Poondi Kumaraswamy

Ponnambalam Kumaraswamy (often referred to as Poondi Kumaraswamy) (October 4, 1930 - March 9, 1988) was an Indian hydrologist.[1] He was elected a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1972[2] although his only formal education was a Civil Engineering Bachelor's degree from College of Engineering, Guindy, University of Madras. Before his death in 1988, at 57 years old, he was the only one to have received both the Homi Bhabha Fellowship 1967-69 [3] (he spent his time at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts doing research in Groundwater modeling) and the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship 1975-77,[4] two of the country's top research awards.

During the period of Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship he created the first comprehensive 20 volume hydrological atlas of Tamil Nadu State of India including mathematical models, details of hydraulic structures, among others. He developed also the double bounded probability density function (Kumaraswamy distribution), a probability density function suitable for physical variables that are usually bounded. This distribution is in use in electrical, civil, mechanical, and financial engineering applications. He gave the first practical hard rock well theory[5] that won him the Gold Medal award from Indian Geohydrologists in 1974. He worked also as a design and construction engineer of two major industrial works, namely, the Tiruchirappalli Boiler Plant, and the Tuticorin Harbour Project. In addition he was involved in the hydraulic design of numerous dams, canals, and other hydraulic structures throughout South India. Kumaraswamy considered explaining the work of the Institute of Hydraulics and Hydrology (IHH),[6] Poondi to engineers and non-engineers an important duty and often had great success with it.

He was also well known among many as a rationalist and a humanist influenced much by Periyar Ramasami and was in continuous association with Periyar's rationalist organization even during the periods of emergency (1975) when many of Periyar's followers suffered, some even became afraid to associate with Periyar or his movements due to the atrocities inflicted on them at that time. He was a close friend of K. Veeramani.


  1. ^ http://alberteinstein.info/vufind1/Record/EAR000021872 Catalogue details about a philosophical correspondence of Albert Einstein to Kumaraswamy when he was a young research engineer at Poondi
  2. ^ http://www.ias.ac.in/describe/fellow/Kumaraswamy,__Ponnambalam list of Fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences
  3. ^ http://homibhabhafellowships.com/HomiBhabhaFellowsList.aspx Mr. P. Kumaraswamy
  4. ^ http://www.jnmf.in/flist.html list of Jawaharlal Nehru Fellows
  5. ^ Journal of Hydraulics Division (Vol 108(10), Oct 1982, pages 1194-1207) of the American Society of Civil Engineers for citation of his work on hard-rock well theory
  6. ^ "At 75, Chennai's first reservoir in Poondi is now parched". 14 June 2019.