Jagadish Chandra Bose: A Model Scientist of Modern India

Gautam Guha, Agami Kalarab: “The true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions we uncover the laws of truth.”
Jagadish Chandra Bose was a physicist, a biologist, a botanist, an archaeologist, an author, and a connoisseur of fine arts. In a world where Leonardo da Vinci was merely a painter, one might say that Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a scientist. But in the real world, he was much more. The genius was born on 30th November 1858 in the Eastern part of British India (now part of Bangladesh).

He is most famously known for his contribution to natural sciences and has been named by Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers as the father of radio science, alongside scientists such as Tesla, Marconi, and Popov. He is also said to be the first Indian biophysicist and even the first Indian modern scientist. In fact, his work on radio and wireless communication effectively make him the father of modern Wi-Fi. While being a terrific teacher and grooming younger scientists, Bose also started original research here in the area of microwaves, carrying out experiments involving refraction, diffraction, and polarization. He received his elementary education from a vernacular school. Later he attended St. Xavier’s School at Kolkata and passed the Entrance Examination for Calcutta University.

Bose attended the University of Cambridge studying natural sciences after graduating with a physics degree from Calcutta University. He returned to India in 1884 after completing his B.Sc. degree from Cambridge University and was appointed professor of physical science at Presidency College, Calcutta. Then he went to Britain for further education. After his return to India, and while still teaching at Presidency College, due to racial discrimination he didn’t got his proper remuneration. He demonstrated wireless communication using radio waves, nearly two years before Marconi achieved the same feat.

He as a first Indian also suggested the existence of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun, which was confirmed much later, all the way in 1944. His curiosity about this little-understood world of plants compelled him to study the reactions of plans to stimuli. Through his work, he was able to establish the similarities between plants and animals with respect to response to external stimuli. Toward this area of research, Bose’s flagship contribution was the invention of the machine called the “crescograph“, a device for measuring growth in plants. There are two things in this instrument that help measure plant growth and development, and these are a smoked glass plate and a number of clockwise gears. The plate is marked after regular distance intervals, and the clockwise gears are used to measure how growth is influenced, as well as how it moves under different conditions. The plate catches the reflection of the plant and is marked according to the movement of the plant. For measurement, the plant is dipped in bromide, which is poisonous. Working in a difficult socio-political environment, under constant racial discrimination, and in the scarcity of equipment and funding, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose continued to do pioneering work in several fields. He became the first person in the world to use semiconductor junctions for detecting radio signals. He experimented with galena to prepare an early type of semiconductor diode which can be used an electromagnetic wave detector, but he didn’t recognize for his noble work. Bose also developed a device to demonstrate the effect of electromagnetic waves on the non-living and living matter. Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose authored two illustrious books: Response in the Living and Non-living (1902) and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants (1926).

To recognize his achievements in the field of wireless telecommunications, among other fields, an impact crater on the far side of the Moon is named after Bose. The Bose Crater has a reported diameter of 91 kilometers. Its outer rim has become worn and the edges rounded by impacts, although the shape of the site has been well-preserved.

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