The Papers of Dr. Sripati Chandrasekhar
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The Papers of Dr. Sripati Chandrasekhar
Kimberly Brownlee, Manuscripts Librarian and Daniel M. Johnson, Ph.D., President

Introduction

The staff at the Ward M. Canaday Center at the University of Toledo is completing its work to organize the papers of Dr. Sripati Chandrasekhar, founding editor of Population Review. The papers, which were donated to the Center by Chandrasekhar's family in 2002, will be available to researchers by the end of this year. The collection consists of nearly 100 linear feet of material documenting all aspects of his life and work.

As readers of this journal likely know, Chandrasekhar was a well-known international demographer, economist, sociologist, and scholar. He spent his life advocating population control for his native India, because he believed that was the best way to improve the country's economy and protect its fragile hold on democracy. He struggled to educate the Indian people on family planning methods, particularly striving to spread the word to the remote villages throughout the country. He supported abortion for women and sterilization for men, and promoted artificial birth control methods and the use of contraceptives such as the pill and IUD. Many of his views were considered controversial, and he often faced considerable opposition, particularly in rural areas of the country where large families were seen as an economic necessity.

Chandrasekhar, or Chandra as he was known to friends, was born in 1918 in Rajahmundry, India, one of six children of Sripati Sarangapani and Bavanula Rajamma. He attended Vorhees High School in Vellore, India, and Madras Presidency College, where he wrote his first paper on India's population problems. "From then on," Chandrasekhar said, "I lived and breathed demography." In 1938 he graduated with a B.A. in economics, followed by an M.A. the next year. In 1940 he traveled to New York City and attended Columbia University and New York University, where he studied demography, sociology, and statistics. In 1944 he earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from New York University, having written his dissertation on India's population problems.

After completing his education, he lectured on India's economic and social problems at The University of Pennsylvania, and in 1945 worked as an expert in Indian demography for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. From 1945 to 1947 he traveled around the U.S. promoting India's political independence from Great Britain. In June 1947 he married Ann Downes, an American Quaker from New Jersey, and shortly thereafter returned to India to accept an appointment as professor and chair of the Economics Department at Annamalai University. In 1948 he went to Paris and served as director of demographic research for UNESCO. In 1950 he started the Indian Institute for Population [End Page 76] Studies (IIPS) and from 1951 to 1955 was professor and chair of the Economics Department at the University of Baroda. Beginning in 1953, Chandrasekhar spent two years at the London School of Economics as a Nuffield Fellow in demography, and attended international conferences. From 1956 to 1957 he focused his efforts again on the IIPS, and the next year traveled through communist China studying its population and social and economic trends. From 1959 to 1960, Chandrasekhar lectured in various countries around the world, returning to the United States as a visiting professor of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961, and lecturing across the country in 1962. From 1964 to 1965 he served as visiting professor of Demography at the University of California-Riverside and delivered National Science Foundation lectures.

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Dr. Chandra giving a lecture

In April 1964, Chandrasekhar was elected to the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of India's parliament) as a member of the Indian National Congress Party representing Madras. In this capacity he was able to promote population control measures on the parliamentary level. He was so successful in getting his message heard that three years later Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed him Union Minister of Health and Family Planning. As Minister he launched a massive campaign to promote smaller families and proposed a "cafeteria approach" to birth control for women. Eventually his campaign included advocating for compulsory sterilization for men...