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Jagadish Chandra Bose

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, CSI, CIE, FRS (জগদীশ চন্দ্র বসু Jôgodish Chôndro Boshu) (November 30, 1858November 23, 1937) was a Bengali polymath: a physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist, and writer of science fiction. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, made extremely significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. He is considered one of the fathers of radio science, and is also considered the father of Bengali science fiction. He was the first from the Indian subcontinent to get a US patent, in 1904.

Born in Bengal during the the British Raj, Bose graduated from St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. He then went to the University of London to study medicine, but couldn't complete his studies due to health problems. He returned to India and joined the Presidency College as a Professor of Physics. There, despite racial discrimination and a lack of funding and equipment, Bose carried on his scientific research. He made remarkable progress in his research of remote wireless signaling and was the first to use semiconductor junctions to detect radio signals. However, instead of trying to gain commercial benefit from this invention Bose made his inventions public in order to allow others to develop on his research. Subsequently, he made some pioneering discoveries in plant physiology. He used his own invention crescograph to measure plant response to various stimuli, and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues. Although Bose filed for patent for one of his inventions due to peer pressure, his reluctance to any form of patenting was well known. Now, some 70 years of after his death, he is being recognised for many of his contributions to modern science.

Early life and education

Bose was born in Mymensingh in Bengal (now in Bangladesh) on November 30, 1858. His father, Bhagawan Chandra Bose, was a Brahmo and leader of the Brahmo Samaj and worked as a deputy magistrate/ assistant commissioner in Faridpur, Bardhaman and other places. His family hailed from the village Rarikhal, Bikrampur, in the current day Munshiganj District of Bangladesh.

Bose’s education started in a vernacular school, because his father believed that one must know one's own mother tongue before beginning English, and that one should know also one's own people. Speaking at the Bikrampur Conference in 1915, Bose said:

“At that time, sending children to English schools was an aristocratic status symbol. In the vernacular school, to which I was sent, the son of the Muslim attendant of my father sat on my right side, and the son of a fisherman sat on my left. They were my playmates. I listened spellbound to their stories of birds, animals and aquatic creatures. Perhaps these stories created in my mind a keen interest in investigating the workings of Nature. When I returned home from school accompanied by my school fellows, my mother welcomed and fed all of us without discrimination. Although she was an orthodox old fashioned lady, she never considered herself guilty of impiety by treating these ‘untouchables’ as her own children. It was because of my childhood friendship with them that I could never feel that there were ‘creatures’ who might be labelled ‘low-caste’. I never realised that there existed a ‘problem’ common to the two communities, Hindus and Muslims.”

Bose joined the Hare School in 1869 and then St. Xavier’s School at Kolkata. In 1875, he passed the Entrance Examination (equivalent to school graduation) of Calcutta University and was admitted to St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. At St. Xavier's, Bose came in contact with Jesuit Father Eugene Lafont, who played a significant role in developing his interest to natural science. He received a B.A. in Science from Calcutta University in 1879.

Bose wanted to go to England to compete for the Indian Civil Service. However, his father, a civil servant himself, canceled the plan. He wished his son to be a scholar, who would “rule nobody but himself.” Bose went to England to study Medicine at the University of London. However, he had to quit because of ill health. The odour in the dissection rooms is also said to have exacerbated his illness.

Through the recommendation of Ananda Mohan Bose, his brother-in-law (sister's husband) and the first Indian wrangler, he secured admission in Christ's College, Cambridge to study Natural Science. He received the Natural Science Tripos from the University of Cambridge and a BSc from the University of London in 1884. Among Bose’s teachers at Cambridge were Lord Rayleigh, Michael Foster, James Dewar, Francis Darwin, Francis Balfour, and Sidney Vines. At the time when Bose was a student at Cambridge, Prafulla Chandra Roy was a student at Edinburgh. They met in London and became intimate friends.

Joining Presidency College

Bose returned to India in 1885, carrying a letter from Fawcett, the economist to Lord Ripon, Viceroy of India. On Lord Ripon’s request Sir Alfred Croft, the Director of Public Instruction, appointed Bose officiating professor of physics in Presidency College. The principal, C. H. Tawney, protested against the appointment but had to accept it.

Bose was not provided with facilities for research. On the contrary, he was a ‘victim of racialism’ with regard to his salary. In those days, an Indian professor was paid Rs. 200 per month, while his European counterpart received Rs. 300 per month. Since Bose was officiating, he was offered a salary of only Rs. 100 per month. With remarkable sense of self respect and national pride he decided on a new form of protest. Bose refused to accept the salary cheque. In fact, he continued his teaching assignment for three years without accepting 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 previous three years in lumpsum.

Presidency College lacked a proper laboratory. Bose had to conduct his research in a small 24 square foot room. He devised equipment for the research with the help of one untrained tinsmith. Sister Nivedita wrote, “I was horrified to find the way in which a great worker could be subjected to continuous annoyance and petty difficulties … The college routine was made as arduous as possible for him, so that he could not have the time he needed for investigation.” After his daily grind, which he of course performed with great conscientiousness, he carried out his research far into the night, in a small room in his college.

Moreover, the policy of the British government for its colonies was not conducive to attempts at original research. Bose spent his hard-earned money for making experimental equipment. Within a decade of his joining Presidency College, he emerged a pioneer in the incipient research field of wireless waves.

Marriage

In 1887, Bose married Abala, daughter of the renowned Brahmo reformer Durga Mohan Das. Abala was awarded Bengal government scholarship in 1882 to study medicine in Madras (now Chennai), but had to quit because of ill health. At the time of their marriage Bose was in a financial crisis because of his refusal to accept his unequal salary and also because of some debts incurred by his father. The newly married couple faced privations, but managed to survive and eventually repaid the debts of Bose's father. Bose's parents lived for some years after their debts were cleared.

Radio research

The British theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell mathematically predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves of diverse wavelengths, but he died in 1879 before his prediction was experimentally verified. British physicist Oliver Lodge demonstrated the existence of Maxwell’s waves transmitted along wires in 1887-88. The German physicist Heinrich Hertz showed experimentally, in 1888, the existence of electromagnetic waves in free space. Subsequently, Lodge pursued Hertz’s work and delivered a commemorative lecture in June 1894 (after Hertz’s death) and published it in book form. Lodge’s work caught the attention of scientists in different countries including Bose in India.

The first remarkable aspect of Bose’s follow up microwave research was that he reduced the waves to the millimetre level (about 5 mm wavelength). He realised the disadvantages of long waves for studying their light like-properties.

In November 1894 (or in 1895) in a public demonstration in Kolkata, Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using millimetre range wavelength microwaves. This was one year after Nikola Tesla made the first public demonstration of radio communication in 1893. Bose's demonstration was held in the Town Hall of Calcutta, in the presence of Sir William Mackenzie, the Lieutenant Governor, and Bose wrote in a Bengali essay, Adrisya Alok {Invisible Light), “The invisible light can easily pass through brick walls, buildings etc. Therefore, messages can be transmitted by means of it without the mediation of wires.” In Russia, Popov was performing similar experiments, but had recorded in December 1895 that he was hoping for distant signalling with radio waves.

Bose’s first scientific paper, “On polarisation of electric rays by double-refracting crystals” was communicated to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in May 1895, within a year of Lodge’s paper. His second paper was communicated to the Royal Society of London by Lord Rayleigh in October 1895. In December 1895, the London journal the Electrician (Vol 36) published Bose’s paper, “On a new electro-polariscope”. At that time, the word ‘coherer’, coined by Lodge, was used in the English-speaking world for Hertzian wave receivers or detectors. The Electrician readily commented on Bose’s coherer. (December 1895). The Englishman (18 January 1896) quoted from the Electrician and commented as follows:

”Should Professor Bose succeed in perfecting and patenting his ‘Coherer’, we may in time see the whole system of coast lighting throughout the navigable world revolutionised by a Bengali scientist working single handed in our Presidency College Laboratory.”
Bose planned to “perfect his coherer” but never thought of patenting it.

The 1895 public demonstration by Bose in Kolkata was before Marconi's wireless signalling experiment on Salisbury Plain in England in May 1897. Bose went to London on a lecture tour in 1896 and met Marconi, who was conducting wireless experiments for the British post office. In an interview, Bose said he was not interested in commercial telegraphy and others can use his research work. In 1899, Bose announced the development of a "iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector" in a paper presented at the Royal Society, London.

It appears that Bose's demonstration of remote wireless signalling has priority over Marconi. He was the first to use a semiconductor junction to detect radio waves, and he invented various now commonplace microwave components. In 1954 Pearson and Brattain gave priority to Bose for the use of a semi-conducting crystal as a detector of radio waves. Further work at millimetre wavelengths was almost nonexistent for nearly 50 years. Just one hundred years ago, Bose described to the Royal Institution in London his research carried out in Kolkata at millimetre wavelengths. He used waveguides, horn antennas, dielectric lenses, various polarisers and even semiconductors at frequencies as high as 60 GHz; much of his original equipment is still in existence, now at the Bose Institute in Kolkata. Concepts from his original 1897 papers have been incorporated into a new 1.3 mm multi-beam receiver now in use on the NRAO 12 Metre Telescope, Arizona, U.S.A.

Neville Francis Mott, Nobel Laureate in 1977 for his own contributions to solid-state electronics, remarked that "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."

Plant research

His next contribution to science was in plant physiology. He forwarded a theory for the ascent of sap in plants in 1927, his theory contributed to the vital theory of ascent of sap. According to his theory, electromechanical pulsations of living cells were responsible for the ascent of sap in plants.

He was skeptical about the then, and still now, most popular theory for the ascent of sap, the tension-cohesion theory of Dixon and Joly, first proposed in 1894. The 'CP theory', proposed by Canny in 1995, validates this skepticism. Canny experimentally demonstrated pumping in the living cells in the junction of the endodermis.

In his research in plant stimuli, he showed with the help of his newly invented crescograph that plants responded to various stimuli as if they had nervous systems like that of animals. He therefore found a parallelism between animal and plant tissues. His experiments showed that plants grow faster in pleasant music and its growth retards in noise or harsh sound. This was experimentally verified later on [citation needed].

His major contribution in the field of biophysics was the demonstration of the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli (wounds, chemical agents) in plants, which were earlier thought to be of chemical in nature. These claims were experimentally proved by Wildon et al (Nature, 1992, 360, 62–65). He also studied for the first time action of microwaves in plant tissues and corresponding changes in the cell membrane potential, mechanism of effect of seasons in plants, effect of chemical inhibitor on plant stimuli, effect of temperature etc. He claimed that plants can "feel pain, understand affection etc.," from the analysis of the nature of variation of the cell membrane potential of plants, under different circumstances. According to him a plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture.

Science fiction

In 1896, Bose wrote Niruddesher Kahini, the first major work in Bangla science fiction. Later, he added the story in the Obbakto book as Polatok Tufan. He was the first science fiction writer in the Bengali language.

Bose and patents

Bose was not interested in patenting his invention. In his Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution, London, he made public his construction of the coherer. Thus The Electric Engineer expressed "surprise that no secret was at anytime made as to its construction, so that it has been open to all the world to adopt it for practical and possibly moneymaking purposes." Bose declined an offer from a wireless apparatus manufacturer for signing a remunerative agreement. One of Bose's American friends, Sara Chapman Bull, succeeded in persuading him to file a patent application for "detector for electrical disturbances". The application was filed on September 30 1901 and it was granted on 29 March 1904 as .

Speaking in New Delhi in August 2006, at a seminar titled Owning the Future: Ideas and Their Role in the Digital Age, Dr. V S Ramamurthy, the Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT Delhi, stressed the attitude of Bose towards patents:

"His reluctance to any form of patenting is well known. It was contained in his letter to (Indian Nobel laureate) Rabindranath Tagore dated May 17, 1901 from London. It was not that Sir Jagadish was unaware of patents and its advantages. He was the first Indian to get a US Patent (No: 755840) in 1904. And Sir Jagadish was not alone in his avowed reluctance to patenting. Roentgen, Pierre Curie and others also chose the path of no patenting on moral grounds."

Bose also recorded his attitude towards patents in his inaugural lecture at the foundation of the Bose Institute, on November 30, 1917.

Legacy

Bose’s place in history has now been re-evaluated, and he is credited with the invention of the first wireless detection device and the discovery of millimetre length electromagnetic waves and considered a pioneer in the field of biophysics.

Many of his instruments are still on display and remain largely usable now, over 100 years later. They include various antennas, polarisers, and waveguides, which remain in use in modern forms today.

Commemorating his birth centenary in 1958, the JBNSTS scholarship programme was started in West Bengal.

Publications

Journals

  • Nature published about 27 papers.
  • J. C. Bose. On Elektromotive "Wave accompanying Mecha- nical Disturbance in Metals in Contact with Electrolyte. Proc. Eoy. Soc. 70, 273—294, 1902.
  • J. C. Bose. Sur la reponse electrique de la matiere vivante et animee soumise ä une excitation. — Deux procedes d'observation de la r^ponse de la matiere vivante. Journ. de phys. (4) 1, 481 — 491, 1902.Books
  • Response in the Living and Non-living, 1902
  • Plant response as a means of physiological investigation, 1906
  • Comparative Electro-physiology: A Physico-physiological Study, 1907
  • Researches on Irritability of Plants, 1913
  • Physiology of the Ascent of Sap, 1923
  • The physiology of photosynthesis, 1924
  • The Nervous Mechanisms of Plants, 1926
  • Plant Autographs and Their Revelations, 1927
  • Growth and tropic movements of plants, 1928
  • Motor mechanism of plants, 1928Other
  • J.C. Bose, Collected Physical Papers. New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co., 1927

Honors

Titles

*

Notes

References and general information

Books

  • G.L. Pearson, and W.H. Brattain, "History of Semiconductor Research," Proc. IRE, 43, pp.1794-1806, 1955
  • Frontiers in Biophysics, Vol. 6. Chapter "The ascent of sap", pp. 11-14.
  • Davies, E., in The Biochemistry of Plants, Academic Press, 1987b, vol. 12, pp. 243–264.
  • J.M. Payne & P.R. Jewell, "The Upgrade of the NRAO 8-beam Receiver," in Multi-feed Systems for Radio Telescopes, D.T. Emerson & J.M. Payne, Eds. San Francisco: ASP Conference Series, 1995, vol. 75, p.144
  • Fleming, J. A. (1908). The principles of electric wave telegraphy London: New York and. Journals
  • Canny, M. J., Ann. Bot., 1995, 75, 343–357.
  • Canny, M. J., Am. J. Bot., 1998, 85, 897–909.
  • Canny, M. J., Am. Sci., 1998, 86, 152–159
  • Wayne, R., Bot. Rev., 1994, 60, 265–367.
  • Pickard, B. G., Bot. Rev., 1973, 39, 172–201.
  • Davies, E., Plant Cell Environ., 1987a, 10, 623–631.
  • Wildon, D. C. et al, Nature, 1992, 360, 62–65.
  • Roberts, K., Nature, 1992, 360, 14–15
  • C. Schaefer and G. Gross, "Untersuchungen ueber die Totalreflexion," Annalen der Physik, vol 32, p.648, 1910. Papers and essays
  • Varun Aggarwal, Jagadish Chandra Bose: The Real Inventor of Marconi’s Wireless Receiver
  • A versatile genius, Frontline 21 (24), 2004.

Further reading

  • The life and work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose by Patrick Geddes, Longmans London, 1920

External links

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