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A Vision for the Future—The Story of Raghunath Manohar

After years of commitment and sacrifice, Raghunath Manohar, an engineer at the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in MIT, will be supplying the Indian army with a cutting edge telescope-cum-microscope device of which he is the sole inventor. This is a journey that began nearly 30 years ago when he came up with the idea for a new lens system that would change the way telescopes were used. While speaking to The Post, Mr Manohar said, “Despite the difficulties that I faced, I never gave up hope. I wanted to use my invention to provide a service to the country.”

Raghunath Manohar grew up wondering about the stars. He was fascinated by optics and spent most of his time as a child looking at the skies through a plastic pipe. As he grew up, he spent a lot of time studying and reading about optics. He soon began to discover flaws in the existing technology.

Erecting eyepiece cum compound microscope and plano-convex objective mount for telescope application (7x) in viewing mode

In 1984, he began working on a new telescope that would eliminate aberrations that appeared in the technology of the time, and provide three times the field of view of any existing telescope.  Nearly seven years later, after lots of experimenting and redesigning, he finally achieved his goal. 

In the technology existing at the time, only a binocular with a 1 to 2 km range could give an upright image, since the field of view would decrease with range or power. Therefore, any long-range binoculars would find it impossible to produce an erect image. His new design ensured a wide field of view, along with an upright or erect image for any range, even exceeding 10 km. This made it possible for the new design to be used in making a telescope exceeding a 10 km range or 140x magnification, thus making it ideal for various long-range applications for the army, or even in the field of astronomy. 

Erecting eyepiece cum compound microscope and plano-convex objective mount for telescope application (25x) in viewing mode

The preexisting technology prevented one from using the same tube while varying the power to make observations, in addition to giving an undesirable inverted image. Mr Manohar’s new patented invention makes it possible to get different powers in the same coaxial tube by just increasing or decreasing the distance between the lens system and a concave lens.

Erecting eyepiece in compound microscope mode (observing a leaf)

The final key element of his design was the added ability of the device to function as a compound microscope, with a massive 80x magnification power. This provided a minimum cost 2-in-1 system, with both a telescope and microscope rolled into one device.

Once he had created the technology, the real struggle commenced. He began an eight-year-long struggle to obtain the patent for his design. Bgd. Shekhawat, a member of the Army, had approached him in 2002 with an order for 200 pieces of his design. However, he could not follow through at the time as the design was yet to be patented. He was no stranger to the hardships of obtaining a patent considering that earlier, in 2005, he had received a patent for his ‘Marking Gauge’ invention from the United States. Finally, in 2017, the Indian Patent Office granted him the patent for his design. He was now free to complete his order with the Indian Army. Soon after the patent arrived, the army sent experts to verify the functionality of his design, before placing a large order.

Mr Manohar at a local school, demonstrating his telescope to students

Fewer than ten people in the country have individual patents, Mr Manohar being one of them. He is also the only individual inventor in Manipal to have patents registered in the United States as well as India. He is now working on new technology for the army, in the form of a pocket-sized, long-range viewing device. He also mentors and assists students in the college who are working on projects in the field of optics and hopes to see the next big revolution in the field to arrive from MIT.

Image Credits: Raghunath Manohar