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

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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.

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Modern Science and India’s Universal Wisdom

What if an Indian research scholar would have become adamant by saying that “Pi” was first computed by Madhava instead of Leibniz?

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Old Indian Wisdom and Modern sciences.

Salil Gewali, Shillong

  • India is a land of knowledge and culture
  • Many scientific principles of today were already discovered in ancient India
  • The modern sciences stem from the old Indian wisdom
Of course, for various reasons I was also brought up with less respect for the country. If one asks why, then it requires me to write pages after pages. The reasons are mostly absurd and unpleasantly paradoxical. This strange characteristic of India we hardly find in any other countries.

In brief, my mind had gathered a good amount of misinformation about the country which I realized not very late. Thank God, that all didn’t get tenaciously ossified which would have been very difficult later if I had to cleanse myself of or unlearn whole over again what I could have learned from various biased sources. Please kindly note, those biased sources are still held as credible. And, if ever any sane voice is raised against the biased academia then it is criticized as a vile attempt to distort the established history or as a show of insane chauvinism. You will be totally disgraced.  Therefore, many prefer to keep quiet.

Erwin Schrodinger was a great scientist.
Till a decade ago the computation of “Pi” was ascribed to a renowned German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz which was in fact wrong. What if an Indian research scholar would have become adamant by saying that “Pi” was first computed by Madhava instead of Leibniz? It would be like stirring up a hornet’s nest in India, if not in the West.  Then Dr. Srinvastava, Prof. Mehta and others would have lampooned the researcher, the next day the uproar of condemnation would have come from the media – so much so that he might have run the risk of losing all your academic carrier and position.

Incidentally, there in the west emerged a number of scholars like Marcus du Sautoy, the former President of the Mathematical Association, and others, who battled hard to establish that “Pi” was first mathematically calculated by Madhava of India in the 14th century, almost about three century earlier then by the German mathematician Leibniz. Very recently only the fact has been officially established and now known to be “Madhava–Leibniz series”. This bold step cannot be taken by any Indians within the country. Because other Indian scholars would be foaming at the mouth. Discrediting the West is quite like a blasphemy. Here people can proudly discredit their own country for which they usually find good support.  That is why they disrespect their languages, they often take delight in disrespecting their heritage, and they can snobbishly distrust their native values. I’m afraid, here in India, distrusting the nation’s glories requires no logic and trusting the foreign requires no validity!

Also Read: Science writing: A neglected form of literature that needs focus

Therefore, I must salute a few of the world-renowned westerners who awakened me. Those dispassionate scholars who flashed their spotlight towards India for “knowledge”. That flashlight was to dispel what I call it as my delusion. It was in fact destined to change my perspective to look at the country. One of the foremost among them to change my mind was an opinion/quote by Robert Julius Oppenheimer (father of atomic bomb) which I had come upon in a world-acclaimed book “The Tao of Physics” by a renowned American physicist Fritjof Capra.  This atomic scientist, who learnt Sanskrit around 1933 to go deeper into the ancient text of India, proclaims, — “What we find in Modern Physics is an exemplification, an encouragement and a refinement of old Indian wisdom”. Though it appeared quite ridiculous to me but I could not dismiss it. Rather, this bold opinion triggered my inner intellect. Of course, for a couple of months I remained skeptical of the views expressed by Oppenheimer, I persistently “reasoned” that a scientist does not utter a single word unless he/she evaluates the fact with the mathematical algorithms. In the meanwhile, I had overheard the roar of the father of Quantum Mechanic – Erwin Schrodinger, best known for his “Schrodinger Equation” — only one equation in the vast studies of Quantum Mechanic. That “roar” was in consonant with what my inner intuition vaguely held after reading the ancient text.  Of course, it did not take me very long to figure out what so marveled Schrodinger, and also other modern physicists like David Bohm and the Nobel laureate Brain David Josephson about India’s literature of wisdom.

The very fundamental essence of the Vedanta that — “apparent multiplicity is an illusion and everything in the universe is from ONE WHOLE” was thoughtfully paraphrased by Schrodinger. The grand notion of the East that‘MAKER AND THE MADE’ touched the heart of inquisitive Schrodinger.  Indeed, after the in-depth research, observation and experimentation of probably not less than a decade, Schrodinger remarked: “The UNITY and CONTINUITY of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of ‘wave mechanics’. The incredible doctrine that “All in ONE” of Upanishads perfectly dovetailed with the new experimentation of the matter or “particle” and its subtle “wave function”.

That’s why we have infinite species of flowers amazingly blooming in uncanny colors and fragrances at the same time in multiple Earth-like planets; we see endless verities of trees bearing fruits with amazing flavors and tastes; all celestial stars are rotating and revolving with perfect precision. Even one CELL/ATOM of an object is subtly as complex as a factory. Just imagine how many cells in the trillions and trillion of objects in the cosmic ocean? What is most intriguing is that everything is in perfect order, perfect harmony and at peace. Therefore, how could that be possible to “separate” the Divine from His boundless creations which are inherently divine themselves! So, the Vedantic proclamation that “Creator and Creation are ONE” makes much more sense to Schrodinger and his likes.

Sensing the grand meaning Schrodinger exclaimed in his masterpiece “What is life” : “The earliest records, to my knowledge, date back some 2500 years or more… the recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal “self” equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal SELF) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the “HAPPENINGS” of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts.”

Schopenhauer was a great influence on Einstein.

It’s worthwhile to mention here that “The Unity and unified theory of Upanishads” was introduced to this great modern scientist by the front-ranking thinker of Germany – Arthur Schopenhauer.  Albert Einstein always held Schopenhauer as one of his masters whose portrait he had decorated his study room with.

Finally, I salute a very brilliant American historian Will Durant who, after serious studies of the history and philosophy of the East and the West, concluded: “India was the motherland of our “race”, and Sanskrit the mother of European languages. She was the Mother of our philosophy, of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the Mother of us all.”  Will Durant authored a world-acclaimed series ‘Story of Civilization’ in 11 volumes. But what is so weird is that this Mother Indian has given birth to some of the children who consider themselves totally orphaned unless they follow and adopt the West and find fault with the East!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.