HC Verma, who is a revered professor of Physics in India, has retired from IIT Kanpur after 38 years of formal teaching.
All of us who studied science up to class 12 know who HC Verma is. His Concepts of Physics has been a Bible to a whole generation of engineering aspirants in the country. Its two volumes reached out to millions of students, and remained a bestseller and an undeniable favourite, especially for those who adored physics.
Harish Chandra Verma, fondly known and remembered as HC Verma, has been a professor at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, for the last 22 years. Calling it a day at IIT Kanpur recently, he wrote on social media,
"Finally locked my IITK lab and submitted the keys to office. End of 38 years of formal teaching and research."
It would not be an exaggeration to say Verma's books are the key source of knowledge for students aspiring to get into the IITs, NITs, BITS Pilani and other reputed engineering colleges. First published in 1992 by Bharti Bhawan, Concepts of Physics has retained its original character with no revisions whatsoever. Although science and its teaching has evolved over the past two decades, Concepts of Physics continues to be the provider of basics concepts in physics, with lucid explanations and practically represented examples.
Born in 1952 in Darbhanga in Bihar, as a child, Verma was not a very bright student. Under the strict supervision of his father who was a teacher, Verma spent hours studying mathematics and science. However, his interest in science was very low and he barely scraped through his examinations.
Things started to change when Verma enrolled at Patna Science College for a B.Sc in physics. His interest in the subject was ignited here, thanks to an encouraging faculty. Verma eventually graduated with honours in physics and ranked third in the university. After clearing the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), he got into Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur for a Master’s in Physics. He graduated with a 9.9 GPA in 1977.
As an extraordinary student at IIT Kanpur, Verma was advised by his professors to go to the US or Europe for a better career and future. But Verma decided to return to his roots, i.e; Patna Science College and later joined the college as a lecturer in 1980.
"During my tenure at Patna Science College, I was asked to teach Physics to 11th and 12th grade students. It was evident that they did not enjoy physics while I followed textbooks by Resnick and Halliday, and Irodov. It took eight years for me to complete Concepts of Physics. I made sure to write simple steps for the complicated concepts and lucid numerical examples."
Usually, the numerical examples for students in India are circulated from one textbook to the other while only a few Indian authors provide original examples. Verma revolutionised this approach with his completely original and interesting ideas. His examples are mostly around real life activities, a few even as per the Indian scenario. It goes without saying that these examples are extremely catchy and always attract a student's undivided attention.
Stint with IIT Kanpur
Verma joined IIT Kanpur in 1994 as an Assistant Professor where he taught many courses, guided a lot of MSc and PhD students and authored the book Quantum Physics. Later, he went on to do research in experimental nuclear physics. He was also actively involved in social activities on the campus by establishing initiatives like Siksha Sopan, and Utsahi Physics Teachers.
Despite being a very popular professor at IIT Kanpur, Verma chose to lead a simple life. The legendary teacher does not own a car and still uses his Bajaj Priya scooter for commute. He often visits the slums in the city to teach regular classes and pays the school fees for a few poor students who want to be educated.
Talking about Verma’s teaching methods, Ashudeep Singh, one of Verma's students says,
"He tried to involve each and every student in a class of 200-300. He used to roam around the lecture hall asking questions. His deep knowledge and understanding of physics was reflected in his lectures. Still the exam question papers he prepared for us were quite easy. Learning from him was a different experience altogether, very different from any other professor in Kanpur."
When asked about his future plans, Verma said,
"Wherever I am, I will always serve science and education. I want to establish a Teacher Resource Centre where teachers from all across the country can get to interact with each other, and pool and share their resources and embrace the subjects they teach."
For all his brilliance as a teacher, Professor Verma is a humble human being. For his representation of monkeys in the chapter on Pulleys and Strings, as well as his friendly approach towards concepts, he will always remain a favourite teacher even for those who were never had a chance to attend his classes.
Having A/B tested his career with engineering, sales, writing, and product management, Sampath now executes a callback function for a second stint with YourStory. Loves to eat, learn, write, travel, and take photographs. Often spotted consuming lethal doses of Dosa on the main roads of Bangalore. Tweet to him at @sampathptrvu.