He is an Indian chemical engineer and a former Director General of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), a chain of 38 publicly funded industrial research and development institutions in India.
In the post-liberalized India, Mashelkar has played an important role in shaping India's science and technology policies. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and also of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet set up by successive governments. He chaired twelve committees established to examine a variety of issues including higher education, national fuel policy, the drug regulatory system and the agriculture research system.
Mashelkar has made contributions in transport phenomena, particularly in thermodynamics of swelling, super swelling and shrinking polymers, modelling of polymerization reactors, and engineering analysis of Non-Newtonian flows.
He is probably best known to the common man through his crusade against the US patents on turmeric, neem and basmati rice. Arguing that the healing properties of turmeric are well known as traditional knowledge in India, Dr. Mashelkar fought a 14 month long legal battle to revoke the patent and emerged victorious. This victory was so significant that it changed the way patents were classified, and earned him the moniker of 'The Warrior of Haldighati'.
He has written 25 books, 264 research papers, and has been awarded honorary doctorates by 32 universities from India and abroad.
He has also actively served the Government of India by chairing 12 highly empowered 'Mashelkar Committees', and has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. His contributions to the nation and to science at large have been honoured by a plethora of awards, the most significant being the Padma Vibhushan, the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Shri, the Business Week Star of Asia Award, and the Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology. He is the third Indian engineer to be inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society, UK.
He was awarded Padmashri, Padmabhushan & Padmavibhushan by the President of India.