Personalities :: Scientist
Satyendra Nath Bose
Once the great scientist, Niels Bohr, was delivering a lecture. Bose presided. At one stage the lecturer had some difficulty in explaining a point. He had been writing on the blackboard; he stopped and, turning to Bose, said, "Can Professor Bose help me?" All the while Satyendranath had been sitting with his eyes shut. The audience could not help smiling at Professor Bohr's words. But to their great surprise, Bose opened his eyes; in an instant he solved the lecturer's difficulty. Then he sat down and once again closed his eyes!
The fame of Satyendranath Bose as a brilliant student of physics and mathematics has spread the world over. In India, which is still a developing country, he strove hard for the dissemination of science. In addition, he did significant work in the fields of education, politics, music and literature, too. He has come to be popularly known Satyen Bose (S. N. Bose).
Satyendranath Bose was born on the first of January 1894 in Calcutta. His father Surendranath was employed in the Engineering Department of the East India Railway. Satyendranath was the eldest of his seven children; the rest were all daughters. Though Surendranath Bose lost his wife at an early age, without losing heart, he brought up all his children well. It is said that, when Satyen was hardly three years old, a Bengali astrologer made this prediction: "This child will face many obstacles all through his life; nevertheless he will overcome them with his exceptional intelligence and attain great fame." The father, naturally, took a special interest in his son's progress. Though he had seven children he took care to see that nothing came in the way of the boy's education.
Yet, it did not appear to him that this youngster was quite serious about his studies. He often wondered if the astrologer's prediction would remain a mere dream. As days passed, a thorough change came about in Satyendranath. By his own effort he stood first throughout his academic career. Because of his love for and interest in science he did much research. He earned a name both at home and abroad.
Even in his school days, Satyendranath had come to be recognized
as an intelligent student. As a student of the Hindu High School in
Calcutta he established a new record, scoring 110 marks for a maximum
of 100 in mathematics. He had solved some problems in mathematics by
more than one method. That was why his teacher gave him more marks than
the maximum. Zeal for work and eagerness to learn new things had taken
root in him even in his childhood. Young Satyen loved to improvise apparatus
for his experiments. At school, in collaboration with his fellow students,
he constructed a telescope and other scientific instruments.
In Bengal, the Swadeshi movement started when Bose was yet a student. And Bose who was a teenager grew with it. This movement made a great impression on his young mind. All the greater was this impression on him because of his close contact with his teachers P.C. Ray and J. C. Bose. At the age of nineteen, Bose became a graduate. On the 5th of May 1914, at the age of twenty, he married Usha Devi. The next year, he completed his post graduation, getting the M.Sc. degree. In all the examinations - the Intermediate, the B.Sc. and the M.Sc. examinations - he annexed the first rank. In 1915, several young men who had secured the Master's Degree pressed for the opening of the post graduate courses in Modern Physics and Modern Mathematics in Calcutta University. Among them were Meghnad Saha, Jnanachandra Ghosh, and Satyendranath Bose. In 1916, the University started M.Sc. classes in Modern Mathematics and Modern Physics. M. N. Saha, J. C. Ghosh and S. N. Bose were all appointed as lecturers.
Thus, Bose started his career in 1916 as a Lecturer in Physics
in Calcutta University. He served this University for five years from
1916 to 1921. During this time, his friends and colleagues recognized
his exceptional talent. But when he won worldwide fame he was no longer
in this University. He joined Dacca University in 1921 as a reader in
Physics. While serving in this post he wrote a short article of just
six pages in English. It was an article relating to physics, on "Max
Planck's Law" and "Light Quantum Hypothesis". This article
was sent to Albert Einstein. This little article brought about a great
change in the life of Satyendranath. Einstein appreciated it so much
that he himself translated it into German and sent it for publication
to a famous periodical in Germany - 'Zeitschrift fur Physik'. He also
explained at length the significance of the subject matter of the article
and the great possibilities the article indicated. Now Dacca University
opened its eyes and recognized the worth of Bose. At that time he had
only a Master's Degree in Science and had no higher academic qualification.
Yet the University readily gave him the money for a tour of Europe.
His first article on theoretical physics was on 'Equation of
State’ based on research conducted and published jointly with Meghnad
Saha. Incorporating the Theory of Relativity propounded by Albert Einstein,
this equation explained many aspects of the pressure, cubic measure
and temperature of gases. This article was published in the 'Philosophical
Magazine' in 1918. Scientists now refer to it as the 'Saha-Bose Equation'.
The article entitled 'Stress Equation of Equilibrium' was published
in 1919 in the popular Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society.
Another article with the title 'Herpolhode' was published in the same
periodical in 1920. His other article on Rydberg's Principle was also
published in the Philosophical Magazine. He enunciated many new theorems
in Geometry. Mention has already been made of a brief paper written
by Bose in 1923 which was translated into German by Einstein him. This
article, as a matter of fact, had been sent first for publication in
the Philosophical Magazine of London but was returned to him unpublished
as the editor could not understand the subject matter of the article.
Subsequently it was sent to Albert Einstein. Bose's original approach
struck Einstein. Later Einstein systematically adapted Bose's approach
in his own work. That is why the particular field of Bose's research
has come to be known as 'Bose-Einstein Statistics'. Of late it has come
to be known merely as 'Bose Statistics'. Several scientists published
papers based on Bose's brief article. Discussions were also held. Bose
sent another article in 1926 to Einstein relating to the same topic.
Einstein translated this article into German but also expressed some
doubts and points of disagreement. Satyendranath Bose, therefore, got
an opportunity to meet Einstein and substantiate his argument. For about
six months he stayed in Berlin holding discussions with great scientists
and convincing them of his point of view.
In those days when there was little encouragement for scientific research, Bose successfully carried on research in physics and discovered Boson and Bose Gas. Preparing some photo chemicals himself and with the help of X-ray he started the study of the structure of crystals. In 1954, a conference on crystallography was held in Paris. Several students of Bose had done significant research in this field. At this conference Bose arranged an exhibition relating to their work. It is true that all his great research was in Mathematical Physics. But he was interested in many other subjects, too.
He had made a serious and deep study of several other branches of science chemistry, geology, zoology, anthropology, engineering and others. In biochemistry also, he had attained high proficiency. His interest ranged from the manufacture of artificial manure to the manufacture of scents from roses. India attained independence in 1947. But the country was split into two and Pakistan was created. Bengal, Bose's home state, was cut into two. This greatly pained him. From his boyhood, Bose had loved Bengal deeply. He had traveled throughout the length and breadth of Bengal. He was fascinated with its history and literature. He liked the works of Madhusudan Dutt. No less was his attachment to Rabindranath Tagore's stories and poems. The art and music of Bengal were dear to him. He had high hopes about the political and economic future of Bengal. But the partition of Bengal dealt a severe blow and shattered all his hopes and aspirations. An image of Free India was engraved on his heart. But that image was dimmed. He came to feel that the partition of the country had diminished the fruits of freedom. He was afraid that the partition would seriously harm the cause of science. But, fortunately, the partition did not in any way adversely affect scientific work in India. Social science was a living ideal in the life of Bose.
Without running after wealth, he offered his all to the cause
of science and in the service of students and the poor and the needy.
He set a glorious example to others by dedicating his life to the service
of the country. It was his heart's desire that his countrymen should
set right the shortcomings of their society. He did not merely talk
about this but worked actively. Distinctions of caste and creed, the
feeling that one caste was superior and another inferior these he hated.
He was convinced that hypocrisy had done great harm to society, and
he hated it. He welcomed with open arms all that was good in our ancient
history. Whenever he had leisure he read books in Bengali, English and
other languages. Buddhism made a deep appeal to him. He had on several
occasions openly said, "Of all the persons that have walked on
this earth, I have the greatest regard for Gautama Buddha." He
used to say often that every one was endowed with some talent or the
other and that one should find it out and by dint of hard work and constant
practice develop it. He was himself a shining example of what he preached.
Bose had great faith in the importance of science. It was his firm belief
that the progress of society was bound up with the progress of science
and that the progress of mankind had been brought about by the revolution
that science had brought about.
In India scientists of the calibre of Satyendranath Bose are rare. His exceptional intelligence solved fresh problems and he kept widening the field of his interest. So he won worldwide fame. In Oxford University he was considered as a very great personality. He was the President of the National Institute of Sciences. The Government of India conferred the 'Padma Bibhushan' award on him in 1954. In 1964, Delhi University honored him with the award of the degree of Doctor of Science (D.Sc.). Many other universities conferred doctorates on him. He became a scientist revered by one and all. Bose is the author of 'Light Quanta Statistics', 'Affine Connection Co-effcients' and other works of science. He wrote 'Albert Einstein' and several other books in Bengali. Along with Meghnad Saha, Bose has translated from German into English Einstein's book on the Theory of Relativity. He was the President of the Indian Science Congress in 1944.
'Indians are incapable of achieving anything great in science. At best, they are experts in subjects like philosophy' - this was the impression people of the West had about us. Bose dispelled that impression. Devoting all his life to the service of the motherland, he did yeoman service in the fields of science, education, politics and social reform. At the age of 80, Bose suffered an unexpected and a severe heart attack. He lay ill for some time and breathed his last on the fourth of February 1974. The death of Bose was a great loss not only to India but also to the whole world and especially to the world of science.
This article is in courtesy of FreeIndia.org Author: M.R.Shanbhag.