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Dipak Basu was born in Dhaka in 1939, during a tumultuous period of history in what was then undivided India. During the partition of the country at independence from Britain, he and his family fled the internecine violence as refugees, with only the proverbial clothes on their backs, eventually settling in Kolkata, West Bengal. Being interested in the physical sciences from an early age, Dipak spent his student years at the University of Kolkata, achieving his PhD in physics in 1967. During this time, Dipak was also actively involved in the promotion of science to the broader Bengali community, and played a leading role in the amateur scientific society founded by S.N. Bose (of Bose-Einstein statistics fame).
He then came to Ottawa as a post-doctoral fellow in radio astronomy with what is currently the NRC’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, where he worked with Art Covington's solar flux monitoring group from 1967 to 1969. He remained interested in solar studies throughout his entire career. It is at this time that he also developed a keen interest in quasars (QSOs) which had only recently been discovered and whose red-shifts had been suggested by some to show evidence of quantization. Throughout his career he published several papers attempting to prove there was no valid evidence to support this suggestion.
Dipak became Assistant Professor shortly thereafter in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at MacKenzie University in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1970. He then joined the Department of Physics at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad in 1978. There, he achieved tenure and founded and led the Astronomy Group and spent the major part of his professional academic life. A dedicated teacher, Dipak taught a variety of undergraduate and doctoral level courses in fields ranging from electronics, radio astronomy and astrophysics to electronics, optics, thermodynamics and applied mathematics.
Dipak returned to Ottawa in 1995. He continued to be fully engaged in his academic research through the next 15 years with the physics department at Carleton University. Finally, in a curious turn of fate, he returned in the last year of his life as a Visiting Scientist to the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, the very institution that had helped him to launch his career over 40 years ago. In the most literal sense, Dipak’s life and career had come full circle.
Dipak published over 90 peer-reviewed articles in the fields of solar astronomy and extra-galactic astronomy and cosmology and was most recently Editor-in-Chief and Contributing Editor for several dictionaries of physics published by CRC Press. One of his principal interests in astronomy was the alternate interpretation of spectral lines in quasi-stellar objects (QSOs) to represent blue-shift as opposed to the standard red-shift interpretation. He was able to explain anomalous features in the spectra of several extragalactic objects in this manner and to reinterpret others. He continued to work meticulously and avidly to the end on this problem as evidenced by his final published paper. A full appreciation of the understanding of QSOs is incomplete without noting Dipak’s rich contribution to the field.
Dr. Dipak Basu departed his physical body at the Ottawa Civic Hospital on July 8, 2011 after a short and sudden illness. He leaves behind his wife, Debika and son, Joydeep.
Obituary written by: Joydeep Basu
BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2011, 43, 036