Compiled By: Parveen Kaswan (He is an Aerospace Engineer and currently working on his Masters in Engineering Designs at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Follow for more updates)
“When the Nobel award was announced I saw it as a personal triumph, an achievement for me and my collaborators — a recognition for a very remarkable discovery, for reaching the goal I had pursued for 7 years. But when I sat in that crowded hall and I saw the sea of western faces surrounding me, and I, the only Indian, in my turban and closed coat, it dawned on me that I was really representing my people and my country. I felt truly humble when I received the Prize from King Gustav; it was a moment of great emotion but I could restrain myself. Then I turned round and saw the British Union Jack under which I had been sitting and it was then that I realised that my poor country, India, did not even have a flag of her own – and it was this that triggered off my complete breakdown.” –C.V. Raman
IT is said that in 1930, anticipating the Nobel Prize, C.V. Raman bought two tickets to Stockholm, one for himself and the other for his wife, as early as September though the prizes were to be announced formally only in November. Indeed, his conviction was not misplaced; he was decorated with the Nobel Prize for Physics that year for his path-breaking work.
One of the most prominent Indian scientists in history, C.V. Raman was the first Indian person to win the Nobel Prize in science for his illustrious 1930 discovery, now commonly known as the “Raman Effect”. It is immensely surprising that Raman used an equipment worth merely Rs.200 to make this discovery. The Raman Effect is now examined with the help of equipment worth almost millions of rupees. Till date Raman remains the only Indian to receive a Nobel Prize in science. There are two Indian-born scientists viz., Har Gobind Khorana and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (who became US citizens) got Nobel Prizes in science.
Raman was also the first Asian to get Nobel Prize in science. Raman’s celebrated discovery, the Raman Effect, experimentally demonstrated that the light-quanta and molecules do exchange energy which manifests itself as a change in the colour of the scattered light. As Albert Einstein (1879-1955) wrote : “C.V. Raman was the first to recognize and demonstrate that the energy of photon can undergo partial transformation within matter. I still recall vividly the deep impression that this discovery made on all of us….”
On the occasion of awarding the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society of London, Lord Rutherford (1871-1937) commented on Raman’s scientific achievements as follows: “Sir Venkata Raman is one of the leading authorities in optics, in particular on the phenomenon of the scattering of light. In this connexion, about three years ago, he discovered that the light’s colour could be changed by scattering. This had been predicted some time before, but inspite of search the change had not been found. The `Raman effect’ must rank among the best three or four discoveries in experimental physics in the last decade; it has proved and will prove (to be) an instrument of great power in the study of the theory of solids. In addition to important contributions in many fields of knowledge, he (Raman) has developed an active school of research in physical sciences in the University of Calcutta”.
Raman made many major scientific discoveries in acoustics, ultrasonic, optics, magnetism and crystal physics. Raman’s works on the musical drums of India was epoch-making and it revealed the acoustical knowledge of the ancient Hindus. It may be noted here that it was Pythagoras who first formulated what makes a sound musical to the human ear.
Raman was born on November 7, 1888 at Tiruchhirapalli, Tamilnadu. His father, Chandrasekhara Aiyer, was a Lecturer in physics, in a local college. His mother Parvathi was housewife. He was a brilliant student from the beginning and was inquisitive about ever-thing. He passed his matriculation when he was twelve years old. He entered Presidency College, Madras, in 1902, and in 1904 passed his B.A. examination, winning the first place and the gold medal in physics; in 1907 he gained his M.A. degree, obtaining the highest distinctions.
While doing his M.A. Raman wrote an article on the subject of Physics and he sent it to the ‘Philosophical Magazine’ and ‘Nature’ science magazine of England. On reading this article many eminent scientists in London noted the talent of this young Indian. Raman wanted to compete for the I.C.S. examination. But to write that examination, one had to go to London. As he was poor and could not afford it, he took the Indian Financial Service examination, conducted in India. He was selected and posted to Rangoon. Burma (Myanmar) which was then a part of British India. He was married to Loka Sundari.
Later, when he happened to work at Calcutta, he associated himself with an Institute called ‘Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science’ which was the only research institution in those days. While working there, his research work came to the notice of the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University. The Vice Chancellor appointed him as Professor of Physics in Calcutta University. Sir Raman was in a good position in the financial service. He sacrificed his profession and joined the academic career. When he was working as a Professor he got an invitation from England to attend a science conference.
As the ship was sailing through the Mediterranean Sea, Raman got a doubt, as to why the waters of the sea are looking blue. This doubt initiated his research on light. He found out by experiment that the sea looks blue because of the ‘Scattering Effect of the Sunlight’. This discovery is called “the Raman Effect”. A question that was puzzling to so many other scientists was easily solved by Sir Raman. This discovery got Sir Raman the Nobel Prize for Physics for the year 1930 Raman discovered “the Raman Effect” on February 28, 1928 and that day is observed as a ‘National Science Day’ in India.
On return in 1933, Sir Raman joined the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, as Director. Later he relinquished the Directorship but continued to work in the Physics department. The University of Cambridge offered him a Professor’s job, which Sir C.V.Raman rejected, stating that he is an Indian and wants to serve in his own country. Dr. Homi Bhaba and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai were the student’s of Sri C.V.Raman.
When Raman joined IISc its academic accomplishments were not very high. Its funding position was much better than Calcutta University where Raman was working. Raman brought out the following changes:
- A new physics department came into existence
- Some of the existing departments were reorganised
- Steps were initiated to establish a central workshop for fabricating precision instruments.
- The surroundings were improved by planting beautiful flowering gardens.
For achieving academic excellence he himself gathered a team of talented students and started doing high quality research in many fields of physics. Raman also wanted to initiate basic research in fields like quantum mechanics, crystal chemistry and vitamins and enzyme chemistry by recruiting outstanding faculty. At that point of time many reputed scientists were forced to leave Germany because of Hitler’s racist policy. Raman wanted to bring some of these scientists to IISc. Raman had many names on his list, both foreign and Indian’. However, he was only successful in bringing Max Born, that too for a short time.
Sir Raman was not only a good teacher but also a humorist. He was also a musician. All along he was asking his students to concentrate, as nothing could be achieved in science without concentration. Before two years of retirement he started the Raman Research Institute to continue his research. Raman was always aware or the need for physical fitness. He used to have daily walks. It is said that he used to go on a bicycle 12 miles a day at the age of 60. Sir C.V.Raman breathed his last on November 21, 1970.