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Singamsetti Surya Rao was born on 8th of June 1938 in a farmers' family in a small village called Immadivarappadu near Amalapuram in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh.
After studying in ZPH School, Amalapuram, and St. Joseph College, he completed his B.E. (Civil Engg.) in 1958 from JNTU College of Engg., Kakinada; and M.E. (Power Engg. & Hydraulics) in 1960 from IISc Bangalore. Then he went to the University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA and completed his Ph.D. in Mechanics and Hydraulics in 1965. During his PhD, he worked with Prof. Hunter Rouse, who is a very well-known scientist for his research on the mechanics of fluid turbulence.
Prof. Surya Rao joined as a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Kanpur in 1965. He became professor in 1980 and served as the Head of the Department from December, 1994 to December, 1997. He worked as a Visiting Scientist at the Delft Hydraulics Laboratory's de Voorst Lab in The Netherlands for 2 years during 1975-76. Prof. S. Surya Rao published numerous articles in international and national journals; presented several papers in conferences; and guided four PhD and many master’s theses. He also conducted short-term courses on Hydraulic Structures under the QIP program.
His major contribution to the Department of Civil Engineering was the development of the Hydraulics Laboratory during the formative years of the department. He retired in 1998 and then worked for ten years at the Gitam University, Vizag campus from 1998 to 2008. He also published a book entitled Hydraulic Structures recently.
He was living in Vijaywada with his daughter when he breathed his last on 31st July 2016 at about 5:30 am. He is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter. He was a principled man, dedicated to his work/profession, and was a very kind hearted individual. May his soul rest in peace.