New Delhi (ISJ) The celebrated Indian Scientist Sir C.V. Raman was a qualified accountant. He was not encouraged to take up science as a career, as was the norm in those days in India. So after qualifying the Financial Civil Services Examination, he joined the Indian Finance Department as Assistant Accountant General at the age of eighteen-and-a-half! But science and research boiled in his belly. One day he saw the sign board on his way to office with the words 'Indian Association for Cultivation of Science' written on it.
On his way back, he visited the Association, where he met Ashutosh Dey, who was to be Raman's assistant for 25 years. First, he started research in his spare time with limited facilities; yet he could publish his research findings in Nature, The Philosophical Magazine and Physics Review. Ashutosh Dey, known as Ashu Babu became his joint author in many papers Raman published, though he never entered the portals of a university! Finally, Raman quit the Finance Department and joined the newly established Science College of Calcutta University as Palit Professor for half the salary.
Meghnad Saha was born in a poor family; his father was a petty grocery shop owner. After his primary education, there was no certainty that young Saha could continue his education. First, his parents could hardly afford his further studies, second, there was no middle school near his village.
Saha's brother Jainath found a sponsor – Ananta Kumar Das. "The kind-hearted doctor agreed to provide free boarding and lodging in his house, provided Saha washed his plates, (a condition that reflected the prevailing rigid caste system) and attended to minor household works, including taking care of the cow. Saha readily accepted all these conditions. He completed his middle school by topping the list in the entire district, and secured a scholarship of Rs. 04 per month. In 1905, Saha went to Dhaka and joined the Collegiate School."
These defining moments in the lives of Raman, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics for his ground-breaking work in the field of light scattering or Saha – the celebrated astrophysicist, best known for his development of the Saha ionization equation, used to describe chemical and physical conditions in stars are truly inspiring, as the title of the book itself.
A new compendium – Indian Scientists – The Saga of Inspired Minds, has similar stimulating stories about the greatest scientists India has ever produced. Written by several science writers and compiled by Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous body under the Department of Science & Technology, it puts together turning points in the lives of 54 scientists whose achievements laid the foundation for robust growth and development of science and technology in the country.
Science touches everyone, every day. But over a period of time, the interest in science in India has been on the decline – be it as a career option or for general reading. Science neither during the training period, nor after achieving a certain altitude, is an easy-going career option. The fire should come out from the belly and it should be a passion. Even there is very little dissemination of scientific activities in the media, except a very handful, because for them science doesn't sell.
Vigyan Prasar has deliberately chosen a different style to put down the biography of these celebrated scientists, though it does not fit into the usual structure of biographies. The style and the theme have all the ingredients of a gripping fiction. The book is an inspiring read not only for aspiring scientists, but would captivate every discerning reader. In fact, it qualifies to be a text book in schools for students of science streams.
Unlike the present research ecosystem, these scientists lived and worked to achieve the name and fame despite adversities. Still India produced some of the best scientists in the world. In contrast, today we have none to match their nerve, though present-day scientists have the comfort and advanced facilities to work with.
This is the first-of-its-kind attempt to put down the entire range of disciplines of S&T domain – from Palaeontology to Ornithology, Meteorology, Mathematics – many of them had eclipsed from the popular imagination.
Indian Science Journal would publish these lesser known facets from the greatest Indian scientists – every week so as to rekindle the curiosity of everyone, who has an interest in science.