Remembering Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose – An extraordinary man of science
The celebrated Tamil Poet Subramania Bharati wrote about yet another great son of Bharata Mata as, “It was our Jagadeesa Chandra Bose who proved to the world that the nadi mandal (nervous system) of the plant kingdom carries out emotional activities just like the nadi mandal of human beings. In metallurgy also, he made several new experiments. This eminent scholar in the field of wireless communication too had introduced the telephonic instrument to the scientists, much before Marconi “ in an article of 1918 in a nationalist daily named Swadeshamitran. In the same daily, Bharati translated and published several articles of Bose in Tamil demystifying scientific concepts understandable to lay readers.
Yes, J C Bose (30 November 1858 – 23 November 1937) was indeed a multi-faceted personality. My conviction is he may be called a modern-day Rishi. You may wonder why I venture to say so. Anyone who has read our ancient history will find that our Rishis and Sidhars were not only propagators of religion but also great philosophers, psychologists, physicians, astronomers, mathematicians, artists, grammarians, and scientists. It would suffice to read Patanjali, Charaka, Susruta, Ganata, and Nagarjuna. We must also remember that they spent their lifetime in research not for personal aggrandizement but out of abundant love toward humanity. Also, they never sold their self-respect for tinsels.
Seek knowledge and not profits
You will naturally seek proof for my claims. I will quote just two well-known facts from Jagadish Chandra Bose’s life. His findings in communication were path-breaking one but he did not wish to make it a commercial venture and earn a profit. He was reluctant in patenting and even when he did apply upon well-wishers’ advice did not pursue it. In fact, he was thus a forerunner to the concepts like Networking (the Internet was initially enunciated as the coming together of great minds to share knowledge among scientists and professionals) and its latest avatar Open Source. You may find a resonance of the same thought in Bharati’s widely quoted (recently by PM too) “kaasi nagarap pulavar pechum uraithaan kaanchiyile ketpatharkkor karuvi cheyvom.“
He joined as Professor at the Presidency College, Calcutta. In spite of his Cambridge higher studies qualification and appreciation by his principal, he was appointed as a temporary professor only. Therefore, he was paid a salary of only one-third of his European colleagues. Bose refused to take the salary as a protest. However, his interest never flagged in teaching and he was regarded highly by students and colleagues alike. After 3 years of silent and sustained protest, college authorities budged and refixed his pay scale with retrospective effect and cleared the arrears.
Pursuits and achievements
He was a Biologist, Physicist, and Botanist at once. He is considered one of the earliest accomplished bio-physicist.
As said earlier, Acharya Bose had a keen interest in botany and he carried out extensive research on several species in general and Mimosa pudica (common name: Touch me not/ shame plant) and Desmodium gyrans (Dancing Grass or Telegraph Plant ) plants. His major contribution to the field of biophysics was the demonstration of the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli (e.g., wounds, chemical agents) in plants, which were earlier thought to be of a chemical nature. He developed an instrument called Crescograph in his above study.
Similarly, his research and study papers on Microwave Radio Research were well received and appreciated ones by different fora including the Royal Society of London. About his radio wave receivers, the famous science magazine The Englishman, in January 1896 (commenting on how this new type of wall and fog penetrating “invisible light” could be used in lighthouses) wrote: Should Professor Bose succeed in perfecting and patenting his ‘Coherer’, we may in time see the whole system of coast lighting throughout the navigable world revolutionized by a Bengali scientist working single handed in our Presidency College Laboratory.
Study of metal fatigue
Bose made really an out of box attempt which could have been easily dubbed as Quixotic. His intuition made him perform a comparative study of the fatigue response of various metals and organic tissue in plants. Bose’s experiments demonstrated a cyclical fatigue response in both stimulated cells and metals, as well as a distinctive cyclical fatigue and recovery response across multiple types of stimuli in both living cells and metals.
He tried his hand in science fiction writing in his mother tongue Bengali. (in fact, his was the first of this genre in Bengali). His first published work was a short story titled Niruddesher Kahani (The Story of the Missing One). Later he expanded the theme and it was added to a collection named Abyakta.
Spiritualist and Nationalist
The above lines would have amply demonstrated that he was adept in multiple disciplines and could traverse comfortably across the disciplines. How could have an integrated approach and achieve a synthesis? I feel his pious attitude, devotion and spiritual orientation could have enabled him to view things from a proper perspective and perceive the oneness among apparent contradictions. We can get a glimpse of his mind by reading the first few lines of his speech made on the inauguration of his Bose Institute: I dedicate today this Institute — not merely a Laboratory but a Temple. The power of physical methods applies to the establishment of that truth which can be realized directly through our senses, or through the vast expansion of the perceptive range by means of artificially created organs…… It is not for man to complain of circumstances, but bravely to accept, to confront, and to dominate them, and we belong to that race which has accomplished great things with simple means.” Simple words yet profound thoughts, aren’t they?
He used to attend the Bhajans – lectures of Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna and had great reverence for the sage which in turn brought him in close contact with Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji made it a point to visit Paris to meet Bose from England where he was then travelling for the second time. He spoke subsequently highly about Jagadish Bose and Amanda Bose, wife and partner in Bose’s worldly pursuits. Later Sister Nivedita also supported Bose by using her contacts to mobilize funds for research.
Acharya Jagadish Bose’s keen desire to make this country regain its ancient glory in the field of science and technology as amply demonstrated in his speeches, writings, and above all in his life inspired many youngsters to follow in his footsteps. Aren’t those baby steps taken then making giant strides in the global arena a century later today?
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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