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A few weeks back I first heard about Prof. Rustum Roy and my reaction was ‘damn, what is wrong with mewhy I haven’t heard about him before’. 

I know about movie stars, sports stars, and other celebrities of India and around the world but why haven’t I heard before about such an astounding person like Rustum Roy who can shift your paradigm of thinking?

Perhaps because our society doesn’t consider true scientists as celebrities and the media never show us about their life and contributions. I remember Brian Green, the American cosmologist once said-

“When Kids look up to great scientists the way they do to great musicians or actors, civilization will jump to the next level”

Unless you have an amazingly inquisitive nature to know about people you will never find stories of people who instead of having great contributions never got highlighted in mainstream media.

The first thing I decided after hearing Prof. Roy’s story was to share and discuss his life and work with people.

I don’t know whether you have heard about him or how much you have heard about him but in the next few minutes, you are going to read about a scientist who challenged many conventional concepts of Science.


Prof. Rustum Roy was a material scientist at Penn State University, America. He was also associated with Arizona State University as a distinguished professor in the material program.

In fact, he was also appointed a professor in medicine with no conventional medical background. He was assigned on the basis of his original research in human healing and out-of-the-box thinking.

Rustum Roy was born on 3rd July 1924 in Ranchi, India. His parents were Narendra Kumar and Rajkumari Roy.

Prof. Roy received his B.Sc in 1942 and M.Sc. in 1944 (in Physical Chemistry), both from Patna University. Then he moved to Penn State University to obtain his Ph.D.

Later he joined the same institute as a faculty member and served there for 60 years.

It is difficult to summarize Prof. Roy’s work and influence in the world of science. He left his impression in many fields. Just to mention a few, he worked on ceramics, glass, diamond films, nanocomposites, radioactive waste, laser processing material, etc.

His famous sol-gel study (published in 1965) has been utilized and cited in more than 75000 papers. Needless to say, he published close to 1000 research papers, 25 patents, and 6 books in his lifetime.

His breadth of interests was fascinating. Later in his career, he worked on the science of whole-person healing (alternative medicine) and the structure of water.

Today he is not only known as just a material scientist but also an active spokesperson for Science policy, sexual ethics, the science of religion, etc. His contributions in other fields set him apart from all other scientists.

Rustum Roy was the first Indian elected to the US National Academy of Engineering, as well as to the National Academies of Science and Engineering of Japan, Russia, India, and Switzerland which is a rare and distinctive achievement.

It is not possible to describe his works in this small article. But his two studies which I found most thought-provoking and out of the box were Whole person healing and structure of water, I will discuss them here.


Treating sick human beings as a whole person was the trend in earlier days in Eastern as well as Western culture. Even today it is believed in Indian and Chinese culture that when the body gets sick, it’s not just a part of the body that needs treatment but the whole body should be healed.

As humans, we have our worries, anxieties, environmental factors, religious beliefs, etc. which collectively affect us. These thoughts are different people.

When we get sick each of these thoughts collectively affects us. But when you visit a hospital, they provide the same medicine to everyone for similar problems.

Today with the rise of super-specialist doctors, this has become even more common. Today a patient is hardly listened to or examined physically. Famous Indian Cardiologist and educator BM Hegde said-

“The super specialists know more and more about less and less until they come to a stage where they know more and more about nothing”

Most often such super specialists ask to carry out a huge list of tests, and from there on the doctor treats only the reports not the actual human being.

No wonder why there used to be a family doctor in earlier times for families. He knew everything about the patient.

What disturbed him? What made the patient anxious? The social and environmental effects on the patient.

The family doctor was the best person to treat a patient. However, after the evolution of the Industrial Revolution in 1950 and the rise of medical industries, the concept of whole-person healing and family doctors disappeared from society.

Prof. Rustum Roy was a firm supporter of whole-person healing. He talked about spiritual healing time and again in his lectures.

His definition of healing, Whole Person Healing (WPH), was accepted by the Institute of Medicine in February 2010 meeting in Washington. Following that momentous meeting, he said “This is of greater significance to mankind than man landing on the moon.

We all have heard about the body-mind-soul connection. You need health care that understands every aspect of your well-being- physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Prof. Roy described how your intention through prayer can bring change. Some people used to treat patients without even touching them, known as healers.

Hundreds of research papers have been written on healing, but for some reason, those records or names of people have been omitted by some groups of people. The complete works of William James on spiritualism (a Professor at Harvard University) never came among people.

Florence Nightingale and Merry Baker Eddy are some other examples of healers.

As Indians, we have grown up hearing stories of Indian sages who could heal people. Of course, there was a deliberate effort to keep such practices away from people or to name them pseudoscience.

Today meditation and prayers are getting more and more attention from people. Many scientists are trying to understand the mechanism of these practices. Here is one such paper.

Who is a true scientist?

Prof. Rao has described a clear distinction between a prejudiced scientist and a true scientist. In one of his lectures, he showed how different scientists sound.

Read lines below

“It would be enough for people to understand that we live in an orderly universe, a universe governed by physical laws that cannot be circumvented by any amount of piety or cleverness-laws that dictate everything from the birth of stars to falling in love”

That’s what Robert Park and Ursula Goodenough said and that’s how a prejudiced scientist sound.

Here is what a great scientist according to Prof. Rao sounds like-

“It is easy to sneer at our ancestors but it is much more profitable to try to discover why they, who were really not one with less sensible persons than our own excellent selves, should have been led to entertain views strike us as absurd”

This is what great biologist Thomas Huxley said.

If a scientist is synonyms with the seeker of truth then Prof. Rao showed us how to identify a true seeker of truth.


We all have grown up reading H2O is water.

So if you ask anyone what is the structure of water?

You will get the answer it’s H2O irrespective of whether water is in a liquid, solid, or vapor state. Of course, in the ice, we know water molecules are closely packed in a tetrahedron-like structure and in the vapor state, the molecules are apart.

How would you change the property of a matter?

Conventional wisdom teaches us that we can change properties by changing the composition of a matter. You mix something to it and you will see changed properties.

But Prof. Rao said something else-

“It’s not the composition but structure that determines property”

That’s true. Take carbon for example. Diamond and graphite both are made of Carbon. However, diamond is the toughest material and graphite is one of the softest materials.

It’s the structural difference that determines their property

Structure of diamond and graphite

Would you believe me if I tell liquid water always has the same properties?

Depends on whether water has the same structure or different structures right, just like carbon.

Prof. Rao said water has a million different structures with a million different properties. To view some of the structures you can look up to this website. He further said-

“Think of water molecules as analogous to individual bricks. When you assemble them into a house, the various rooms you’ve created with bricks put together in a particular fashion are its structure”

But how long do the new structures of water last?

Some last for hours and days. Some for very long times near room temperatures.

Most of the scientists believe that we can change water only by applying temperature or pressure. But there are several other parameters that can change water according to Prof. Rustum Rao like electric fields, magnetic fields, strain fields, epitaxy, etc.

Epitaxy is a special contribution from material science where one structure is being imprinted on to another, especially from a solid to liquid, without any transfer of matter. It is basically a pattern or information transfer.

Prof. Rustum Rao has shown in his research the effect of such parameters on water and they indeed change the structure of water. Not only that but even a prayer by human beings can affect the structure of water. You can read his papers.

Different structures of water (created by various vectors/parameters) can be used for designing of water-based products that can be utilized in major industries or for maintaining health.

As Indians, we know how holy water is for us. Water from rivers like the Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Godavari, etc. has a special place in our culture. We use different water for different purposes.

You must have heard keeping water overnight in a copper or silver pot generates healing properties in it.

Of course, how much of it is true and how much is not, you can ask, but like a true seeker of truth, you must be open-minded to listen and ponder on everything you hear.

Prof. Rustum Rao was nominated 21 times for the Nobel Prize but was unfortunately denied by the committee every time.

Many believe that because Prof. Rao was pro-Indian and used to admire Indian culture and as his original research didn’t benefit industries much, he didn’t get the Nobel Prize.

But such people don’t work for the Nobel Prize. Prof. Rao used to call himself a citizen scientist. He never worked for the benefit of industries but for the upliftment of the society. Winston Churchill said it correctly-

“It is better to deserve than to get”

In his lifetime, many scientists from medical backgrounds called his works on whole-person healing or water pseudoscience. It is up to the individual to decide how he/she sees the life and work of Rustum Rao.

He has left a deep impression in the world of science whether people acknowledge him or not. He is one of those people for whom it can be said ‘You can love or you can hate him, but you can not ignore him’.

Many of his friends and colleagues say that ‘He was the first world leader in science who brought a humane face to heartless science’

Voltaire, a French philosopher once said-

Prof. Rustum Rao is surely one of them.

Have you heard about Rustum Rao before? What do you think about him?

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