| Jagadish Chandra Bose
Jagadish Chandra Bose, the great Indian scientist who made the world aware that “plants too have feelings”, was born on November 30, 1858, in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh (East Bengal in those days). His father Bhagwan Chandra Bose was the Deputy Magistrate of Fhridpur district. He spent his childhood in a family steeped in Indian culture and tradition. Right since childhood, the great Indian epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata influenced him. These epics became his constant source of inspiration. He believed in the fact that hard work can turn failure into success.
He did his schooling at St Xavier’s School, Kolkata (Calcutta). At school many of the students were British and Anglo-Indian as well as children of officers. Seeing this village boy they thought of harassing him. Initially, Bose tolerated their abuses and misbehaviour. But later, not able to tolerate them any longer, he fought with a well-built boy and pinned him down. After this win, many students became his friends and started treating him with respect. Now, nobody dared to harass him.
He had his college education in Kolkata. He later went to England to study medicine. Impressed by the famous physicist Lord Rayleigh in England, he changed track from the field of medicine to physics. He enrolled himself at Cambridge’s Christchurch College and in 1885
obtained a DSc degree from London University. With tripos In natural science, he returned to India.
He joined the Presidency College In Kolkata as professor of physics-the first Indian to hold such a high post. After Joining service, he came to know that he was offered less salary compared to his British counterparts. He refused to accept the salary and protested against this injustice; though he continued to perform his duties.
Raising his voice against Injustice was a kind of satyagraha. His satyagraha had an effect on the government and they conceded to his demand, finally. He was given all the outstanding salary due to him. Before Mahatma Gandhi came to India and made us realize that Injustice could be fought through satyagraha, Bose had successfully experimented with this type of protest In a peaceful manner.
When a ray of light passes through a crystal, it is refracted, 1. e. it bends and changes its course. In some crystals there are two refracted rays. This phenomenon is termed as double-refraction. After coming to Kolkata. Bose started research on double-refraction. His first research paper on double-refraction was published in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal. Later, he started work on electromagnetic waves. He undertook research studies on production, transmission and reception of electromagnetic waves, with wavelengths ranging from 1 mm to 1 cm. Generally, working on this range of wavelength in those days, was indeed considered very difficult.
In this regard, he received neither instruments nor any support from his college. Nonetheless, he put local artisans on the Job and under his guidance they constructed instruments at his expense and In three months he began his research. It was for the first time, he used microwaves to understand the structure of substances and met with success. The device he designed
is today known as ‘waveguide’. Bose’s experiments on the quasi-optical properties of very short radio waves (1895) led him to make improvements on the coherer, an early form of radio detector, which have contributed to the development of solid-state physics.
Before Guglielmo Marconi, the famous Italian inventor and electrical engineer associated with wireless telegraphy began work in this field; Bose had already begun research in this difficult area and was successful to a considerable extent. In 1895, Prof Bose had demonstrated in public that radio waves can be transmitted through a solid wall. This public demonstration made him famous. At the Royal Institution London, in the presence of Lord Kelvin and other famous scientists, Bose demonstrated this experiment again. He later gave up experiments in this area and shifted attention to the study of botany. Many years after this public demonstration, Marconi patented the rights to his wireless experiments. Today, many foreign books eulogise Marconi as the pioneer of wireless, but its real credit should go to Bose.
Research was a daunting task for Indian scientists during the British rule. There was a shortage of instruments, lack of laboratories with necessary facilities. Reference material and libraries too were unavailable. With no encouragement forthcoming from the government, they had to set their sights on London for recognition. Bose’s intellectual prowess had impressed many English scientists. Among them, Lord Kelvin and Sir Oliver Lodge had a lot of respect for Bose. They even went to the extent of suggesting that Bose settle in London and conduct research there. But, Bose was a patriot who did not welcome this idea.
By the turn of the century, Bose was totally engrossed in the science of plant physiology. He developed a novel method to study micromovements in plants when they are stimulated. He proved that plants too have feelings or sentiments and like human beings they too tend to react In a particular way to pain and pleasure. Like man or animal, a plant cannot express pain or pleasure by voicing, wailing or shrieking. But It can flower, wither, sway and thus express its feelings. Like other living beings, plants too breathe.
On May 10, 1901, the lecture hall at the Royal Society of London was packed with scientists. Bose was to demonstrate one of his important experiments. He had devised a very sensitive instrument called the crescograph to test the sensitivity of plants. It was a unique instrument and invention. The instrument was attached to a plant. The plant was then dipped in a container filled with bromide poison. On the screen could be seen the pulsations of the plant. Slowly, the pulsations became erratic and stopped abruptly, as if the plant was poisoned to death. There was an air of surprise all around.
[Crescograph: A super sensitive instrument for recording plant growth by magnifying a small movement as much as ten million-fold.]
Many plant physiologists were not happy with this outcome. They were peeved and angry for Bose was a physicist who had transgressed or ventured into another area. He had also scuttled the principles of many plant physiologists. They became so disturbed and agitated that they even opposed publication of his speech by the Royal Society. But, Bose was not one to take things lying down. After two years of hard work, he published a monograph-‘Response in the Living and Non-living’. With this monograph he convinced the Royal Society that he was indeed right. The speech that was not initially published by the Royal Society was now published and sent the world over. Bose had become a world-renowned scientist. He received many awards. In 1920, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. He became the first Indian scientist to be elected to that position. Taking into account his valuable contribution, the British Government conferred the title ‘Sir* on him. Thus, he came to be known as Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Bose now came to be recognized as a biologist. Indians will always cherish his valuable contributions. Only after the West recognized his research works did the people in his motherland come to realize the greatness of this man. On November 30, 1917, Bose dedicated Bose Research Institute to the nation.
Poet Rabindranath Tagore was Bose’s friend. During this period, the West was not aware of Tagore. Bose translated many of Tagore’s works and published them. His literary talent came to the fore here. Bose was about 30 years elder to Sir C V Raman, another great Indian scientist. It is a matter of coincidence and belief that Bose set the physics paper of the ‘Financial Civil Service’ examination for which Raman appeared. A day before his death, he instructed the Superintendent of the Bose Institute to dispose of his residuary properties to endow research and social work.
On November 23, 1937, at Giridih in Bihar, this great scientist breathed his last. His books include Response in the Living and Non-Living (1902) and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants (1926). Even today, the Bose Institute set up by him runs on his ideals and is progressing in various research fields, raising his name and taking the institution to new heights.