Jagdish Chandra Bose:
Jagdish Chandra Bose was one of India’s great scientists. It was he who began the age of modern science in our country. He dedicated his life to science and was honored and acclaimed not only in India but also in the U.S.A. and Europe.
Jagdish Chandra was born on 30th November 1858 at Faridpur in Dacca, Bengal. Until 1947, this area was in India but it is now a part of Bangladesh. Jagdish’s father was the deputy magistrate of Faridpur. His parents were forthright and simple people. They generously helped the poor and the needy. During the great Bengal famine and the malaria epidemic that followed the famine, Jagdish’s parents helped to rehabilitate thousands of orphan children.
Jagdish Chandra’s early education was in a local school where the medium of education was Bengali. He mixed freely with all the children, especially the poor boys in his class and even though he was young, he began to understand the sufferings of the poor. As a young child, Jagdish had an active and inquiring mind. He often went to the riverbank and learned how the fishermen worked and lived. His curiosity and interest in plants started very early in life. Young Jagdish Cnadra spent a great deal of his spare time with farmers in the fields. He watched the planting of seeds, the growth of the plants, the harvesting, and the reaping of the crops. His interests were wide. He saw with wonder the shining stars and the glowing firefly and wanted to understand their secret.
At the age of nine, Jagdish was sent to St. Xavier’s School at Calcutta for further education. St. Xavier’s was an English medium school. Jagdish lived in a boarding house in Calcutta, away from his family and childhood friends. He could not speak English and this made things even more difficult in his strange new surroundings. Boys teased and bullied him but he faced their jibes and taunts with courage and, when provoked, fought back single-handedly.
Jagdish Chandra did not allow loneliness and the handicap of language to come his way. He studied hard to overcome his handicap and developed many hobbies to overcome his loneliness. He bred frogs and fish in a nearby pond; he kept many squirrels, rabbits, and even non-poisonous snakes as pets. He observed plants germinating and flowering and going through their life cycle. At the same time, he worked hard academically and passed the final examinations with a first division. In college, he specialized in Physics but Botany remained his favorite subject.
With great difficulty, Bose’s family managed to find enough money to send Jagdish to England in 1880. He studied medicine but had to give it up because of ill health. So, he took Natural Science at Cambridge. It was necessary to know Latin in order to study Natual Science in those days. Jagdish Chandra, who had a simple background and little money, had to learn Latin to be able to continue his studies. He had to achieve success despite great odds and strong competition. Yet, with determination and willpower, he was able to pass his examinations with distinction.
After completing his studies, Jagdish Chandra returned to India and joined the staff of Presidency College, Calcutta. Here, yet another struggle began for the young scientist. In those days Indian teachers were paid one-third of the salary paid to the British teachers. Why should there be discrimination? Jagdish believed in fairness; he kept working but refused to accept a salary less than those of his British associates. It was a very difficult period of his life and he could not afford to buy the scientific instruments which were required for his research work. But he worked on it. Eventually, his hard work, wide knowledge, and dignity won over the policy-makers of the college. He was paid the full salary due to him as a member of the staff. For the next ten years, Jagdish continued to live frugally. He saved as much as he could in order to have a laboratory for his scientific research. Eventually, after many sacrifices, Jagdish was able to set up a laboratory of his own.
Jagdish Chandra conducted independent research on electromagnetic waves at the same time that Marconi, the inventor of wireless, was doing so. But Marconi was able to announce his invention and demonstrate the use of wireless telegraphy before Jagdish could. Thus Marconi became the father of modern radio. But this lack of recognition did not deter Jagdish Chandra. In 1896 he wrote another paper on electromagnetic waves. The Royal Society was greatly impressed by his work and honored him with a Doctor of Science degree. Jagdish Chandra shattered the belief that only Westerners could achieve anything worthwhile in the field of science. He proved to the world that scientific genius was not confined to the West.
It is important to note that this great Indian Scientist worked against great odds throughout his life. He had to overcome obstacles arising out of the difference in his environment, the handicap of a strange language, and limited finances. He made many of the instruments he used in his laboratory himself because he could not afford to fully equip his workshop. He felt that a person should not depend on others to do his work. He should be self-sufficient and independent. He carried these hand-made instruments to England to demonstrate his discovery that electromagnetic waves could be transmitted through space. Without proper facilities and with limited materials, Jagdish Chandra achieved results that were acclaimed by all the leading scientists in the world. His achievements were published in every newspaper and he was invited to various countries to demonstrate his work.
Dr. Bose refused to patent his discoveries and inventions. He was not interested in making money from his inventions. He felt that knowledge was not anyone’s personal property; it was meant to be shared for the good of mankind.
The Davy-Faraday Research Institute invited Dr. Bose to continue his research at the Institute, which was well-equipped with modern facilities. It was here that he discovered that plants also suffer pain as human beings do. It was for his research into the life of plants that he is most acclaimed.
There is an interesting story about a demonstration that DR. Bose gave in England. He was demonstrating, before a gathering of scientists, that plants, like men, react to outside stimuli. He took a syringe filled with poison and injected the poison into a healthy plant. The gathering waited to see the result. To Dr. Bose’s surprise and frustration, nothing happened to the plant. With self-confidence and presence of mind, he took the syringe and prepared to inject himself. He supposed that if the poison did not affect the plant it would not affect him either. At that moment a man in the gathering stood up and confessed that, instead of poison, he had filled the syringe with colored water! Dr. Bose, of course, proceeded with his demonstrations, and this time he made sure that he injected poison into the plant. After a while, that plant withered and died.
Dr. Bose continued his search for knowledge. His achievements were many. He was honored as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920.
Having worked under adverse conditions, Dr. Bose wanted to give other Indian scientists better opportunities. He realized the importance of a research institution in India. He collected funds for such an institute and set up The Bose Research Institute at Calcutta, which even now is a famous center for research scholars in Physics and Botany. While inaugurating the institute, he said, “This is not a laboratory- but a temple.” Such was his dedication to work. He wanted everyone to have the same enthusiasm for and devotion to scientific research. Dr. Bose worked in this laboratory for over a period of twenty years up to the end of his life. He made a number of new discoveries. He announced that plants breathe, and react to changes in temperature. He wrote many books on his theories and discoveries. He did remarkable work in the field of plant life and the scientists of his time honored him and praised his work.
Dr. Bose died in November 1937, having dedicated his whole life to the cause of science. Wealth, power, and fame never attracted him. He toiled selflessly to bring glory to his country and to increase our knowledge of our universe.