Eideard

A long journey for the man for whom the Boson is named

with 2 comments


S.N.Bose in 1925 in Paris working with Marie Curie

In the word “boson,” as media reports have plentifully pointed out during the past two days, is contained the surname of Satyendra Nath Bose, the Calcutta physicist who first mathematically described the class of particles to which he gave his name. As was common with Indian scientists in the early 20th century, however, his work might easily have eluded international recognition. Like the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujam, Mr. Bose was saved from obscurity by a generous and influential mentor in Europe. In Mr. Bose’s case, that mentor turned out to be one of the greatest physicists of them all: Albert Einstein…

The paper he wrote, titled “Planck’s Law and the Light-Quantum Hypothesis,” was first rejected by a referee at the London-based journal named Philosophical Magazine, which had published some of Mr. Bose’s previous papers. Undeterred, Mr. Bose sent it, in the summer of 1924, to Berlin, to the desk of Mr. Einstein, who had won his own Nobel three years earlier. Mr. Einstein received dozens of such manuscripts every day, and he was already turning away from the field of quantum mechanics to work out larger unified theories…But perhaps something about Mr. Bose’s accompanying letter caught Einstein’s eye…

Mr. Einstein did indeed think the paper worth publication. Within a month, he had translated and submitted it to Zeitschrift für Physik, appending a note at the end of its four concise, equation-filled pages: “In my opinion Bose’s derivation signifies an important advance.” Mr. Einstein would take Mr. Bose’s work further still, applying his statistical techniques to “count” atoms in an ordinary gas, and to discover the low-energy states of particles in the supercooled gases known now as Bose-Einstein Condensates…

Mr. Bose met Mr. Einstein only in late 1925, in Berlin. That meeting, he recalled, “was most interesting. He wanted to know how I had hit upon the idea of deriving Planck’s law in this way. Then he challenged me. He wanted to find out whether my hypothesis…did really mean something novel about the interaction of quanta, and whether I could work out the details of this business…”

Returning to Dhaka in 1926, Mr. Bose earned a professorship in physics, but he did not publish for a long time thereafter. His interests wandered – over the constantly shifting terrain of physics, but also into other fields, such as philosophy, anthropology, literature and the surging Indian independence movement. Only in 1937 did he publish his next physics paper.

This was a gentle self-effacing man – the face he showed to the West. Except in the passion he felt for the liberation of his country. He referred to his work in physics, saying, “I was like a comet, a comet which came once and never returned again.”

I’d rather say he shined like a star which still illuminates the path to science for many young Indians.

About these ads

Written by Ed Campbell

July 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I would say that Bose had the major advantage of a short name. Chandra (a nick-name) is also short enough for the mainstream media to spell. This is one of the reasons why Schrodinger is more-or-less unknown in the US media.

    Dave Chapman

    July 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    • I can’t recall anyone ever accusing American journalists of being overly literate.

      moss

      July 7, 2012 at 10:54 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,801 other followers

%d bloggers like this: