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Jagadish Chandra Bose (J.C. Bose) was an illustrious son of India, who brought honour and prestige to the country under the British rule, through his important scientific investigations and inventions. Britishers considered Indians as inferior to them intellectually, especially in the field of scientific research. The invention of radio and the pioneering studies in physiology which revealed that plants respond to external stimuli just as animals made Bose a world famous scientist. In recognition of his brilliant contributions to science he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, London and was knighted by the British Government, a very rare honour for an Indian those days. Birth and Early Childhood Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on 30th November, 1858 at Mymensingh in East Bengal (the present Munshiganj District in Bangladesh). His father Bhagawan Chandra Bose was a Deputy Magistrate of the District. The Bose family was originally from Vikramapura in the District of Dacca. This place was well known for Sanskrit culture and learning. Later, the intelligentsia of the place turned to English education. Bhagawan Chandra made use of this opportunity and qualified himself to become a Deputy Magistrate in 1859. Jagadish Chandra had six sisters, and a brother who died at the age of ten. His mother was a pious orthodox lady and father, a strict executive officer. When Jagadish Chandra was 4 years old, his father got a transfer to Faridpur. Bhagawan Chandra was quite friendly with his neighbors. He used to organize a mela (annual fair) where locally made articles were exhibited for sale, and also organized wrestling competitions, and cultural programmes. He was generous enough to engage a dacoit leader, who sought help after a jail-term, as an attendant of Jagadish Chandra. For these reasons he was immensely liked by the people. Young Jagadish Chandra grew up listening to the stories of the rough and rugged life of the dacoit attendant and the stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata told by his grandmother. His father gifted him a pony which he rode on with pride. These rides made him strong in limbs. Fascinated by the enchanting surroundings, he kept his eyes and ears wide open to learn the ways of nature. The father encouraged his son to ask queries about things that aroused his curiosity, and he tried to answer them to the satisfaction of the child. Boyhood and Education. Children from educated families used to be sent to English Schools. But contrary to the expectation of his friends and relatives Bhagawan Chandra decided to send his 5 year old son to a Bengali School founded by himself for the children of the locality. Maintaining a garden, a pool to breed fishes, frogs and non-poisonous snakes captured by himself and rearing rabbits and squirrels formed some of the boyhood hobbies of Jagadish Chandra. Sowing seeds, watching them sprout and later pulling them out to examine the root system was another hobby. His sisters were his playmates and assistants in these activities. Jagadish Chandra was now ten years old. His father got transferred to Burdwan as an Assistant Commissioner. Reluctantly the young Bose had to leave Faridpur with his parents and sisters. He was admitted to the Hare School in Calcutta. The same year (1869) he was transferred to the St. Xaviers Collegiate School run by European missionaries, where he had to live in a hostel. Here, he had Europeans as his classmates. They were not at all friendly towards this native boy. He was yet to master the English Language. So he could not even converse with them freely. They started teasing him. When this went beyond tolerable limits, he sought to answer one of them with a severe blow. This event put an end to the teasing and helped to establish his rights in the class, as one among them. College Student Passing out from the School, he secured admission to St. Xaviers College on the basis of Entrance Examination. He was now sixteen years. In the college he had a brilliant teacher and guide in Father Lafont. In course of time Jagadish Chandra became an outstanding student. He showed extraordinary skill in doing experiments. He passed his B.A. examination with distinction. The next option was naturally, to proceed to England for higher studies. One major hurdle was finance. His father had invested all his earnings in certain industrial enterprises and had met with colossal failure. Bhagawan Chandra was motivated by patriotic feelings that only education, industry and commerce can help our country. It was not in the liking of the British Government that manufacturing industry thrives here. To Jagadish Chandra his future seemed uncertain. He was afraid that he would have to give up desire for higher studies and seek some job. At this juncture his mother came up with help. She said she didn‟t understand the implications of his going to England. She only knew that it was her son‟s desire to go abroad for higher studies. She offered her personal savings in cash and her ornaments to meet the expenses, and urged him to be ready for travel. In England as a student Normally, after graduation in India, one goes to England for preparing for the Civil Services. Bhagawan Chandra didn‟t want his son to be a civil servant under the British Government though all the relatives were for that. Instead he wanted Bose to be trained as a doctor. Bose joined the University of London in 1980, as a student of medicine. In the first year he had to study Physics, Chemistry and Biology. He passed his first year examination with credit. This was followed by study of Anatomy with dissection, as a preliminary requirement for the standard medical course. In the Anatomy Lab while doing dissection he was affected by fever. This was the revisit of a fever which he contacted some time back at Assam during a tour of that place with a friend living there. There was no proper remedy for the illness, which visited him from time to time. Now the foul order of the dissected dead body caused the old malady to reappear. His professors were disturbed. They advised him to leave the medical course which was too strenuous for him, and take up some other course of study. He gave up the medical course and went to Cambridge. Here he could win a scholarship examination and took up a course of study in pure science. He practiced rowing as an exercise, and after a while he became free from the menacing fever. After joining Cambridge University, Bose decided to take up Physics, Chemistry and Botany as the subjects of his study. Among his professors, Lord Rayleigh, The renowned physicist influenced him most. While in Calcutta, under the influence of Father Lafont, he had already developed a special liking for physics. Now Lord Rayleigh could make him surrender completely to Physics. Bose secured his B.A. degree in science from Cambridge University in 1884 and B.Sc. degree of London in the same year. Professor of Physics in Presidency College Bose came back home from England in 1885. He carried with him a letter of recommendation to Lord Ripon, the Viceroy of India, from Lord Kimberly, the Secretary-of- State for India requesting him to appoint Bose in the Education Department. Under Viceroy‟s instruction, the Director of Public Instructions had to appoint Jagadish Chandra Bose as Professor of Physics at Presidency College. The Director felt annoyed at being instructed from above. So he made the appointment as a temporary one. Those were days when Britishers held the view that Indians were not competent to teach science in Colleges. For this reason, the Principal of Presidency College did not like the appointment of Bose as Professor of Physics. On joining the College, Bose came to know that Indian Professors were not given full salary as given to English men. The Indian Professor was given Rs. 200/- per month while his European counterpart got Rs. 300/-. As Bose was on temporary posting, he was offered a monthly salary of Rs. 100/- only. This discriminatory treatment hurt his sense of self respect and national pride. So he decided to protest, but in a novel way. He refused to accept the salary cheque, but continued his teaching work. In this way he continued to teach for three years as a dedicated teacher without accepting salary. The Principal and higher authorities were deeply impressed by his excellent performance as a teacher and by his noble character. Finally they yielded, and the appointment was made permanent with effect from the date of his joining duty. He was given salary at the rate of Rs. 300/- per month for the previous three years in lumpsum. Inadequate Facilities The Physics Laboratory of the Presidency College was poorly equipped. There was no facility for doing research. Bose was given a very small room (24 square feet) for his research activities. He designed for himself the equipment he needed and made the same with the help of an untrained tinsmith. About this lack of facility, Sister Nivedita, who visited the Laboratory wrote: “I was horrified to find the way in which great worker could be subjected to continuous annoyance and petty difficulties…… The College routine was made as arduous as possible for him, so that he could not have the time he needed for investigation”. After his routine work as teacher he had to carry out his research far into the night, in such a small room in the college. It was a sad fact that the British Government‟s policy for its colonies was not at all conducive to original research work. Bose had to spend his own money for fabricating equipments for experiments. Under such adverse circumstances, Bose continued to engage in research activities and became a pioneer in the field of wireless waves. Married Life In 1887, at the age of 29, Bose married Abala Devi. She was the daughter of the well- known social reformer Durga Mohan Das, a friend of Bhagawan Chandra. She was studying medicine in Madras with a scholarship from Bengal Government. But she could not continue her studies because of ill health. In the early days of his married life Bose had financial difficulties as he was not accepting his salary. Yet “this marriage was very happy combination. The wife was a constant friend and companion of her husband”. In one of his books dedicated to his wife Bose wrote. “To my wife, who has stood by me in all my struggle”. Soon after their marriage, Bose and Abala shifted to a rented house at Chandan Nagar on the banks of Ganges, as desired by Durga Mohan. After about six months, they returned to Bose‟s parents at Calcutta. During their stay at Chandan Nagar Bose used to help his wife in the management of all household affairs. Repayment of Debts The salary arrears for three years received by Bose as a lumpsum amount was immediately paid to the creditors of his father. All ancestral properties were also sold, though painfully, to repay the debt. Still half of the debt remained. His mother gave him whatever cash and ornaments were left with her. With that he could reduce the outstanding debt to one-fourth, which was cleared fully in six years time by making repayments in installments. Relieved from the bondage of debts, Bhagawan Chandra lived for one year more and his wife lived for another two years. They could live a happy and peaceful life in the old age, with their son and daughter-in-law. Scientific Research Along with the teaching work, at Presidency College Bose was engaged in some experiments with microwaves. In 1895, in a public demonstration in Calcutta, Bose was able to ignite a heap of gun powder and release a lever to ring a bell, and also to trigger a pistol using microwaves. The waves traveled from the lecture room, through an intervening room and a passage to a third room 75 feet away from the place of generation of the waves. Thus the waves passed through three solid walls on the way and through the body of the Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Mackenzie, who was present there as a guest of honour. About these waves Bose wrote: “The invisible light can easily pass through brick walls, buildings etc. Therefore, messages can be transmitted by means of it without the mediation of wires”. Obviously, Bose was hinting at the possibility of wireless or radio wave communication. Bose prepared his first scientific paper: “On Polarisation of Electric Rays by Double- Refracting Crystals” in May 1895. It was communicated to the Asiatic Society of Bengal. His second paper was communicated to the Royal Society of London by Lord Rayleigh in October 1895. The third research publication of Bose appeared in December 1895 in the London journal, „The Electrician‟. It was titled “On a New Electro-Polariscope”. The existence of electromagnetic waves was predicted mathematically by the British theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell. But he died in 1879 before his prediction was verified experimentally. In 1888, the German physicist Heinrich Hertz showed experimentally the existence of electromagnetic waves in free space. The Hertzian wave receivers or detectors were named “coherer”. The „coherer‟ made by Bose caught the attention of the scientific community. The journal “The Electrician” made the following comment on Bose‟s coherer. “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 revolutionised by a Bengali scientist working single handed in our Presidency College Laboratory”. It may be remembered that Bose had plan to “perfect his coherer” but he never thought of patenting it. It is obvious that the news about the public demonstration by Bose in Calcutta Town Hall in 1895 reached the Western world. In 1897 Marconi performed a wireless signaling experiment on Salisbury Plain in England. In 1896 Bose had met Marconi at London during a Lecture tour. Marconi was conducting wireless experiments for the British post office. In an interview, Bose made it clear that he had no interest in commercial telegraphy, and any one interested in that could freely make use of his research results. In 1899, Bose announced the development of a “iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector” in a paper presented at the Royal Society, London. By now it must be clear that Bose‟s demonstration of remote wireless signaling has priority over Marconi. Bose was the first to use a semiconductor junction diode to detect radio waves. About this N.F.Mott, Nobel Prize winner for his contributions to solid state electronics, remarked “ J.C. Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time, …… In fact, he had anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors”. What a revealing compliment! It is generally believed that radio was invented by Marconi. But the fact is that radio waves were generated and detected by J.C. Bose at least one year before Marconi did it. Marconi used the mercury coherer invented by Bose to receive the radio signal in his first trans-Atlantic radio communication in 1901. But Marconi didn‟t care to acknowledge this fact. J.C. Bose did pioneering work in the field of microwave devices. His remarkable contributions were recognised by such great physicists as Lord Rayleigh and Lord Kelvin. Bose was the first to use microwaves to understand the structure of materials. One of the devices he had fabricated, now called the “Wave Guide” is of utmost importance in the transmission of electromagnetic waves and is an essential component of several electronic equipments. Research in Plant Physiology Another remarkable contribution of J.C. Bose to Science was in Plant Physiology. He proposed a theory for the ascent of sap in plants. According to Bose, electrochemical pulsations in living cells were responsible for the ascent of sap in plants. This theory questions the popular theory of Dixon and Joly, known as the tension-cohesion theory. To study the responses of plants to external stimuli he used one of the most sensitive instruments invented by himself, the „crescograph‟. With the help of this instrument he was able to show that plants responded to various stimuli as if they had a nervous system similar to that of animals. He demonstrated this to a highly elite audience at the Royal Society Hall in London on May 10, 1901. The hall was packed with eminent scientists. He conducted a series of experiments to show that not only plants but metals also have feelings. One of the experiments was to show that a plant can be poisoned to death. The sensitive instrument could record the pulse of plants. It was connected to a plant. The plant was picked up with its roots and dipped up to its stem into bromide solution (a poison) contained in a vessel. The plant‟s pulse beat which was recorded on a screen as a to-and- fro motion of a spot, began to grow unsteady. Then the spot vibrated violently and came to a sudden halt. “It was almost like a poisoned rat breathing heavily and jerking its legs and tail in its struggle against death. The plant had died because of the poison”. The Hall reverberated with thunderous applause. But some physiologists were unhappy that a physicist was trying to intrude into their field. Bose continued his research. Plants can feel like animals - he established. His experiments showed that plants grow faster in pleasant music and its growth retards in harsh sound and noise. He claimed that plants can “feel pain and understand affection”. A plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture. The critical attitude of the physiologists of the Royal Society turned into appreciation later, when his monograph, „Response in the living and the Non-living‟ was published. His lecture which was withheld from publication earlier, was now published and widely circulated all over the world. By now J.C. Bose became a world famous scientist. Bose had authored a number of books and research papers based on his work and findings in English and Bengali. Some of them were translated into other European Languages. Bose wanted his countrymen, especially the youth to cultivate a scientific temper. It was to fulfill this dream that he founded the Bose Research Institute in Calcutta. He was honoured as a great scientist both in India and outside. He was the first Indian to be elected to the Royal Society (13 May,1920). Jagadish Chandra Bose passed away on November 23, 1937 at the age of 79. The great legacy that he left behind would be an inspiration for the present and the future generations. About ten years back, a group of scientists at the U.S. based Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) discovered evidence to show that the credit for the invention of radio should go to J.C. Bose and not to Marconi. It was their research into the origin and use of the solid-state diode detector that led them to some missing links in the history of wireless. The findings were formally publicised at a conference in January 1998, at Calcutta in a special volume brought out to mark the 100 years of solid state diode and 50 years of transistor. Thus after 100 years, Bose‟s rightful place in the history of long-distance communication is restored. The IEEE‟S effort should pave the way for world-wide recognition long due to this great son of India.
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