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Pioneers of Indian Science – Part 2

Continuing with the discussion about the pioneers, without C.V Raman, the Indian Science would be incomplete. Read on to know about more pioneers.

C. V. Raman (1888-1970)

Raman was an exceptionally brilliant student, barely 18 when he received his M.A. degree as the class topper. Influenced by the German scientist Helmholtz and the English scientist Lord Rayleigh right from his college days, Raman developed an immense interest in the study of sound and light and even as a college student published two papers in reputed journals. Immediately after his M.A., he passed the Financial Civil Service examination with first rank and got posted as Assistant Accountant General in Calcutta. Raman’s passion for science took him to the ‘Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science’ in Calcutta, where he carried out his research activities in his spare time and that too with very limited facilities. He could publish his research findings in leading international journals like Nature, The Philosophical Magazine and Physics Review. During this period he published 30 original research papers centred on areas of vibrations and acoustics. He studied a number of musical instruments and published a monograph on his extensive studies on the violin. In 1930

Source: Internet

His research work got an impetus when he accepted the Palit Chair of  professorship in physics in the university of Calcutta, sacrificing his more lucrative job in the government.   It is well known that during his return journey after attending a conference from London by a ship, he  was fascinated by the blueness of the ocean. Raman set out to investigate this phenomenon and became preoccupied with the `scattering question’. Raman and his students, especially K.S. Krishnan, continued studying the scattering phenomena in great detail. The Raman Effect was discovered on 28th February 1928. Raman’s discovery of the effect that light scattered by any medium contains frequencies different from the incident ones by amounts that are characteristic of the scattering medium was a significant and beneficial one. Raman spectroscopy is now used  in variety of applications like petroleum and chemical industries. the study of thin films and coatings, micro-electronic integrated circuits, pigments in art works, and biological tissues and in the identification of narcotics and plastic explosives.

Though Raman is renowned for his work in optics, his interest in science was wide – it extended from astronomy and meteorology to physiology. He published 475 research papers and wrote five remarkable monographs. He made many major scientific discoveries in acoustics, ultrasonics, optics, magnetism and crystal physics. Raman was a delightful speaker. He held his audience spellbound by his lectures which were accompanied by lively demonstrations and sprinkled with good humour.. Raman had displayed his great leadership in institution building and training students. Raman made both the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science and the Physics Department of the Calcutta University vibrant and excellent centres of learning. He was among the founders of the Indian Science Congress. He established the Indian Journal of Physics. He established an excellent school of Physics in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and was instrumental in establishing  the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1934.

Meghnad Saha (1893-1956)


Saha passed his BSc Examination with Honors in Mathematics in 1913 and MSc (Applied Mathematics) Examination in 1915. Saha stood second in order of merit in both the examinations. His teachers included Prafulla Chandra Ray in chemistry and Jagadis Chandra Bose in physics. Both Saha and S.N. Bose, chose to work in the Physics Department of University College of Science at Calcutta. Saha worked on diverse topics such as  Maxwell’s Stresses, New Theorem in Elasticity, Dynamics of the Electron,  Pressure of Light etc. Based on his works on such topics, Saha secured the degree of Doctor of Science of the Calcutta University .Following this he  published series of  papers formulating his famous theory of thermal ionization which explained the origin of stellar spectra.  The formula proved to be a breakthrough in astrophysics and very soon made him internationally famous

Interestingly Saha, jointly with S.N. Bose prepared the first English translation of Einstein’s papers on theory of relativity and got it published in a book form. Saha went on two years study tour to work in the renowned  Fowlers spectroscopy laboratory at Imperial College, London. On his return in 1921 to India Saha joined the University of Calcutta and later  moved to Allahabad in 1923 as Head of the Department of Physics. At Allahabad, besides continuing his research work on astrophysical problems, he initiated and organized research in several other branches of physics viz. statistical mechanics, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, electron affinity of electro-negative elements, active modification of nitrogen, high temperature dissociation of molecules propagation of radio waves in ionosphere and physics of the upper atmosphere. It is here that Saha wrote his famous textbook, A Treatise on Heat. Saha returned to the Calcutta University in 1938 to take  the Palit Professorship and Head of the Department of Physics. His researches in Calcutta were concerned largely with the systematics of atomic nuclei, particularly beta-activity, the propagation of electromagnetic waves in the ionosphere, and the problem of the solar corona.

Saha is also remembered for his extensive studies on the origin and control of floods. He wrote a series of essays on floods, river management, irrigation and allied topics. In fact, a number of river valley projects, such as the Hirakud, Damodar Valley and Bhakra-Nangal projects, are the result of the work that he started.

Saha was also a great institution builder. Among the institutions that he built were: National Academy of Sciences, India, at Allahabad, Indian Physical Society, Kolkata, National Institution of Sciences of India (which was later renamed Indian National Science Academy), New Delhi, Indian Science News Association, Kolkata, and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata. Saha was an active member of the National Planning Committee constituted by the Indian National Congress in 1938 with Jawaharlal Nehru as its Chairman. He was the Chairman of the Indian Calendar Reform Committee constituted by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1952. He was an elected Independent Member of the Indian Parliament. He advocated large-scale industrialisation for social development.

Saha was closely associated with the planning and establishment of the Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute, a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, at Kolkata. Saha founded the Indian Science News Association at Calcutta in 1935. Its main objective was to disseminate science amongst the public. The Association started publishing its journal called Science and Culture. Saha himself wrote more than 200 articles in Science and Culture on a wide range of topics which included: organization of scientific and industrial research, atomic energy and its industrial use, river valley development projects, planning the national economy, educational reforms and modification of Indian calendar.

Sundararajan A R
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