Friday, November 21, 2008

Scientists Life

1. Sir C.V. Raman

I thought of sharing with you an incident about Sir CV Raman –a Nobel Laureate in Physics for discovering Raman Effect. Raman gives the view that the color of sky is blue due to molecular diffraction, which determines the observed luminosity, and in great measures also its color. This led to the birth of the Raman Effect. Raman was in the first batch of Bharat Ratna Award winners. The award ceremony was to take place in the last week of January, soon after the Republic Day celebrations of 1954. The then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote to Raman inviting him to be the personal guest in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, when Raman came to Delhi for the award ceremony. Sir CV Raman wrote a polite letter, regretting his inability to go. Raman had a noble reason for his inability to attend the investiture ceremony. He explained to the President that he was guiding a Ph.D. student and that thesis was positively due by the last day of January. The student was valiantly trying to wrap it all up and Raman felt, he had to be by the side of the research student, see that the thesis was finished, sign the thesis as the guide and then have it submitted. Here was a scientist who gave up the pomp of a glittering ceremony associated with the highest honour, because he felt that his duty required him to be by the side of the student. It is this unique trait of giving value to science that builds science.

2. Prof. Chandrasekhar Subramanyan

Chandrasekhar Subramanyan's most famous discovery was the astrophysical Chandrasekhar limit. The limit describes the maximum mass (~1.44 solar masses) of a white dwarf star, or equivalently, the minimum mass for which a star will ultimately collapse into a neutron star or black hole following a supernova. The limit was first calculated by Chandrasekhar while on a ship from India to Cambridge, England. The Chandrasekhar Limit led to the determination of how long a star of particular mass will shine. In 1983, Chandrasekhar Subramanyan got the Nobel Prize for this discovery.

Two of Chandrasekhar's students in 1947 were the doctoral candidates Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang in Particle Physics research. Even though Chandrasekhar Subramanyan maintained his office at the Yerkes Observatory in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, he would regularly drive the one hundred miles to Chicago to guide and teach Lee and Yang and others many a times in difficult weather conditions. In 1957, these two of his students won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in particle physics research. This also brings out Chandrasekhar Subramanyan's commitment to science and there by to his students. Science indeed is a life time mission for Chandrasekhar. It is this characteristic which makes youth to become passionate towards science.

3. Prof. Norman E Borlaug

I would like to narrate an incident which took place during a function conferring Nobel Laureate Prof. Norman E Borlaug, a well known agricultural scientist and a partner in India's first Green revolution, with Dr. M S Swaminathan Award, at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi on the 15th of March 2005. Prof. Borlaug, at the age of 91, was in the midst of all the praise showered on him from everybody gathered there.

When his turn came, he got up and highlighted India's advancement in the agricultural science and production and said that the political visionary Shri C. Subramaniam and Dr. M S Swaminathan, pioneer in agricultural science were the prime architects of First Green Revolution in India. Even though Prof Norman Borlaug was himself a partner in the first green revolution, he did not make a point on this. He recalled with pride, Dr. Verghese Kurien who ushered White Revolution in India. Then the surprise came. He turned to scientists sitting in the third row, fifth row and eighth row of the audience. He identified Dr. Raja Ram, a wheat specialist, Dr S K Vasal, a maize specialist, Dr. B. R. Barwale, a seed specialist. He said, all these scientists had contributed for India's and Asia's agricultural science. Dr. Borlaug introduced them to the audience by asking them to stand and ensured that the audience cheered and greeted the scientists with great enthusiasm. This action of Dr. Norman Borlaug, I call it as "Scientific Magnanimity".

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