Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a renowned philosopher, scholar and statesman who served as the president of India from 1962 to 1967. He served as professor of philosophy at Mysore (1918–21) and Calcutta (1921–31; 1937–41) universities and as vice chancellor of Andhra University (1931–36). He was professor of Eastern religions and ethics at the University of Oxford in England (1936–52) and vice chancellor of Benares Hindu University (1939–48) in India. From 1953 to 1962 he was chancellor of the University of Delhi.
Radhakrishnan led the Indian delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO; 1946–52) and was elected chairman of UNESCO’s executive board (1948–49). From 1949 to 1952 he served as Indian ambassador to the Soviet Union. On his return to the motherland in 1952, he was elected as the first vice president of the independent India. After serving two terms as Vice-President, he was elected President on May 11, 1962, succeeding Rajendra Prasad, who was the first president of independent India. Radhakrishnan retired from politics five years later in 1967.
Radhakrishnan was a great philosopher and penned several books on the subject while teaching at the Madras University. He believed education should be given utmost importance. His contribution to the field earned him several awards, including the Bharat Ratna. His written works include Indian Philosophy, 2 vol. (1923–27), The Philosophy of the Upanishads (1924), An Idealist View of Life (1932), Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939), and East and West: Some Reflections (1955). In his lectures and books he tried to interpret Indian thought for Westerners.
Radhakrishnan was often called by universities abroad to deliver lectures on Hindu philosophy and he used this platform to talk about India’s need for freedom. With this he also made a mark for Indian Philosophy on the world map. Dr. Radhakrishnan was one of India’s best known scholars in the study of comparative religion and philosophy, and was celebrated in the West as well.
When Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Virswami became President (1962-1967), some of his students, friends, and well-wishers requested him to give permission for celebrating his birthday. In response to the request, he said, “Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5th September is observed as Teachers’ Day.” Since then, his Birthday has been commemorated as “Teacher’s Day”.