“What do you know about pasteurisation,” an interviewer asked the young man who had applied for a Government of India fellowship for a Masters in Engineering abroad. “Something to do with milk?” was the uncertain reply. The year was 1946. In his biography From Anand: The story of Verghese Kurien , M.V. Kamath recounts the story of how the youngster was selected to do a Masters in dairy engineering by a government committee that was impervious to his pleas that he be allowed to specialise in metallurgy instead.
As it turned out, Michigan State University did not have dairy engineering, and Verghese Kurien was able to do metallurgy and Physics. But when he came back to India in 1948, it was to a small and unknown village in Gujarat called Anand that he was sent, to work out his two-year bond at the Government creamery on a salary of Rs.600 per month. Hating his job, he waited impatiently for his fetters to loosen. That did not happen. What it did was that V. Kurien, by the conjunction of politics, nationalism and professional challenge, decided to stay on. He would transform rural India.
Verghese Kurien, who became a legend in his lifetime for building a cooperative movement that transformed the lives of poor farmers while making India self-reliant in milk production, died on Sunday in Nadiad at the age of 90. ... [Bold emphasis added]
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Update: I forgot to add a couple of other names to the list of materials engineers who are better known for their exploits / achievements in other fields: Manohar Parrikar (politics) and Sidin Vadukut (journalism).