Nyayapathi Venkata Vykuntha Jagannadha Swamy, known to his relatives, friends, and colleagues simply as “Dr. Swamy”, 89, a resident of Stillwater and Professor Emeritus at Oklahoma State University, passed away on June 13, 2013, in his hometown of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India, where he was born on March 28, 1924.
After completing his bachelor’s of science (1949, in Mathematics) another bachelor’s of science (1950, in Physics) and master’s of science (1952, in Nuclear Physics) degrees from Bombay University in India, Swamy completed his doctorate (1958, in Theoretical Nuclear Physics) at Florida State University, after which he did postdoctoral work at the University Maryland and Duke University. Later, he taught physics at Karnatak University, India, before returning to the United States and joining the faculty of the physics department at Oklahoma State University in 1963, the first Indian-American professor at the university. He taught at Oklahoma State until 1965. After that, he returned to India for three years and came back to rejoin OSU as associate professor of physics in 1968. In 1977, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Swamy was a mathematical physicist, well known for his contributions to the physics of relativistic harmonic oscillator which found wide applications in atomic, nuclear, and high energy physics. He was also well known for his group theoretical contributions to mathematical physics. His textbook, co-authored with Mark Samuel, Group Theory Made Easy for Scientists and Engineers, published in 1979, was widely adapted..
Things weren’t always easy for Swamy. After he lost his parents at the age of 3, he completed his high school education in his home town of Visakhapatnam and later moved to Bombay for college. As he had no money to continue his education further, he worked as a shorthand typist and later as a civilian clerk in Royal Indian Navy before he was selected as a lecturer in physics at Siddharth College in Bombay.
Before he retired in 1987 from Oklahoma State, Swamy lectured at several universities, was a guest scientist in Julich, Germany, and Cambridge University, UK, taught at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, and several universities in India during his sabbatical leaves from Oklahoma State.
After his retirement, Swamy divided his time between Stillwater and India, providing voluntary services to educational institutions in India. Among the Indian universities he taught over the years included Charotar University of Science and Technology, Rajkot University, Bhavnagar University, University of Kerala, Pondicherry University, Bangalore University, Mangalore University, and Viswabharati in Santiniketan. His last teaching stint was at Gayathri University in his hometown, starting in November 2011.
Swamy took an avid interest in Vedic astrology and spent numerous hours studying the subject, preparing horoscopes for whomever asked for them, and making predictions based on his research. He was instrumental in founding the Tennis Club of Stillwater and, in his spare time, he played a mean game of tennis, enjoyed watching cricket and tennis matches on TV, and discussing Indian philosophy and ancient Indian religious texts.
He was a connoisseur of and enjoyed Carnatik music, a type of Indian classical music associated with the southern part of India that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions. He was a great storyteller to children of all ages and was known for his exceptional memory which allowed him to rattle off facts and figures with effortless ease. He had a cheerful disposition and will be greatly missed by his large number of friends around the world.
Swamy is survived by his grandniece Subhadra Singh of Houston (to whom he was “Uncle Walker”), S.V. Rangarajan, his nephew in India, and several other nieces and nephews in India.
A memorial service for Dr Swamy is being planned by his friends to be held sometime in August, and it will be publicized as soon as the date, time, and location are finalized.