JC Bose: The first Modern Scientist of India


He (Bose) was modern India’s first physicist after all, one of her very first scientists. He was his motherland’s first active participant in the Galilean – Newtonian tradition. He had confounded the British disbeliever. He had shown that the Eastern mind was indeed capable of the exact and exacting thinking demanded by western science. He had broken the mould.

-S. Dasgupta in “Jagadis Chandra Bose and the Indian Response to Western Science”.


Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (Born: November 30, 1858) is one of the most prominent first Indian scientists who proved by experimentation that both animals and plants share much in common. He demonstrated that plants are also sensitive to heat, cold, light, noise and various other external stimuli. Bose contrived a very sophisticated instrument called Crescograph which could record and observe the minute responses because of external stimulants. It was capable of magnifying the motion of plant tissues to about 10,000 times of their actual size, which found many similarities between plants and other living organisms.

JC Bose

The central hall of the Royal Society in London was jam-packed with famous scientists on May 10, 1901. Everyone seemed to be curious to know how Bose’s experiment will demonstrate that plants have feelings like other living beings and humans. Bose chose a plant whose mots were cautiously dipped up to its stem in a vessel holding the bromide solution. The salts of hydrobromic acid are considered a poison. He plugged in the instrument with the plant and viewed the lighted spot on a screen showing the movements of the plant, as its pulse beat, and the spot began to and fro movement similar to a pendulum. Within minutes, the spot vibrated in a violent manner and finally came to an abrupt stop. The whole thing was almost like a poisoned rat fighting against death. The plant had died due to the exposure to the poisonous bromide solution.

The event was greeted with much appreciation, however some physiologists were not content, and considered Bose as an intruder. They harshly knocked the experiment but Bose did not give up and was quite confident about his findings.

Using the Crescograph, he further researched the response of the plants to fertilizers, light rays and wireless waves. The instrument received widespread acclaim, particularly from the Path Congress of Science in 1900. Many physiologists also supported his findings later on, using more advanced instruments.

Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on 30 November, 1858 at Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh. He was raised in a home committed to pure Indian traditions and culture. He got his elementary education from a vernacular school, because his father thought that Bose should learn his own mother tongue, Bengali, before studying a foreign language like English. After finishing his education in India, he went to England and joined the University of Cambridge where he studied physics and Botany under the distinguished scientists with whom he developed an abiding friendship. He was awarded the S.Sc degree by London University in 1896 and was later elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London.

He was the first Indian to be appointed Professor of Physics in the Presidency College. His appointment was strongly opposed by Sir Alfred Croft, then Director of Public Instruction of Bengal and Mr. Charles R. Tawney, Principal of the Presidency College. But Bose finally managed to get the appointment because of the intervention of Lord Ripon, then Viceroy of India. In getting his appointment Bose was helped by Professor Fawcett, the economist and then Postmaster-General of Britain. Fawcett was a friend of Bose’s brother-in-law Ananda Mohan Bose. With Fawcett’s letter of introduction Bose met Lord Ripon at Shimla. In those days, Simla used to be the summer capital of India. Ripon was very nice to Bose and he promised to nominate him for the Imperial Educational Service. But after coming to Kolkata when Bose met Croft he was not at all welcomed. Croft said : “I am usually approached from below, not from above. There is no higherclass appointment at presentavailable in the Imperial Educational Service, I can only offer you a place in the Provincial Service, from which you may be promoted.” Bose did not accept the offer.

The Viceroy again wrote to the Government of Bengal asking explanation for the delay in appointing Bose. Finally Croft was forced to appoint Bose. In those days the Britishers thought that Indians were not capable of holding high post in educational service and thus Imperial Educational Service was out of their bound, howsoever qualified might they be. Unlike in case of Indian Civil Service, which an Indian could join by passing the prescribed examination, the Imperial Educational Service was accessible only through nomination.

Though Bose, because of Lord Ripon’s personal intervention, was given an appointment in the higher service he was taken on temporary basis with one-half of the pay attached to such an appointment. Bose protested and he asked for the same salary as an European was entitled to get. When his protest was not entertained he refused to accept his salary. He continued his teaching assignment for three years without any salary. Finally both the Director of Public Instruction and the Principal of the Presidency College fully realised the value of Bose’s skill in teaching and also his lofty character. As a result his appointment was made permanent with retrospective effect. He was given the full salary for the last three years in lumpsum, which he used for paying off his father’s debt.

Dr. Jagdish Chandra Bose was worthy and illustrious son of our motherland whom the nation feels proud of. He brought various laurels to our country. Immense hard working capacity, patience and simplicity were hall­marks of his personality. Dr. Jagdish Chandra Bose was a creative and imaginative scientist, a connoisseur of literature and a great lover of nature.

Bose authored two illustrious books; ‘Response in the Living and Non-living’ (1902) and ‘The Nervous Mechanism of Plants’ (1926). He also extensively researched the behaviour of radiowaves. Mostly known as a plant physiologist, he was actually a physicist. Bose devised another instrument called ‘Coherer’, for detecting the radiowaves.

Prior to his death in 1937, Bose set up the Bose Institute at Calcutta. He was elected the Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920 for his amazing contributions and achievements.

Jagadish Chandra Bose: The Real Inventor of Marconi’s Wireless Receiver

In the year 1998, Dr. Probir K. Bondyopadhyay found out that it was actually Sir J. C. Bose who invented Marconi’s Italian Navy Autocoherer. He explained the sequence of events in great detail in his paper, “Sir J. C. Bose’s Diode Detector Received Marconi’s First Transatlantic Wireless Signal Of December 1901 (The “Italian Navy Coherer” Scandal Revisited).” [ 3, Proc. IEEE, Vol. 86, No. 1, January 1998.]

Read a complete article covering the technical details of Marconi’s experiment, the receiving device (coherer) and the chronology of events that took place when the first transatlantic wave was successfully transmitted. The article clearly proves that Sir J. C. Bose was the inventor of the Mercury Autocoherer.

The article goes into technical details and background to enable a person with no knowledge of history of radio communication to understand the contribution of Sir J. C. Bose clearly. You will definitely enjoy the concepts and devices used at a time when modulation was not known and diode had not been invented!


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