined the Indian Irrigation Commission
    • He implemented an intricate irrigation system in the Deccan Plateau and designed patented automatic weir water floodgates. These gates effectively regulated water levels without causing harm to the dam. 
    • His success led to the installation of similar systems at other dams.
  • Visvesvaraya was also involved in major projects outside India, including a successful water supply and drainage system in the British Colony of Aden (present-day Yemen). 
  • Following voluntary retirement in 1908, he toured industrialised nations and briefly worked for Nizam Osman Ali Khan, focusing on flood protection systems. 
    • His expertise extended to developing flood protection for Hyderabad and safeguarding Visakhapatnam port from sea erosion.
  • In 1909, he was appointed as the chief engineer of Mysore State, where he oversaw significant projects such as the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam.

Career in Administration

  • He served as the Dewan of Mysore from 1912 to 1918. During his tenure, he played a pivotal role in establishing various industrial ventures and institutions, including factories, research laboratories, and educational facilities. 
  • Significant contributions included the Mysore Soap Factory, Bangalore Polytechnic, and the State Bank of Mysore
  • Visvesvaraya also promoted private investment in industry and provided technical guidance for significant infrastructure projects. 
  • Even in his later years, he continued to offer expertise, advising on the location of the Mokama Bridge over the Ganga River in Bihar.

Key Contributions of Sir M Visvesvaraya

The contributions of Sir M. Visvesvaraya continue to influence India's engineering and infrastructure landscape, making him a revered figure in the field.

  • He introduced the block system of irrigation in India (Deccan Canals) in 1899, intended to provide the benefits of irrigation over a large number of villages and populations in each village within blocks.
  • He solved the problem of “muddy and discoloured” water in Sukkur, located on the banks of the Indus. 
  • He invented the system of patented Automatic Water Floodgates, initially deployed at the Khadakwasla reservoir in Pune in 1903.
  • In 1917, he founded the Government Engineering College in Bengaluru, a prestigious institution later renamed as University of Visvesvaraya College of Engineering in his honour.
  • He is widely recognized as an early advocate and practitioner of Economic Planning in India, called the Visvesvaraya Plan, which he presented in a book titled “Planned Economy in India”. 

Awards and Honours Received by Sir M Visvesvaraya

The following are the awards with which Sir M. Visvesvaraya has been honoured:

  • Sir M. Visvesvaraya was appointed in 1911 as a “Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE)” by King Edward VII.
  • In 1915, he was conferred the title of “Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE)” for his contributions to the public good.
  • In 1955, the Government of India honoured him with the highest civilian honour i.e., Bharat Ratna for his numerous industrial, economic and social projects.
  • He received an honorary membership from the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, a fellowship from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and several honorary degrees, including D.Sc., LL.D., and D.Litt., from eight universities in India.
  • He presided over the Indian Science Congress in 1923. 
  • The Engineer’s Day is celebrated in India on September 15 every year to honour the contributions of Sir M. Visvesvaraya, which is his birth anniversary.

FAQs related to Sir M Visvesvaraya

Who is considered to be the first engineer in India?

The first engineer in India is considered to be Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya.

What was Visvesvaraya famous for?

Visvesvaraya was famous for his pioneering contributions to engineering, particularly in the fields of irrigation and flood control. He designed innovative automatic weir water floodgates and implemented complex irrigation systems.

Who is the father of engineering in India?

Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya is often referred to as the "father of engineering in India" due to his significant role in shaping and advancing engineering practices in the country.

What are Sir Visvesvaraya's achievements?

He designed and implemented an intricate system of irrigation in the Deccan Plateau and patented automatic weir water floodgates, which were installed in several dams, including the Khadakvasla Dam near Pune.

Why is Sir Visvesvaraya called the "Father of Engineering in India"?

He is often referred to as the "father of engineering in India" due to his pivotal role in shaping the engineering landscape of the country through his innovative solutions and leadership in various engineering projects.

What was his role as the Dewan of Mysore?

As the Dewan (chief minister) of Mysore from 1912 to 1918, he played a crucial role in the development of the state. He initiated various industrial and infrastructure projects, including the Mysore Soap Factory, Mysore Iron & Steel Works, and Bangalore Agricultural University.

Why was Sir Visvesvaraya awarded with Bharat Ratna?

Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award. Sir M. Visvesvaraya was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 1955 for his exceptional contributions to engineering and public service.

What is Engineer's Day in India and why is it celebrated on September 15th?

Engineer's Day in India is celebrated on September 15th each year, which is Sir M. Visvesvaraya's birthday. It's a day to commemorate his outstanding achievements and contributions to the field of engineering.