INSPIRE: SATYENDRA NATH BOSE: The Forgotten Genius

Google paid tribute to Indian physicist and mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose with a creative doodle for his contribution to the Bose-Einstein Condensate. On this day in 1924, mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose sent his quantum formulations to Albert Einstein who

immediately recognized it as a significant discovery in quantum mechanics.

The Google doodle shows Bose performing an experiment. Bose has been known for his collaboration with Albert Einstein in developing a theory regarding the gaslike qualities of electromagnetic radiation.




EARLY LIFE


Satyendranath was born in Calcutta, India, on January 1, 1894, to Surendranath Bose and Amodini Raichaudhuri. As the only son and eldest of seven children, Bose was raised comfortably as a member of the Kayastha caste. His father, an accountant in the executive engineering department of the East India Railways, later was a founder of the Indian Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works. His mother had little formal education but was able to manage a large family. Bose completed his initial education at the New Indian School and his final years at the Hindu School. He completed his education in 1909. As a student of the Hindu High School, Bose once was awarded 110 marks out of 100 in mathematics because he had solved some problems in the exam paper by more than one method. He made a name for himself in school due to his love for science; in collaboration with some of his friends, he constructed a telescope and other scientific instruments.



He then took the intermediate course in science at the Presidency College, Calcutta. Bose chose mixed (applied) mathematics for his undergraduate degree and passed the exams first in 1913. He then joined the newly formed Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee's College of Science, where in 1915 he again took first place in the M.Sc. mixed mathematics examination. His results in the master's examination set a new record at the University of Calcutta, which has not yet been surpassed. After completing his master's degree, Bose joined the Faculty of Science at Calcutta University in 1916 as a research assistant and began his studies in the theory of relativity. It was an exciting era in the history of scientific advances. Quantum theory had just appeared on the horizon and important results were beginning to be derived. In 1914, Bose married Ushabala Ghosh. The union eventually produced two sons and five daughters.


A multilingual, Bose spoke several languages, including Bengali, English, French, German and Sanskrit. From 1916 to 1921 he was a professor in the physics department of the Rajabazar Science College, Calcutta University. In 1921 he became a lecturer in the Faculty of Physics at the newly founded University of Dhaka.


HIS SCIENTIFIC CONTRIBUTIONS


The law of blackbody radiation is a cornerstone of quantum theory and had been derived by the German physicist Max Planck in a paper published in 1900. In the course of this work, Planck had resorted to a self-described “act of desperation” when making certain arbitrary assumptions. He had reasoned that “a theoretical interpretation” of what he had been studying “had to be found at any price, however high it might be”. This price is considered to have been the birth of quantum theory – when Planck elucidated that nature had to work in a way that significantly departed from the laws of physics that most scientists had been working with until then. Specifically, when a body of a certain temperature emits electromagnetic radiation, the law (also called Planck’s law) estimates the frequencies at which that radiation will be emitted. Planck also found that this emission of radiation couldn’t be a continuous stream of energy but had to be in discrete packets, called quanta. The energy encapsulated in each quantum could be calculated by a fixed number multiplied by the radiation’s frequency. The number is called Planck’s constant. In 1905, Einstein joined in the affray and developed a theory that could explain unsolved problems like the photoelectric effect. However, few others took the idea of quanta seriously over the next two decades.


But Bose and Saha grasped the importance of Einstein’s theory early. Saha was able to publish a paper based on the same by 1919. In 1923, Bose sent a paper describing his ideas to the Philosophical Magazine in London. He had derived Planck’s law without reference to classical physics, but the paper was rejected. Bose then sent it to Einstein, with a note at par with Srinivasa Ramanujan’s to G.H. Hardy in significance,

I have ventured to send you the accompanying article for your perusal and opinion. I am anxious to know what you think of it. … I do not know sufficient German to translate the paper. If you think the paper is worth publishing, I shall be grateful if you arrange for its publication in Zeitschrift für Physik. … Though a complete stranger to you, I do not feel any hesitation in making such a request. Because we are all your pupils though profiting only by your opinion through your writings.


Einstein got the paper published (with a note of his own approval). Kamleshwar Wali, Chandrasekhar’s biographer and a physicist, called this event one of the most exciting episodes of 20th-century physics because it gave rise to a class of mathematical rules used to describe the behaviour of certain fundamental particles, called Bose-Einstein statistics. In honour of Bose’s contribution, the English physicist Paul A.M. Dirac called these particles ‘bosons’. The Higgs boson is often called "the God particle" because it's said to be what caused the "Big Bang" that created our universe many years ago.


The postcard that Einstein replied with got Bose both a two-year study leave in Europe as well as a German visa without a fee. After travelling for a bit, and meeting Einstein, he found a place at the X-ray laboratory of Louis de Broglie at Marie Curie’s institute, with a recommendation from Paul Langevin. When Bose came back from Europe to Dhaka, he did not have a doctorate, and thus he couldn’t get a professor position which he applied for but he was recommended by Einstein. So, he was then made Head of the Department of Physics at Dhaka University. He continued guiding and teaching at Dhaka University.


Bose also published an equation for real gases with Meghnad Saha. After the partition, Bose came back to Calcutta and taught there until 1956. He served as the Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan. Bose also worked in Nuclear Physics and Organic Chemistry. In the subsequent years, he worked in applied research like extracting Helium in hot spring


AWARDS:


For his contributions, Bose was conferred with several honours in India. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1954. He was appointed as National Professor, the highest honour for a scholar in India. He held that position for 15 years. In 1986, the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences was established in his honour. He held several high-level positions for different institutes in the country. He was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Coming to international honours, although seven Nobel Prizes were awarded for research related to Bose’s concepts, he never received Nobel Prize. A class of elementary particles were named Bosons in his honour. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society.


LIFE LESSON:


Though he faced a lot of rejections for publishing his work, he didn’t lose hope and got his work published. His biggest achievement is that his name will be in daily science discussions forever in the form of Bosons, Bose-Einstein Condensate, Bose-Einstein statistics etc.


He never got a Nobel prize for his work but he was still satisfied and content with being able to provide knowledge to a younger generation.


Even after becoming so successful his love for his own country never subsided and after returning back to India he helped grow Scientific curiosity to nourish Indian minds. Bose was the classical academic scientist who spent his career toiling away in university laboratories and classrooms, like thousands of others today. Scientifically, he devoted himself almost exclusively to teaching and guiding research suggesting that Bose supervised many scholars rather than simply focussing, as many do, on their own private ideas, whenever he was not taking a class or attending a meeting, there would be a continuous stream of visitors to his room and Satyendranath would get involved in their academic problems for hours. It could be any branch of physics, chemistry, history, hieroglyphics, or indeed any subject under the sun. He was engaged in creating a culture of intellectual discourse.


Story of People like Satyendranath Bose doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Its people like these that would create more curiosity and hunger in students for research and gaining knowledge in life. Its stories like these encourage us to keep going even if we have had a failure because in his own words ” Progress is made by trial and failure; the failures are generally a hundred times more numerous than the successes, yet they are usually left unchronicled..”

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