Satyendra Nath Bose – The greatest scientist to miss out on a Nobel Prize


By Harshmeet Singh

You know you have stumbled upon a ground breaking finding, but no one is willing to believe you. What would your next step be? For Satyendra Nath Bose, the next step was to send all his findings to the most well known scientist on the planet, Albert Einstein.

The first three decades of the 20th century were exciting times for Physics. The theory of relativity and the Quantum theory had just come out and scientists all over the world were undertaking research in these theories. Around the same time, Bose was breaking all the academic records at the most well known educational institutes in Kolkata. He joined the Presidency College in Kolkata and scored the highest marks – second ranker was another famous scientist, Meghnad Saha. While working as a Reader at the University of Dhaka, he came up with a research paper that led to the foundation of quantum statistics.

When all the major publications rejected his paper and termed it as a ‘mistake’, he sent it directly to Albert Einstein, who was the biggest name in Physics at that point of time. Recognizing the significance of his work, Einstein took personal interest in the paper and translated it to German before submitting it to Zeitschrift für Physik, which was a renowned German science journal then. This gave Bose the recognition that he so richly deserved. This gave him a chance to work with scientists like Einstein and Marie Curie at the European X-ray and crystallography laboratories.

Bose’s idea of education was that the students must take the ownership and look beyond what the books offer. When he was the ‘Dean of Faculty’ at the Dhaka University, he insisted that all the students must prepare their own equipment, with the help of local technicians and the material available in the market.

It was Bose’s idea that Einstein adopted and applied to the atoms, leading to the discovery of the Bose-Einstein Condensate. Researches related to the Bose Einstein condensate have won multiple Nobel prizes ever since. In 2001, Carl Edwin Wieman, Eric Allin Cornell and Wolfgang Ketterle won the Nobel Prize for “the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates.” In 2012, The New York Times named Bose as the ‘Father of the God’s particle’ for his discovery of the bosons.

In recognition of his efforts, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan award in 1954. Visva Parichay, the only science book written by Rabindranath Tagore, was dedicated to Bose. Many believe that Bose was highly unlucky to miss out on a Nobel Prize. When asked if he was disappointed by lack of recognition by the Nobel Prize committee, he said, “I have got all the recognition I deserve”. A fading science hero in today’s context, Bose’s work deserves to be cherished in India and the world even today.