Early history of CSA

The Electrical Engineering Department had built a strong research group in Automatic Control theory by 1968. B. L. Deekshatulu was the central figure in the area. He obtained his Ph. D. in 1964, his thesis being the first in automatic control theory from IISc. The activity was subsequently ably supported by M. D. Srinath, a Ph. D. from University of Illinois in control systems and M. A. L. Thathachar, who also obtained his Ph. D. from IISc. The group received support from K. S. Narendra of Yale. G. Krishna built a transformer analog computer for simulating electrical machines and power systems for his Ph. D. in EE. In ECE dept. V. Rajaraman and B. S. Atal built a prototype analogue computer with the help of Prof. Vincent Rideout of Wisconsin.

In 1968, subsequent to the Tashkent agreement between USSR and the Govt. of India it was decided to develop a School of Automation focusing on control and computers at IISc beginning with the control system activity in the EE Department. A team of scientists consisting of Satish Dhawan, H.S. Ramachandra Rao, and B.L. Deekshatulu from EE and N. S. Nagaraja from ECE visited the Russian Academy of Sciences to negotiate an agreement on behalf of the Ministry of Education. Following this visit a second team consisting of Y.V. Venkatesh, S. Rajaram and R. Krishnan visited the Moscow Power Institute in 1969 for training in the setting up of the School. The USSR was to provide computational equipment and visiting faculty. The School of Automation was established in 1969 as an independent multi disciplinary R&D Centre. Visitors to the School during those early years included the celebrated control theorists Y.Z. Tsypkin, Mark Aizerman and V.A. Venikov, expert on electrical power systems from the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The collaboration was terminated in 1971-72 as the support from the USSR was not satisfactory.

The School of Automation subsequently charted out an independent course for its teaching and research focus under Professor I.G. Sarma, who joined the school from IIT Kanpur as its first Chairman. Some areas of interest initiated by him were flight control simulation, guidance of aerospace vehicles, digital hardware and circuits, fluid systems, process control and control applications to large power systems. Thomas Kailath of Stanford visited ECE on sabbatical in 1969-70 and was closely associated with the faculty of the School in the area of filtering. In 1971, the famous control theorist Rudolf Kalman visited the School and gave a series of lectures on Liapunov methods and Kalman filtering. In 1972 Deekshatulu completed his sabbatical at IBM Research Centre at Yorktown Heights and started the areas of Remote Sensing and Image Processing. In the decade of 1970s, the department had a number of significant research publications in all the relevant transactions of the IEEE such as those on Automatic Control, Systems Man and Cybernetics, Computers, Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, and Robotics and established its name as premiere research institution in these areas.

The school’s major strength was in its research and teaching activities. The school placed a major emphasis on the development of several laboratories. A full fledged Hybrid computer laboratory was attached to the school in 1975 where in thousands of students were trained in system software. It also provided support for simulation of satellite launch vehicles, long term dynamics studies of very large interconnected power systems etc. In addition, laboratories for industrial control systems, fluidics, fluid power, and instrumentation were also setup.