Education builds a country– it’s importance and influence is far reaching, strong and undeniable. Amidst others, educators like scientists, innovators and inventors are the pillar of a society- and have the power to change the course of history.
So this Independence Day we remember some prominent Indian scientists from before independence who are figures of inspiration for the country even today- 71 years after we achieved independence!
Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was an Indian physicist born in Madras Province in India. An excellent student from his early years, Raman passed his matriculation examination at the age of 11 and his F.A. examination (equivalent to today’s +2) with a scholarship at the age of 13.
He was an eminent personality in the field of science, throughout his life. He published the Indian Journal of Physics in 1926, which published his famous article “A New Radiation” which dealt with his discovery of the Raman effect– a ground breaking discovery in the field of light scattering.
This earned him the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics,which was the first ever Nobel Prize won by any non-Asian and by an extension- even a person of color.
In 1954, he was honored with the highest civilian award in India-the Bharat Ratna.
Born on 30 November, 1858 in Bikrampur, West Bengal, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, CSI, CIE, FRS,was a man of many talents- being a polymath, physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist and also a writer of Bengali science fiction!
His scientific work with plants made very important contribution to their study and in the field of Biophysics. Through plants he studied that the conduction of stimuli was electrical, not chemical, and studied the effects of chemical inhibitors and temperature on plant stimuli which led to the claims that plants can feel as a response to stimuli.
He pioneered the study of radio and microwave optics and was the first person to use semiconductor junctions to detect radio signals, thus demonstrating wireless communication for the first time.
He was also a benevolent person as he made his inventions and work freely available for others to further develop and was ever reluctant to patent his work.
Srinivasa Ramanujan FRS, was an Indian mathematician and autodidact who had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, but made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems considered to be unsolvable.
He was astonishingly original and highly unconventional in his work, which have opened entire new areas of work and inspired a vast amount of further research, and nearly all claims made by him have now been proven correct. He is noted to be highly intelligent from a young age- he had the ability to understand college level mathematics by the age of 11 and began discovering sophisticated theorems on his own by age 13.
He unfortunately had a short life and died at a young age of 32. This is often attributed to the fact that he was unable to find proper vegetarian food during his stay in England which led to the weakening of his health.
Ramanujan’s home state of Tamil Nadu celebrates 22 December (Ramanujan’s birthday) as ‘State IT Day’.
He was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics with William A. Fowler ,for his mathematical theory of black holes. His work led to the contemporary understanding of various things like white dwarfs, turbulence, equilibrium, general relativity, mathematical theory of black holes and theory of colliding gravitational waves- to name a few.
He showed that the mass of a white dwarf could not exceed 1.44 times that of the Sun which we now know as the Chandrasekhar limit.
He was one of the very first scientists to carry out systematic bird surveys in India and abroad and wrote several bird books that popularized ornithology in India. His research work is considered highly influential in the development of ornithology.
He is known to have used his personal influence to garner government support to create the Bharatpur bird sanctuary (Keoladeo National Park) and prevent the destruction of what is now the Silent Valley National Park.
He wrote the landmark ten volume Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, along with Sidney Dillon Ripley and several species of birds, a couple of bird sanctuaries and institutions have been named after him.
Birbal Sahni FRS ,born in Bhera,West Punjab, on 14 November, 1891, was an Indian paleobotanist who studied the fossils of the Indian subcontinent. His major contributions were in the study of the fossil plants of India and in plant evolution. His interests also included geology and archaeology.
He founded the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany at Lucknow in 1946. He was also involved in the establishment of Indian science education and served as the President of the National Academy of Sciences, India.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS) in 1936, the highest British scientific honor, awarded for the first time to an Indian botanist and “The Birbal Sahni Gold Medal”, for students of botany, was instituted in his memory.
Born on 15 September 1860, Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was a notable Indian engineer, scholar, statesman and the Diwan of Mysore during 1912 to 1918, and one of the most respected and popular personalities of his time.
The invention of automatic sluice gates and block irrigation system goes to his credit. He also came up with an efficient way of filtering water through ‘Collector Wells’ in 1895 which was rarely seen anywhere in the world.
He was a recipient of the Indian Republic’s highest honor, the Bharat Ratna.
Each year, his birthday 15 September is celebrated as Engineer’s Day in India.
Born on January 1, 1894 in Calcutta, SN Bose was an Indian physicist specializing in theoretical physics.
In 1937, Rabindranath Tagore dedicated his only book on science, Visva–Parichay, to Satyendra Nath Bose.
He was awarded India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan in 1954.
Meghnad Saha FRS, born in 1956, was an eminent Indian astrophysicist who came up with the theory of ionization which explained the origin of stellar spectra. He was one of the world’s most renowned scientists of his time- coming a long way from his humble beginnings in a small village in Dhaka.
He is credited with the invention of an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays.
Surprisingly he was also the chief architect of river planning in India- he prepared the original plan for the Damodar Valley Project.
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics many times.
Who’s your favorite scientist?