Phanindramohan “PM” Das
February 2, 1926 – May 2, 2018
P.M. Das, 92, Texas A&M Professor Emeritus, passed away on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in College Station. A Life Celebration will be held on Saturday, July 7th at 4 PM in the Memorial Student Center, Texas A&M University.
Phanindramohan Das, known as ‘PM’, was born in Bholabo, a lush green village in Bangladesh, to Ramaniraman and Kusum Kumtala Das on February 2, 1926. A brilliant student, he attended high school near Dhaka and obtained his BS in Physics with Honors from Dhaka University in 1947. He read prodigiously and enjoyed quoting Indian and British philosophers, reciting verses in Sanskrit and singing the songs of Bengal’s famous poet, Rabindranath Tagore.
PM’s life was disrupted by the political upheavals of 1947, when India gained independence from British rule and was separated into two countries, India and Pakistan. Surrounded by a violent response to the ‘separation’, PM and his Hindu family were forced to flee from their village to the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in India. Working with Radio Pakistan, PM became a major source of support for his family. Through his work he gained a close look at the politicians of his day, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Jinnah. These interactions instilled a deep distrust of power and authority, and he developed a firm commitment to independent thought and intellectual honesty.
PM attended Benares Hindu University obtaining an MS in Physics 1949 and further developed his interest in the Atmospheric Sciences. Soon he was offered a position as Assistant Professor at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur. In 1955 he married the beautiful and vivacious Atri Bhoumick, daughter of a business leader in Kolkata, in a traditional yet splendid Hindu ceremony.
In 1959, PM joined the PhD program at the University of Chicago under Professor Horace Byers. PM developed theoretical models of thunderstorms on an original computer, and this work led to an early understanding of the role of downdrafts in cloud convection. His dissertation, ‘Role of Condensed Water in the Life Cycle of a Convective Cloud’, published in 1964, was considered a landmark work by his thesis adviser and has been widely referenced by fellow researchers.
Life in America was a revelation for PM. He admired the American work ethic and the equality of opportunity he perceived in American society. He appreciated the magnificence of the American landscape which he explored by driving and camping throughout the US with his young family. His wife learned to cook delicious Indian food on a Coleman stove, while he took up photography and documented their adventures.
PM returned to the IIT in 1964. As a member of the faculty senate, PM championed educational and structural reforms at IIT, but ultimately was frustrated by an administration resistant to change. In 1968 he returned to the US to join Prof. Byers, then Dean of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. After two years at the Air Force Cambridge Research Labs in Massachusetts, he returned to Texas A&M in 1970, this time to stay. In 1974, he became a US citizen.
PM enjoyed teaching for 27 years at A&M. Most of all, he cherished his many graduate students and took a keen interest in their development, both academic and personal. His work took him on sabbaticals to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado, as well as to Hawaii, Washington state and Australia. He was a member of many professional societies including the American Meteorological Society and the Royal Meteorological Society.
An authentic Texan, PM was independent, self-reliant, and believed in life in the outdoors. He tilled the backyard of his house near the A&M campus for a large vegetable garden, and fished in Lake Somerville, producing enough food to feed his family for much of the year. PM and Atri were part of a South Asian community which included students and faculty at A&M, communities in Houston and Austin, and an extended network reaching across the US. As cherished senior members of this émigré community, PM and Atri hosted many gatherings with music, poetry, and home-cooked food, supporting younger members with encouragement and wise counsel.
PM retired from Texas A&M in 1996, continuing as an Emeritus Professor until his death. Retirement allowed PM to devote more time to his music and his writing. He joined Bengali cultural groups in Houston, as well as in Kolkata where he and Atri spent several months each year, and where he shared his writing and enjoyed the rich cultural milieu of music, theatre and art. He traveled extensively with his wife, and he spent as much time as possible with his grandchildren, who he adored.
His beloved wife of 60 years, Atri, preceded him in death in 2015; as did his parents; his brother Sukhenduraman Das and sister Nirupama Chanda. He is survived by his sons Krishanu Das and Himamauli Das; daughter Krishna Das; brothers Samarendu Das, Gurupada Das and Tarangamoy Das; sister Nandita Das; many cousins including Bishnu Dutta; and his grandchildren Kerrie McCotter, Kevin McCotter and Esme Gordon.
The Das family would like to express their gratitude to Signature Select Services and to Encompass Hospice for providing excellent care and much comfort to their father in the last year of his life.
Cremation Services are in the care of Callaway-Jones Funeral and Cremation Centers Bryan-College Station. In lieu of flowers memorial donations can be given to a charity of your choice in memory of Dr. P.M. Das.