Science holds great importance in our lives. Science is the basis for anything and everything that exists. It has answers to every question that arises out of curiosity. And for the answers that still don’t exist, they will soon be discovered by a brilliant scientist who is sitting in the corner of his room or laboratory, dedicating his entire life to finding the right one.
Since the beginning, India has had a strong tradition of science and technology. It was a land of sages and seers, the land of scholars and scientists India has produced some of the greatest scientists in the world.
Each year 28th of February is celebrated as National Science Day in India to mark the discovery of the “Raman Effect” by one of India’s most revered scientists, Dr C.V Raman.
Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born in 1988 at Trichinopoly, Madras Presidency British India. His ground-breaking work in the field of light scattering earned him a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. He became the first Asian, Indian and a non-white individual to achieve this feat.
A nation-wide Science Day celebration commemorates this historic achievement and hopes to spread awareness about the importance of Science and its application in the daily life of the people. This year the National Science Day will be celebrated under the theme of “Science for the People and People for Science”.
Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent scientists of India who have contributed in various fields.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam:
The Missile Man of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has been one of India’s most loved scientists who has not only contributed through his scientific research but has also helped in inspiring a million young minds. Born on 15th October 1931 in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, Kalam pursued his academics in physics and aerospace engineering. Even after being raised by a middle-class boat owner, he never gave up and kept on dedicatedly working towards his goal. He served as a scientist and science administrator at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He contributed majorly in India’s civilian space programme and military missile development efforts like the ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He played a major role in Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998.
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai:
Fondly remembered as the father of India’s space programme, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in 1947 initially at his residence where he started with his research on cosmic rays. It was later renamed as M.G. Science Institute, Ahmedabad, on 11th November 1947. The first focus was research on cosmic rays and the properties of the upper atmosphere, which then extended to theoretical physics and radio physics later with donations from the Atomic Energy Commission. Today PRL powers the PLANEX or the planetary science and exploration programme. In the 1960s, he established The Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC), to make science and mathematics popular among students, teachers and the public. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was one of his greatest gifts to India. He believed that even though India is not at par with the economically well-to-do nations, it is very important to be noticed globally in the application of advanced technologies.
Dr. C.V. Raman:
Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman is known all over the world for light scattering or Raman scattering, which got him the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics. His discovery is also a solid proof for the quantum nature of light. He discovered that when light traverses a transparent material, it deflects and changes in wavelength. Born in Madras Presidency, he cleared his 10th Grade when he was 11 years old and he passed his 12th with a scholarship at the age of 13. In 1917, he was assigned as the Palit Professor of Physics at the University of Calcutta. He also did his research simultaneously at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Calcutta, where he became the Honorary Secretary. On 28th February 1928, his experiments at the IACS with collaborators led to the famous “Raman Effect”. He was the first Asian and first non-white to receive any Nobel Prize in the sciences. Based on superposition velocities, he derived the theory of transverse vibration of bowed strings. He investigated the propagation of sound as well. Modulators and switching systems based on the Raman–Nath theory which studies acoustic-optic effect or light scattering by sound waves is also a path-breaking discovery. He studied diffraction of light by acoustic waves of ultrasonic and hypersonic frequencies, and those on the effects produced by X-rays on infrared vibrations in crystals exposed to ordinary light. His studies also contributed immensely to crystal dynamics. C.V. Raman, one of the greatest scientists of India, was also the first National Professor appointed by the new government of Independent India.
Dr. Homi Bhabha:
The father of the Indian nuclear programme, Homi Jehangir Bhabha was the founder and professor of physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment, the biggest institutions for Indian development of nuclear weapons. He did his Mechanical engineering from Cambridge and then returned to India and joined the Tata Steel Mills in Jamshedpur as a metallurgist. Conducting experiments on particles which also released a tremendous amount of radiation was his passion. He published his paper named “The Absorption of Cosmic radiation” in January 1933 for which he received his doctorate in nuclear physics. He explained the absorption features and electron shower production in cosmic rays. He determined the cross-section of electron-positron scattering which was later named “Bhabha Scattering”. He collaborated with scientists to discover how primary cosmic rays from outer space interact with the upper atmosphere to produce particles observed at the ground level. His observations clearly verified Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He kept researching and held many important positions during his illustrious his career in India.
Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of India’s greatest mathematician and autodidact who had no formal training in pure mathematics but made impressive contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. He slowly became well known and very soon began a partnership with the English mathematician G. H. Hardy. Ramanujan had produced new theorems and rediscovered known ones. He compiled nearly 3,900 results, almost all of which were verified to be correct. His unconventional “Ramanujan Prime” and the “Ramanujan Theta Function” have inspired many mathematicians to continue their research. Ramanujan associated his mathematical abilities to divinity. Though technically, his name cannot be included in the list of scientists of India, his contributions in mathematics are tremendous.
Dr. S.S. Bhatnagar:
Father of research laboratories, Sir Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar (1894 –1955) was one of the most revered Indian scientists and a professor of chemistry for more than 19 years. He was the first director-general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and also the first Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC). His research about emulsions, colloids, and industrial chemistry. His primary area of interest was magneto-chemistry, the use of magnetism to study chemical reactions. He and K.N. Mathur invented the “Bhatnagar-Mathur Magnetic Interference Balance” in 1928, which was the most sensitive instrument for measuring magnetic properties. He worked on converting sugarcane peelings into food-cake for cattle. He also resolved many industrial problems for major companies. He invented the technology for drilling crude oil with the use of colloidal chemistry. The Department of Petroleum Research was established under his guidance where various aspects like deodourisation of waxes, increasing a flame height of kerosene and utilisation of waste products in vegetable oil and mineral oil industries were studied. He refused to make money out of his research and would promote funding for improving research facilities at the university. Bhatnagar worked on post-independence science and technology infrastructure and policies. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Bhatnagar where he established various chemical laboratories in India.
Satyendra Nath Bose:
Satyendra Nath Bose (1894 – 1974) was a specialist in quantum mechanics in 1920s who co-founded the “Bose-Einstein Statistics” and the theory of the “Bose-Einstein Condensate”. “Bosons” was the name given by Paul Dirac to the class of particles that obey Bose-Einstein statistics. He was one among the top Indian scientists to be awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1954. He liked physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, mineralogy, philosophy, arts, literature, and music and contributed to organized research committees in independent India. His teachers Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Ray, and Naman Sharma were his inspiration in his early life. He taught at many important universities and set up new departments and laboratories to teach advanced courses for MSc and BSc. In 1924, Bose wrote a paper deriving Planck’s quantum radiation law without the use of classical physics by simply counting states with identical particles – a revolutionary feat in quantum statistics. He sent the article directly to Albert Einstein in Germany who translated it into German himself and submitted it on Bose’s behalf to the famous Zeitschrift fur Physik. Bose later worked in European X-ray and crystallography laboratories with big scientists like Louis de Broglie, Marie Curie, and Einstein.
Dr. Yellapragada Subbarow:
Noted biochemist Yellapragada Subbarow (1895 – 1948) discovered the function of adenosine triphosphate as a source of energy in the cell and developed methotrexate for the treatment of cancer- one of the very first cancer chemotherapy agents which are still popularly used all over the world. He lived in the United States for many years. He was one of the top Indian scientists who conducted the synthesis of chemical compounds folic acid and methotrexate for the first time. A fungus genus was named Subbaromyces after him. With Cyrus Fiske, he found the presence of phosphorus in body fluids and tissues. He discovered the role of phosphocreatine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscular activity. He developed a method to synthesize folic acid, Vitamin B9, based on work by Lucy Wills to isolate folic acid as a protective agent against anaemia. Subbarow also discovered the basis for hetrazan which was used by the World Health Organization against filariasis. In 1945, under Subbarow, Benjamin Duggar made his discovery of the world’s first tetracycline antibiotic, aureomycin.
Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (1893 – 1972) was an applied statistician known for “Mahalanobis distance”, a statistical measure. He was among the first few members of the Planning commission of India and made significant contributions in anthropometry in India. He founded the Indian Statistical Institute and designed large-scale sample surveys. In 1959, the institute gained respect at the national level. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest Indian scientists.
Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray:
Salient chemist Acharya Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861 – 1944) was also an educator and entrepreneur. Considered as one of the best Indian scientists, he had written 107 papers in all branches of Chemistry by 1920. In 1896, he published a paper on the preparation of mercurous nitrite which was a new stable chemical compound. This work inspired many more investigative papers on nitrites and hyponitrites of different metals, and on nitrites of ammonia and organic amines. He started a new Indian School of Chemistry in 1924. He earned several noted national and international awards and recognition in his career. He also served important positions in universities and institutions. He was also the founder of Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, India’s first pharmaceutical company. Apart from research, he also wrote many books like A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth Century in 1902.
Ruchi Ram Sahni:
Ruchi Ram Sahni (1863 – 1948) was an innovator, an educationist, a patriot, a social worker who promoted science education in Punjab and was the father of the great paleobotanist Birbal Sahni. In 1914, he researched about the variability in atomic weights of Lead and Bismuth under the mentorship of Kazimierz Fajans at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. He had to leave Germany due to a war scene and had to go to Manchester in the Lab of Ernest Rutherford who was the mentor of Prof. Kazimierz Fajans. From there he published two papers in the field of physical chemistry.
Meghnad N Saha was an astrophysicist who gave the fundamental ‘Thermal Ionisation Equation’ to the stellar spectra, the chemical composition of the light source. Saha was the first scientist to relate a star’s spectrum to its temperature, developing thermal ionization equations that have been foundational in the fields of astrophysics and astrochemistry. He was repeatedly and unsuccessfully nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics. Saha was also politically active and was elected into the Parliament of India in 1952. Saha also invented an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays and helped to build several scientific institutions, such as the Physics Department in Allahabad University and the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Calcutta. He founded the journal Science and Culture and was the editor until his death. Saha was also one of the prominent among the works on Halley’s Comet. Saha was the chief architect of river planning in India and prepared the original plan for the Damodar Valley Project.