India has been blessed with many physicians whose inventions and contributions have not only changed the face of science in India but has brought global accolades. Let us have a look at some of the great Indian physicists who have made innumerable contributions in the field of science.
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman is an Indian physicist known for his work in the field of light scattering. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930 for his discovery of the Raman effect. He was the first Asian and first non-White to receive any Nobel Prize in the field of science. According to Raman effect, light that passes through a material is scattered and the wavelength of the scattered light is changed because it has caused an energy state transition in the material’s molecules. While studying the scattering of light in various substances, he found that when a transparent substance is illuminated by a beam of light of one frequency, a small portion of the light emerges at right angles to the original direction, and some of this light is of different frequencies than that of the incident light. These Raman frequencies are the energies associated with transitions between different rotational and vibrational states in the scattering material. Raman also worked on the acoustics of musical instruments. He was the first to investigate the harmonic nature of the sound of the Indian drums such as the tabla and the mridangam.
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born at Tiruchirappalli in Southern India on November 7th, 1888. His father was a lecturer in mathematics and physics. He joined Presidency College, Madras, in 1902, and in 1904 passed his B.A. examination, winning the first place and the gold medal in physics. In 1907 he gained his M.A. degree with the highest distinctions. He died of natural causes on 21 November 1970.
M Visvesvaraya is considered one of the foremost nation-builders. He was the first engineer of India. He was referred as the ‘precursor of economic planning in India’, according to the Institution of Engineers India (IEI). Visvesvaraya is credited with inventing the block system, automated doors that close the water overflows. He designed and patented the floodgates which were first installed at the Khadakwasla reservoir in Pune in 1903. He was the chief engineer responsible for the construction of the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam in Mysore as well as as the chief designer of the flood protection system for the city of Hyderabad.
Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was born on 15 September, 1861, near Chikkaballapur in South Karnataka. He went on to become India’s most prolific civil engineer, dam builder, economist, statesman, and can be counted as the foremost nation-builder. He served as the 19th Diwan of Mysore from 1912 to 1919. Due to his outstanding contribution to the society, Government of India conferred ‘Bharat Ratna’ on this legend in the year 1955. He was also awarded the British knighthood by King George V, and hence has the honorific “sir”. Several colleges in Karnataka including the Visvesvaraya Technological University in Belagavi has been named after him. September 15 is celebrated as Engineers day, in his loving memory. M. Visvesvaraya died on 12-04-1962 in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India at the age of 101.
Homi J. Bhabha
Homi Jehangir Bhabha was an Indian physicist who is often considered the father of the Indian nuclear program. He was a strong proponent of nuclear energy and also played an important role in the Quantum Theory. Bhabha realized that the development of nuclear energy was crucial for the future industrial growth of our country, as the available sources of power and energy were limited. In 1945 he founded the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research with the help of J.R.D. Tata. This led to the beginning of nuclear research in the country. In 1954, Bhabha founded Atomic Energy Establishment, a nuclear research center at Trombay which was later renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Bhabha organized the first UN Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1955
Vikram Sarabhai is considered as the Father of India’s space programme. He is credited with establishing Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He was successful in convincing the Indian government of the importance of a space programme for a developing nation like India after the launch of the Russian Sputnik. He was also an award winning physicist, industrialist and innovator. Vikram Sarabhai helped Homi Bhabha set up India’s first rocket-launching station, which was built in St Mary Magdalene Church near Thiruvanathapuram. The first flight was a sodium vapor payload and was launched on 21 November 1963. He worked towards the establishment of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). Some of the important institutions founded by Vikram Sarabhai are:
- Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad
- Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad
- Community Science Centre, Ahmedabad
- Darpan Academy for Performing Arts, Ahmedabad
- Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram
- Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad (formed by merging six institutions established by Sarabhai)
- Faster Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR), Kalpakkam
- Variable Energy Cyclotron Project, Calcutta
- Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Hyderabad
- Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), Jaduguda, Bihar
He was born to wealthy industrialists in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat on August 12,1919. He earned his doctorate from Cambridge University. Sarabhai passed away on December 30, 1971, at the age of 52. He died in a hotel room in Kerala after witnessing the launch of a Russian rocket and laying the foundation stone of the Thumba railway station. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1966 and the Padma Vubhushan after his death in 1972.
APJ Abdul Kalam
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, famously known as the Missile man of India, is an Indian scientist who worked as an Aerospace engineer with Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He played a leading role in the development of India’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. Dr Abdul Kalam was the brains behind Pokhran nuclear test. He headed the project that led to the development of India’s first indigenous SLV and also developed Prithvi and Agni missiles. He was appointed as the CEO of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). He also served as the 11th president of India from 2002 to 2007. His contribution was not restricted to field of politics and nuclear development. Along with cardiologist Soma Raju, Dr. Kalam developed an effective coronary stent which is called ‘Kalam – Raju – Stent’ and also created a rugged tablet computer for better health care administration in rural areas of India.
He was born on October 15, 1931 in Rameswaram to a Tamil Muslim family. He graduated in physics from University of Madras in 1954 and then studied aerospace engineering in Madras Institute of Technology. Kalam served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organization from July 1992 to December 1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period in which he played an intensive political and technological role. He died on July 27, 2015 Shillong.
Jagadish Chandra Bose
Bose who is considered as the father of Bengali science fiction invented the crescograph, a device for measuring the growth of plants. He also conducted research on radio waves and devised an instrument called the Coherer that was used to detect radio waves. Bose pioneered wireless communication in the 1890s. He invented a very sophisticated instrument called the crescograph, which could record and observe plants minute responses to external stimulants. It was capable of magnifying the motion of plant tissues to about 10,000 times of their actual size and could found many similarities between plants and other living organisms.
Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on 30 November, 1858 at Mymensingh which is now a part of Bangladesh. He attended the University of Cambridge studying natural sciences after graduating with a physics degree from Calcutta University. In 1917 he established the Bose Institute at Calcutta and served as it’s Director for 20 years. Bose authored two illustrious books ‘Response in the Living and Non-living’ in 1902 and ‘The Nervous Mechanism of Plants’ in1926. He was knighted in 1917 and elected the Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920 for his amazing contributions and achievements. He died at the age of 78, on 23 November in 1937, in Giridih.
Satyendra Nath Bose, known as the Father of God Particle, was a mathematician and physicist specializing in theoretical physics. He is well known for his collaboration with Albert Einstein in developing a theory regarding the gas like qualities of electromagnetic radiation. According to physicist Jayant Narlikar, Bose clarified the behavior of photons and “opened the door to new ideas on statistics of Microsystems that obey the rules of quantum theory”.
Satyendra Nath Bose was born on January 1, 1894in Calcutta. He graduated from the University of Calcutta and then taught at the University of Dacca and later at the University of Calcutta. Bose was conferred with the Padma Vibhushan in 1954 and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He died on February 4, 1974.
Meghnad Saha FRS was an Indian astrophysicist who developed thermal ionization equation also known as Saha equation. It expresses how the state of ionization of any particular element in a star changes with varying temperatures and pressures. His work allowed astronomers to accurately relate the spectral classes of stars to their actual temperatures. This equation has been widely applied to the interpretation of stellar spectra.
Saha was born on October 6 1893 in Seoratali, Dacca which is now in Bangladesh. He started his professional career as a Quantum Physics lecturer in University College of Science, Calcutta. Saha was the Chief architect of river planning in India. He was nominated for Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935 – 36. In 1952 he was elected as a Member of the Parliament. He died on February 16, 1956.
Bibha Chowdury was a physicist who worked on particle physics and cosmic rays. She was the first woman scientist at TIFR and a prominent figure in High Energy Physics. Bibha was successful in making significant strides in the study of cosmic rays and the discovery of mesons. Chowdhuri and her mentor D. M. Bose used photographic plates to detect mesons and published three papers on this in the famous science journal Nature.
Chowdhuri was born in 1913 in Kolkata, West Bengal. She was the only woman in the class when she joined Calcutta University to pursue a master of science degree in physics. Due to lack of access to better facilities, she even missed the chance to become a Nobel Prize winner. She passed away in 1991.
Subrahmanyam Chandrashekhar was an Indian astrophysicist who is known for his theory of the ‘Chandrashekhar Limit’. He discovered that massive stars can collapse under their own gravity to reach enormous or even infinite densities. He worked in various areas like the quantum theory on the hydrogen anion, radiative transfers, theory of white dwarfs and stellar dynamics. He got Nobel Prize “for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars”
Chandrashekar was born on October 19, 1910, Lahore which is now a part of Pakistan. He was educated at Presidency College and at Trinity College. He started as an assistant professor of astrophysics in University of Chicago, became a distinguished professor and finally became a U.S citizen. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983, Adams Prize in 1948, the Royal Medal in 1962, the Copley medal in 1968, the National Medal of Science in 1966 and Heineman Prize in 1974. He was also conferred with the Padma Vibhushan in 1968 and was also the Fellow of the Royal Society. He died on August 21, 1995 in Chicago.