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Even Sir C.V. Raman faced 'brutal abuse' by his opponents

Even Sir C.V. Raman faced brutal abuse by his opponents

N.B. Nair

Sir C.V. Raman is one of the most celebrated scientists in India, who won the coveted Nobel Prize for Physics, the first Asian and first non-White to receive any prize in science. This is a review of part 2 of a trilogy on Raman's life and work.

Sir CV Raman's name is the most popular name in Indian science. His pioneering work on scattering of light won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930, the first Asian and first non-White to receive any Nobel Prize in science.

There are not many publications that reveal the persona of Sir Raman. Rajinder Singh, a German based author, who has written extensively on the life and work of India's prodigious son gives an insight into Raman, 50 years after his death, mostly based on newspaper reports on the scientist.

The book titled 'C.V. Raman and the Press: Science Reporting and Image Building' provides how Sir Raman cultivated his relations with media. This is the second part of the trilogy – the first on Raman's life in Kolkata, which was the most productive and conferred the Nobel Prize.

The second and third of the series relates to Sir Raman's professional life in Bangalore, where he had shifted to take over as the first Indian Director of the Indian Institute of Science and third about his work during Independent India.

This book also deals with the tumultuous period of Raman's professional career, 'because here he was confronted with bureaucrats, colleagues, students, and a group of scientists from Kolkata.'

Raman had to sail against the wind at the Indian Institute of Science. Though he was the head of the institution, his powers were clipped and the Council of IISc made his life difficult, finally forced to resign from the Directorship. Sir Raman, who was revered as the leading light in the comity of scientists in India, had to be "escorted home by 50 students" after his resignation, as he was "abused brutally by his opponents..... and a police force was posted to protect his bungalow, after miscreants threw stones to break some of the windowpanes."

The book also reveals some of the idiosyncrasies of the great scientist and his protracted fight with the management. His antipathy towards women also came into light, when he was at the helm of Indian Institute of Science. In another publication, (not related to the one by Rajinder Singh), there was a reference to this, when Kamla Sohonie (who came to be known for her biochemical nutritional research) applied for higher studies at IISc, Raman summarily dismissed her application with the words "I am not going to take any girls in my institute."

The book, though gives a peep into the great scientist's professional life, is based only on "available newspaper clippings" and archival records, and the reader has no option to judge whether those were selectively used or not by the author.

All said and done, Sir Raman's position in Indian scientific history is unrivalled. If he had the liberty, Raman would have brought some of the greatest refuge-scientists of his time to India from Germany, where they were hounded out by the Nazi regime.

But still his students later became some of the leading lights of Indian science – S. Ramaswamy, Anna Mani, V. Chandrasekharan, R.S. Krishnan to name a few.

While western scientists were engaged in developing war weapons, Indian scientists including Raman were working on 'research for peace,' truly encompassing the ancient Indian ethos.


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