Glory of Bharath  »  Scientists of Bharath - Part Thirteen
Sir C.V. Raman
Many people know Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (more popularly known as C.V. Raman) because he was the first Indian Nobel Laureate 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. However, this phenomenon was earlier predicted theoretically by Hendrik Anthony Kramers (1894-1952) and Werner Heisenberg (1901-76). It was the most convincing proof of quantum theory of light. This does not diminish the importance of Raman's discovery. 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…."

Raman's interests in science were wide, from astronomy and meteorology to physiology. 'Raman published 475 research papers and wrote five remarkable monographs on topics so varied that one's mind boggles'. 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 deserves to be remembered not only for his towering scientific accomplishment but also for his indomitable will. Raman was a staunch patriot and he had great faith in India's potential for progress. He excelled under the most adverse circumstances. Raman was a great patron of science. "He was perhaps the greatest salesman science has ever had in this country", says S. Ramaseshan, a pioneer of X-ray crystallography in India and a nephew of Raman.

Raman believed in excellence per se. He never compromised on quality and he firmly believed that if India was to make any economic advance it could only be based on such excellence. He had a great fascination for art and music. He was not confined to a particular narrow specialty. He believed that `real fundamental progress is always due to those who had ignored the boundaries of science and who treated science as a whole.'

C. V. Raman was born on 7 November 1888 in his maternal grandfather's house, in a small village of Thiruvanaikaval near Tiruchirapalli (Trichonopoly in those days), on the bank's of Kaveri in Tamil Nadu. Raman's maternal grandfather Saptarshi Sastri was a great Sanskrit scholar, who in his younger days travelled on foot to distant Bengal (over 2000 km away) to learn navya nyaya (modern logic). Raman's parents were R. Chandrasekhara Iyer and Parvathi Ammal. Raman's father initially taught in a local school for many years and later became a lecturer in mathematics and physics in Mrs. A.V. Narasimha Rao College, Vishakapatnam (then Vizagapatnam) in Andhra Pradesh. Raman passed his matriculation examination at the age of 11 and he passed his F.A. examination (equivalent to today's Intermediate) with a scholarship at 13. In 1903 Raman joined the Presidency College in Chennai (then Madras) from where he passed the B.A. (1904) and M.A. (1907) examinations. He stood first both in B.A. and M.A. examinations and won all the prizes available.
While Raman was a student, he independently undertook original investigations in acoustics and optics. Raman was the first student of the Madras Presidency College to get a research paper published that too in a prestigious international journal. His first paper on 'unsymmetrical diffraction bands due to a rectangular aperture' was published in the Philosophical Magazine (London) in November 1906. This was the result of Raman's measuring the angles of a prism using an ordinary spectrometer in his college. This was followed by a note in the same journal on a new experimental method of measuring surface tension. Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919) took note of the papers published by Raman as a student. Rayleigh was an outstanding mathematical physicist and a good experimenter, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Argon. Raman and Rayleigh exchanged some correspondence. It is interesting to note that Lord Rayleigh addressed Raman as Professor.
Though Raman proved his brilliance in scientific investigations but as were the norms of those days he was not encouraged to take up science as a career. At the instance of his father Raman took the Financial Civil Service (FCS) examination. He stood first in the examination and in the middle of 1907 Raman proceeded to Kolkata (then Calcutta) to join the Indian Finance Department as Assistant Accountant General. He was then 18½ years old. His starting salary was Rs. 400 per month, a fabulous sum in those days. Raman's prospects in the Government service were too lucrative. And during those days opportunities for doing research were rare.

One day while going to office Raman saw a signboard with the words "Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science" written on it. The address was 210, Bowbazar Street. On his way back he came to the Association where he first met an individual named Ashutosh Dey (Ashu Babu) who was to be Raman's assistant for 25 years. Ashu Babu took Raman to the Honorary Secretary of the Association, Amrit Lal Sircar, who was overjoyed when he came to know about Raman's intention -- to do research at the Association's laboratory. Amrit Lal had reason to be overjoyed because it was his father Mahendra Lal Sircar (1833-1904), a man of vision, who established the Association in 1876. This Association happened to be the first institute to be established in India solely for carrying out scientific investigations.

Till 1917 Raman continued his research at the Association in his spare time. Doing research in his spare time and that too with very limited facilities Raman could publish his research findings in leading international journals like Nature, The Philosophical Magazine and Physics Review. During this period he published 30 original research papers. His research carried during this period mainly centered on areas of vibrations and acoustics. He studied a number of musical instruments viz., ektara, violin, tambura, veena, mridangam, tabla etc. He published a monograph on his extensive studies on the violin. The monograph was titled 'On the Mechanical Theory of Vibrations of Musical Instruments of the Violin Family with Experimental Verifications of the Results Part- I'.

When he decided to move out of Calcutta it was to take up the pending invitation from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, to become its Director. He was the first Indian to become its Director. Raman succeeded Sir Martin Forster, FRS. He served IISc both as its Director (1933-1937) and head of the Physics Department (1933-1948).

For achieving academic excellence at IISc, 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.
Some of the Raman's moves were opposed by the existing staff. In fact Raman's moves to reorganize some of the existing departments and the Institute's workshops led to the resignation of two professors -- the Professor of Chemistry (Prof. Watson) and the Professor of Electrical Engineering (Prof. Modawalla). Raman's act of reapportioning the Institute's budget to aid the newly established physics department invited charges of embezzlement. He was accused of patronizing the physics department at the cost of other departments. His attempt to keep Max Born in the institute was also not liked by many.

As time passed Raman found himself increasingly in isolation. Seeing the growing turmoil in the campus, the Council, the body charged with overseeing the management of the Institute, recommended to the Visitor (then Viceroy of British India) in July 1935 to appoint a Review Committee to review the Institute's affairs. The Committee, the appointment of which was formarlly announced on January 19, 1936, consisted of Sir James Irvin, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of St. Endrews University, Dr. A. H. Mackenzie, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Osmania University and Dr. S.S. Bhatnagar, then Professor of Chemistry at the Punjab University at Lahore. Irvin was to head the Committee. The Committee in its Report to the Viceroy submitted in May 1936 more or less reaffirmed the accusations made against Raman.
Finally the situation became such that there was no alternative for Raman other than to resign the Directorship of the Institute. In fact he was asked to resign or face action. However, he remained in IISc as Professor of Physics. Raman retired as Professor from the Institute in 1948.

After retirement from the Institute he concentrated his attention in building an institute of his own - the Raman Research Institute (RRI). Even before his retirement Raman had started to build an institute where he could retire and enjoy science. Raman had to gather money for building the Institute. Raman had lost most of his life's savings including his Nobel Prize money in an investment. The Institute was built on a ten acre plot of land gifted by the Maharajah of Mysore way back in 1934 the land of given to the Indian Academy of Sciences, and for its related activities.
The Indian Academy of Sciences Bangalore, which now publishes some of the best science journals in the country, was established by Raman. The Academy was formed on April 27, 1934. It was registered in Bangalore under the Societies Registration Act. Besides Raman, there were 160 Foundation Fellows. The inaugural meeting of the Academy was held in the campus of Indian Institute of Science in August 1934. The best scientists from all over India were elected to the Raman's Academy.
Raman believed that the future of any country rests with its accumulated knowledge and younger generation. He observed: "If you ask me what is the greatest industry of a Nation--the key industry--I have no hesitation in saying that it is the production and diffusion of knowledge...There is no nobler work for a man or an institution than to bring up a young generation in health and strength and in the vigour of intellectual and physical activity."

Raman had a holistic view of science. He thought nature is the best teacher. He said: "What is science in the last analysis but the study and the love of nature, displayed not in the form of abstract worship but in the practical form of seeking to understand nature?" Further he said: "One aspect of Indian culture was its profound understanding of Nature. Much of India's philosophy related itself to the understanding of the rationale and the meaning of the phenomena of Nature.".

Raman strongly espoused the cause of women. He once said: "I have a feeling that if the women of India take to science and interest themselves in the progress and advance of science as well, they will achieve what even men have failed to do. Women have one quality--the quality of devotion. It is one of the most important passports to success in science. Let us therefore not imagine that intellect is a sole prerogative of males only in science."

Raman had displayed his great leadership in institution building and training students. Raman made both the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science and the Physics Department of the Calcutta University vibrant and excellent centers of learning. His reputation attracted students from all corners of the country. Raman was among the founders of the Indian Science Congress, which was established in 1914 and served as its Secretary for several years and also became its President. He established the Indian Journal of Physics. During his stay for over fifteen years in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he established an excellent school of Physics and trained a band of first-rate physicists. As mentioned earlier in 1934 Raman established the Indian Academy of Science. Raman was elected Founder President of the Academy and remained so till his death.
He emphasized the importance of strengthening our universities. He said: "Let us try to make our universities the best--we should not be satisfied with anything less than the best. What will be the result? Instead of a great many of our young men going out of the country, they will remain here and strive to advance our reputation and that will make us strive for more and more good things."

Raman was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1924 in recognition of his outstanding researches in physical optics, molecular diffraction of light, X-ray scattering by liquids and a molecular anisotropy. It may be noted that Raman had resigned the Fellowship of the Royal Society. He was conferred a Knighthood by the British Government in 1929. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930. The Government of India awarded him the title of "Bharat Ratna" in 1954. The erstwhile Soviet Union honoured him with the International Lenin Prize in 1957. Some of the other awards/honours, received by Raman were: Mattencci Medal of the `Societe Italiana della Scienzia of Rome (1928); Hughes Medal of the Royal Society of London (1930) and Franklin Model of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia (1941).

Raman loved children and he derived immense pleasure in showing them his museum and the laboratories of the Raman Research Institute. He believed that "The true wealth of a Nation consists not in the stored-up gold in its coffers and banks, not in the factories, but in the intellectual and physical strength of its men, women and children."

Towards the end of his life Raman chose to make himself a recluse. To Raman, scientific activity was the fulfillment of an inner need. His approach to science was one of passion, curiosity and simplicity. It was an attempt to understand. To him science was based on independent thought. Combined with hard work, science was a personal endeavour, an aesthetic pursuit and above all a joyous experience. Raman believed that science can be promoted only by doing it. He did not see any role for professional organizers of science. Raman died on November 21, 1970. As per his desire he was cremated in the gardens of his institute.

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