C V Raman biography

C V Raman



C V Raman
C V Raman
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman is undoubtedly the best-known scientist of modern India. He was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize, way back in 1930. He also inspired several younger scientists like K.S. Krishnan and Sisir Kumar Mitra.

Raman was born on 7 November 1888 in a village near Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. His father, R. Chandrasekhara Iyer, was a school teacher and his mother, Parvathi Ammal, came from a family of Sanskrit scholars. Raman was the second child of his parents; the first one was Subramanian, who became famous as the father of renowned astrophysicist and Nobel Prize winner (1983) Subramanian Chandrasekhara. Raman’s father, though not quite well-off, loved books and had built up a small library in his house, mainly of science books and English classics. Thus, from his childhood, Raman was brought up in an intellectual atmosphere. His father was also a good veena player and little Raman would watch his father playing veena for hours. Later the veena became the subject of his scientific investigations.
Soon after Raman’s birth, his father obtained a bachelors degree in physical sciences and moved to the coastal town of Vishakhapatnam as a science lecturer in a local college. Raman was a bright student and passed his matriculation examination in 1900, at the age of twelve from Madras University. After passing the First Arts examination from Hindu College, Vishakhapatnam, he joined Presidency College, Madras and passed the B.A. examination, standing first and sweeping all the prizes. He joined M.A., choosing physics as his subject. Raman was the youngest in his class but had become a minor celebrity in the college. His teacher, Professor Jones, gave him freedom to study and experiment on his own. Raman spent most of his time in reading classics of mathematics and physics and experimenting in the laboratory. Even while he was a student, he wrote a short paper The Unsymmetrical Diffraction Bands due to a Rectangular Aperture; which was published in the prestigious British journal, The Philosophical Magazine in 1906. Early the following year Raman got his M.A. degree standing first in the university and winning several prizes. Now he had to think about a career. His heart was in science but opportunities in India for research scientists were non-existent, so Raman took the Financial Civil Service examination. After passing it at the age of nineteen, he was posted as assistant accountant general at Calcutta. At the same time he got married to a young girl named Lokasundri, who later proved to be the proverbial woman behind the great man.
In Calcutta, Raman used to go to office by tram. One day, while going to work, Raman saw a signboard of Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. The association was founded in 1876 by Mahendra Lal Sircar but unfortunately not much research work had been done there till Raman stepped in. Raman got permission to work in the laboratories of the association. He worked there mornings and evenings, before and after office hours. For ten years Raman led this double life, not even resting on Sundays. He started his research with the problem of Surface Tension' followed by studying Propagation of Light. Gradually he organized the laboratory of the Association to serve his needs. He had now started announcing his findings by publishing articles in important British journals like Nature and the Philosophical Magazine and Physical Review published from America. During this period, the study of vibration of different musical instruments also engaged his attention and his work in this area created a good deal of interest in foreign scientific circles. In Calcutta, Raman became popular in educated circles as he used to deliver popular lectures on science. Often these lectures were accompanied by interesting demonstrations. Thus, Raman toiled alone for ten years, 1907-1917, in the laboratory of the association during his spare time in addition to his work in the office of the accountant general.
In 1917, an opportunity came his way and his career took a new turn. The vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, had come to know about the research work done by Raman in the association. The Calcutta University did not have a science department and was only an examining body in science and the vice-chancellor was keen to start one. After collection of funds Ashutosh Mukherjee started a science college as part of the university and was looking teachers. Fortunately an endowment was created by Taraknath Palit and a professorship in physics in his name was established. Sir Mukherjee wanted Raman to fill that chair. Raman was getting a salary of eleven hundred rupees per month plus substantial perks. The professorship carried a salary of six hundred rupees only. When formally offered, Raman accepted the post of university professorship and resigned from the much lucrative government job in 1917.
Though teaching was not included in the contract for the professorship, Raman started taking classes in the Science College of the university and continued doing research at the association. Soon his fame spread and several talented young scientists were attracted to work with him not only from Bengal but also from other states. Raman was happy to work full-time for physics in such conducive surroundings. The association became the research arm of the University Science College. In 1919, Amrit Lal Sircar passed away and Raman became the honorary secretary of the association. His interest in acoustics and musical instruments kept him engaged for some time but he soon took up research in other subjects also, particularly optics. Under his guidance, the Indian Journal of Physics published by the association came to be recognized as a standard journal in which many of the research papers by him and his associates were published, thus bringing honour and recognition for Raman. In 1921, the Calcutta University conferred on him an honorary doctorate degree. That was also the year when Raman went abroad for the first time to attend the Universities Congress at Oxford. There he got an opportunity to meet face to face many of the eminent physicists of the day. The return journey was memorable because he had started wondering why the colour of the sea was blue. On his return to Calcutta this why" became the subject of his investigation. Raman knew that John Rayleigh (18421919; Nobel prize winner 1904) had attributed the blue of the sky to the light rays of the sun scattered by the molecules of nitrogen and oxygen in the air. Rayleigh had also claimed that the blue of the sea was a mere reflection of the blue sky. But on seeing the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea, Raman was not convinced about Rayleigh’s explanation. He took up the study of the scattering of light by molecules of sea water and also various types of liquids, solids and gases. In due course, he found that the blue of the sea was mainly due to the scattering of blue light by the molecules of sea water when sunlight fell on them. The rest of the colours of the spectrum were absorbed. His researches in optics brought him recognition from all over the world. By then he had built up a team of devoted research workers who were collaborating with him in his investigations. Raman was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, London in 1924. In that year he went to Canada and America where he spent three months at the California Institute of Technology as a visiting professor." The following year in 1925 he visited the Soviet Union and met many Russian scientists conversing with them in German. Back in Calcutta, he concentrated intensely on research and avoided going abroad for several years. He started his investigations in optics again. In 1927, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to A.H. Compton of the University of Chicago for his discovery about X-rays, which was called the Compton Effect. The Compton Effect was produced owing to the particle nature of X-rays. Raman rightly thought that something similar was happening with the light beam, which was in fact, a stream of particles known as photons. The photons hit the molecules of the chemical liquid losing some of its energy. The same phenomenon occurs when light rays pass through a transparent medium, whether solid, liquid or gaseous. This is what in essence the Raman Effect. From the minute changes observed in the energy of the photons, or nature of light, the internal molecular structure of the medium can be deducted. Thus, Raman Effect is important in understanding the molecular structure of chemical compounds. In fact, within a decade of its discovery, the internal structures of some two thousand chemical compounds were determined.
With the invention of the ‘laser’, with its powerful light radiation, the ‘Raman Effect’ has become a powerful tool for scientists.2 One consequence of the use of such molecular and atomic probing machines as the Raman spectroscope, electron microscope and ultracentrifuge is that the knowledge acquired through them has shown the Way to synthesize more and more artificial molecules, many of them vital to industry and science. Indeed, a whole crop of new industries such as colour photography, plastics and synthetic rubber has sprouted during the past few decades from our deeper understanding of the interior build of molecules and atoms? He announced his discovery in 1928 and the prestigious journal Nature published it. Honours started to pour on him. He was knighted in 1929, besides being bestowed several other honours by foreign universities and scientific bodies. Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1930.
In 1933, Raman was appointed director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and he shifted from Calcutta, after working there for twenty-six years, to Bangalore where he worked for the remaining years of his life. Here he started a new Institute of Physics and again he built up a team of upcoming scientists. In 1934, he founded the Indian Academy of Science and remained its president till his death. In 1937, 11e stepped down as director of the Indian Institute of Science and opted for the post of a professor at the Physics Institute. The research Work in these two institutes continued and in fifteen years, 1933-1948, as many as 491 original scientific papers were published in national and international journals. Raman collaborated with younger scientists like Nagendra Nath and published several original papers.
In 1948, Raman founded the Raman Research Institute at Bangalore, Where he could work in an atmosphere more conducive to pure research. The institute became to him a haven where he could carry on his personal research Work. Here, among beautiful surroundings, he built large library and “an extensive museum containing prize collection of butterflies, shells, snails, insects, and above all a large variety of gemstones including a very large number of diamonds”. He was made a national professor in to facilitate his Work and the highest national award, Bharat Rama was conferred on him in 1954.
Raman breathed his last on 21 November 1970, at the age of eighty- two and according to his wishes was cremated on the lawns of the Raman Institute. A vegetarian and teetotaler, Raman was a man of simple habits and dignified manners. He wore a turban and a long coat. During his lifetime he published hundreds of original papers and wrote a few monographs and books which include: Molecular Diffraction of LightMechanical Theory of Bowed StringsTheory of Musical InstrumentsPhysics of Crystals and Diffraction of X-rays and Physiology Vision.

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