Jagadish Chandra Bose was the first Indian scientist to make pathbreaking discoveries in a variety of fields. The American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers regards him as one of the fathers of radio science. Bose did most of his research more than a century ago and “Bose’s Galena detector was the first semiconductor device and photovoltaic cell, whose significance was not missed by Walter Brattain, Nobel laureate in physics. Sir Neville Mott, another Nobel laureate, noted … “J.C. Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time” and “In fact, he had anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors”. He also designed the earliest waveguide and Horn Antenna, an integral part of present day microwave engineering and astronomy.” (source: http://www.jcbose.ac.in/founder)
“Bose subsequently made a number of pioneering discoveries in plant physiology. He used his own invention, the Crescograph, to measure plant response to various stimuli, and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues.” (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagadish_Chandra_Bose) Several of Bose’s students such as Satyendranath Bose and Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis went on to achieve fame and influence. Not content with being a great scientist, Jagadish Bose was also one of India’s first science fiction writers. In 1917, he founded the Bose Institute which continues to flourish in Kolkata.
Whilst there is a crater on the moon named after the great man, until now no one has published a biography of this pioneering figure in India’s rise as a consequential nation. Kunal Ghosh’s book – “Unsung Genius: A Life of Jagadish Chandra Bose” – fills that void. The Scroll has published excerpts from Mr Ghosh’s book about one of the giants of Indian science.
The first excerpt highlights, the pathbreaking nature of Jagadish Bose’s scientific breakthroughs: “A special correspondent of the Daily Chronicle, London, interviewed Bose and wrote on 28 November 1896:
‘The inventor has transmitted signals to a distance of nearly a mile and herein lies the first and obvious and exceedingly valuable application of this new theoretical marvel. It is telegraphy without any kind of intervening conductor…If all this be true the great problem of transmitting signals from ship to ship or lighthouse to ship through a fog, has been solved and this alone will be a priceless benefit to the human race.’ ”
The second excerpt highlights another facet of Bose’s ability to think decades ahead of his peers – in an era where patents were deemed to be essential to encourage scientific endeavour, Bose opposed patents: “Years later, in 1917, he succeeded in founding this institute and said at its inauguration:
‘Through regular publication of the Transactions of the Institute these Indian contributions will reach the whole world. The discoveries made will thus become public property. No patents will ever be taken. The spirit of our national culture demands that we should forever be free from the desecration of utilising knowledge for personal gain.’
It seems that this was a matter of faith for him. Knowledge was sacred and a patent, which is necessarily for personal gain, desecrates knowledge.”
The third excerpt highlights how Bose made his scientific breakthroughs with minimal modern apparatus and with minimal financial assistance:
“After the Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution, the Times paid a different kind of tribute by commenting on his work environment:
‘The originality of the achievement is enhanced by the fact that Dr Bose had to do the work in addition to his incessant duties as Professor of Physical Science in Calcutta, and with apparatus and appliances which in this country would be deemed altogether inadequate. He had to construct himself his instruments as he went along. His work forms the outcome of his two-fold lines of labour – construction and research.’
Yet another kind of tribute was paid by The Spectator and reads as follows:
‘The people of the East have just the burning imagination which could extort a truth out of a mass of apparently disconnected facts, a habit of meditation without allowing the mind to dissipate itself and a power of persistence – it is something a little different from patience – such as hardly belong to any European…We do not know Professor Bose, but we venture to say…[n]othing would seem to him laborious in his enquiry, nothing insignificant, nothing painful, any more than it would seem to a true Sannyasi in the pursuit of his inquiry into the ultimate relation between his own spirits to that of the Divine.’”

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