Satyendra Nath Bose -Outstanding theoretical physicist - OneStopIndia

Mar 22, 2010

Satyendra Nath Bose -Outstanding theoretical physicist

SATYENDRA NATH Bose was born in 1894 in Calcutta as the only son in a family of six daughters. Drawn into the current of national fervour that swept Bengal following its partition, talented young men felt a call to excel in their fields of specialisation.
Bose's schooling began at age five in Normal School. He moved to the Hindu High School. His mathematics teacher, Upendralal Bakshi, gave him hundred and ten out of hundred, as he had answered all questions and some of them in more ways than one.
He had to remain in the Hindu School for an year more, due to chicken pox; he could take the entrance examination only 1909 for admission to the Presidency College, Calcutta. He used the time to study advanced maths and Sanskrit texts.
Bose went through Intermediate, B.Sc., and M.Sc., which he passed in 1915. His college mates were M.N.Saha and P.C.Mahalanobis. His subject was ``Mixed Mathematics'' which is indeed mathematical physics. His marks created a new record in the annals of the Calcutta University.
In 1915, a batch of brilliant students, after their M.Sc. degree, approached Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee for advice in respect of what one should do after studying science? Sir Ashutosh recognised their talents and created the University College of Science within the University of Calcutta.
Along with Saha, Bose was appointed in 1915 lecturers in physics and applied mathematics. They launched their program to do something original, besides teaching.
For this he went direct to the works of great masters like Willard Gibbs (1839-1903) and Max Planck (1858-1947). Mastery of European languages - German and French came easily to Bose. He did not stop with translation but hunted for unsolved problems.
Bose's career spanned four distinct periods: 1915-20 (University College of Science), 1921-44 (Dacca University), 1945-56 (Calcutta University), and 1958-74 (National Professor).
Within a year of taking up their posts as lecturers, Bose and Saha published a paper on the kinetic theory of gases, in the prestigious journal the Philosophical Magazine (1918).
Subsequently Bose had two small papers published (1919) in theBulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society.
During the following year, he published two more papers in thePhilosophical Magazine: ``On the equation of state'' and ``On the deduction of Rydberg's law from quantum theory of spectral radiation.''

For better prospects Bose had to move to Dacca University , as Reader in Physics. Sometime in March 1924, Saha happened to be in Dacca when Bose described to Saha the difficulties he encountered in teaching Planck's law of radiation. Saha drew his attention to certain aspects of equilibrium between radiation and electron gas and to some recent work by Einstein and Ehrenfest (1923).
After listening to the difficulties marshalled by Saha, he rederived Planck's law. He showed that photons had a property of being identical.
Bose wrote his most famous paper ``Planck's law and the hypothesis of light quanta'' which he communicated to the Philosophical Magazinein England , but it did not evoke any response. So he sent a duplicate copy to Einstein. Einstein was impressed and he translated it into German and published it in the journal Zeitschrift fur Physik (August 1924). At that time Bose did not realise the immediate impact of his paper. Later when he met Einstein in Berlin, the latter enquired how he had arrived at this method of deriving Planck's formula.
Bose's achievement was hailed as unique, as he had derived Planck's formula for black body radiation in purely quantum terms, without referring to classical oscillators. This required considering the radiation as a collection of photons, a novel concept at that time.

Einstein took the next logical step of considering a gas, the atoms of which are indistinguishable and obey the same distribution as proposed by Bose in the case of photons. This led to discovery of Bose- Einstein Condensate (BEC) which represents the fifth state of matter, namely coherent matter.
Just 11 days after communicating his first paper, Bose sent him another on 15th June 1924. He was disappointed this time; as the paper which he had cherished, did not get proper recognition from Einstein.
Early in 1924, Bose got two years' study leave for working with Einstein. But he found had moved on to a new topic, namely unification of electromagnetic and gravitational fields. Nevertheless, Einstein gave him a letter of introduction, with which he visited many laboratories and interacted with leading physicists in Europe.
Bose returned to Dacca in 1926 and became professor of physics in 1927. He launched a drive into experimental physics: construction of such apparatus as x-ray diffraction cameras. He returned to Calcutta to begin the third phase of his career as Professor of Physics at the Calcutta University.
During 1953-1955 Bose published five important papers related to Unified Field Theory, but they did not create a stir as the 4 page paper he wrote 50 years ago. He remained satisifed with a M.Sc. degree. But honorary doctorates were showered upon him.
In 1948, he founded the Science Association of Bengal, which publishes college text books in Bengali. He started teaching classes at the Calcutta Universityi.
On his 80th birthday, the University organised an international seminar. Bose passed away soon after on February 4, 1974 


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