Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937)
Christ's College, Cambridge (BA)
University College London (BSc, DSc)
The true laboratory is the mind, where behind illusions we uncover the laws of truth.
Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a biologist, physicist, botanist and an early writer of science fiction. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, made significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. IEEE named him one of the fathers of radio science. Bose is considered the father of Bengali science fiction, and also invented the crescograph, a device for measuring the growth of plants. A crater on the moon has been named in his honour. He founded Bose Institute, a premier research institute of India and also one of its oldest. Established in 1917, the Institute was the first interdisciplinary research centre in Asia. He served as the Director of Bose Institute from its inception until his death.
Born in Munshiganj, Bengal Presidency, during British governance of India now in Bangladesh, Bose graduated from St. Xavier's College, Calcutta now Kolkata, West Bengal, India. He went to the University of London, England to study medicine, but could not pursue studies in medicine because of health problems. Instead, he conducted his research with the Nobel Laureate Lord Rayleigh at Cambridge and returned to India. He joined the Presidency College of the University of Calcutta 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 signalling 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 further develop his research.
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. Although Bose filed for a patent for one of his inventions because of peer pressure, his objection to any form of patenting was well known. To facilitate his research, he constructed automatic recorders capable of registering extremely slight movements; these instruments produced some striking results, such as quivering of injured plants, which Bose interpreted as a power of feeling in plants. His books include Response in the Living and Non-Living 1902 and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants 1926. In a 2004 BBC poll, Bose was voted seventh Greatest Bengali of all time.
Early life and education
Jagadish Chandra Bose was born in a Bengali Kayastha family in Munsiganj Bikrampur, Bengal Presidency present-day Bangladesh on 30 November 1858, to Bama Sundari Bose and Bhagawan Chandra Bose. His father was a leading member of the Brahmo Samaj and worked as a deputy magistrate and assistant commissioner in Faridpur, Bardhaman and other places.
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. It was because of my childhood friendship with them. 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 the University of Calcutta 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 in natural sciences. He received a BA from the University of Calcutta in 1879.
Bose wanted to go to England to compete for the Indian Civil Service. However, his father, a civil servant himself, cancelled 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 Anandamohan Bose, his brother-in-law sister's husband and the first Indian Wrangler, he secured admission in Christ's College, Cambridge to study natural sciences. He received a BA Natural Sciences Tripos from the University of Cambridge and a BSc from the University College London affiliated under University of London in 1884, and a DSc from the University College London, University of London in 1896. 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. Later he was married to Abala Bose, the renowned feminist and social worker.
One of the important influences on Bose was Sister Nivedita who supported him by organizing financial support and editing his manuscripts; she made sure that Bose was able to continue with and share his work.
The Scottish theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell mathematically predicted the existence of electromagnetic radiation of diverse wavelengths, but he died in 1879 before his prediction was experimentally verified. Between 1886 and 1888, German physicist Heinrich Hertz published the results of his experiments on electromagnetism, which showed the existence of electromagnetic waves in free space. Subsequently, British physicist Oliver Lodge, who had also been researching electromagnetism, conducted a commemorative lecture in August 1894 after Hertz's death on the quasi-optical nature of "Hertzian waves" radio waves and demonstrated their similarity to light and vision including reflection and transmission at distances up to 50 metres 55 yards. Lodge's work was published in book form and 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.
During a November 1894 or 1895 public demonstration at Town Hall of Kolkata, Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using millimetre range wavelength microwaves. Lieutenant Governor Sir William Mackenzie witnessed Bose's demonstration in the Kolkata Town Hall. 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."
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 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.
Bose went to London on a lecture tour in 1896 and met Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who had been developing a radio wave wireless telegraphy system for over a year and was trying to market it to the British post service. In an interview, Bose expressed his disinterest in commercial telegraphy and suggested others 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.
Place in radio development
Bose's work in radio microwave optics was specifically directed towards studying the nature of the phenomenon and was not an attempt to develop radio into a communication medium. His experiments took place during this same period from late 1894 on when Guglielmo Marconi was making breakthroughs on a radio system specifically designed for wireless telegraphy and others were finding practical applications for radio waves, such as Russian physicist Alexander Stepanovich Popov radio wave based lightning detector, also inspired by Lodge's experiment. Although Bose's work was not related to communication he, like Lodge and other laboratory experimenters, probably had an influence on other inventors trying to develop radio as communications medium. Bose was not interested in patenting his work and openly revealed the operation of his galena crystal detector in his lectures. A friend in the US persuaded him to take out a US patent on his detector but he did not actively pursue it and allowed it to lapse."
Bose 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. In fact, further work at millimetre wavelengths was almost non-existent for the following 50 years. In 1897, 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, especially at the Bose Institute in Kolkata. A 1.3 mm multi-beam receiver now in use on the NRAO 12 Metre Telescope, Arizona, US, incorporates concepts from his original 1897 papers.
Sir Nevill 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. In fact, he had anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors."
Bose conducted most of his studies in plant research on Mimosa pudica and Desmodium gyrans plants. His major contribution in the field of biophysics was the demonstration of the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli e.g., wounds, chemical agents in plants, which were earlier thought to be of a chemical nature. In order to understand the heliotropic movements of plants the movement of a plant towards a light source, Bose invented a torsional recorder. He found that light applied to one side of the sunflower caused turbot to increase on the opposite side. These claims were later proven experimentally. He was also the first to study the action of microwaves in plant tissues and corresponding changes in the cell membrane potential. He researched the mechanism of the seasonal effect on plants, the effect of chemical inhibitors on plant stimuli and the effect of temperature.
Study of metal fatigue and cell response
Bose performed a comparative study of the fatigue response of various metals and organic tissue in plants. He subjected metals to a combination of mechanical, thermal, chemical, and electrical stimuli and noted the similarities between metals and cells. Bose's experiments demonstrated a cyclical fatigue response in both stimulated cells and metals, as well as a distinctive cyclical fatigue and recovery response across multiple types of stimuli in both living cells and metals.
Bose documented a characteristic electrical response curve of plant cells to electrical stimulus, as well as the decrease and eventual absence of this response in plants treated with anaesthetics or poison. The response was also absent in zinc treated with oxalic acid. He noted a similarity in reduction of elasticity between cooled metal wires and organic cells, as well as an impact on the recovery cycle period of the metal.
In 1896, Bose wrote Niruddesher Kahini The Story of the Missing One, a short story that was later expanded and added to Abyakta অব্যক্ত collection in 1921 with the new title Palatak Tuphan Runaway Cyclone. It was one of the first works of Bengali science fiction. It has been translated into English by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay.
In 1917 Bose established the Bose Institute in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Bose served as its Director for its first twenty years until his death. Today it is a public research institute of India and also one of its oldest. Bose in his inaugural address on 30 November 1917 dedicated the Institute to the nation saying:
I dedicate today this Institute—not merely a Laboratory but a Temple. The power of physical methods applies to the establishment of that truth which can be realised directly through our senses, or through the vast expansion of the perceptive range by means of artificially created organs... Thirty-two years ago I chose the teaching of science as my vocation. It was held that by its very peculiar constitution, the Indian mind would always turn away from the study of Nature to metaphysical speculations. Even had the capacity for inquiry and accurate observation been assumed to be present, there were no opportunities for their employment; there were neither well-equipped laboratories nor skilled mechanicians. This was all too true. It is not for man to complain of circumstances, but bravely to accept, to confront and to dominate them; and we belong to that race which has accomplished great things with simple means.....
Legacy and honors
Bose's place in history has now been re-evaluated. His work may have contributed to the development of radio communication. He is also credited with discovering millimetre length electromagnetic waves and being 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.
To commemorate his birth centenary in 1958, the JBNSTS scholarship programme was started in West Bengal. In the same year, India issued a postage stamp bearing his portrait. The same year Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose, a documentary film directed by Pijush Bose, was released. It was produced by the Government of India's Films Division. Films Division also produced another documentary film, again titled Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose, this time directed by the prominent Indian filmmaker Tapan Sinha.
On 14 September 2012, Bose's experimental work in millimetre-band radio was recognised as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical and Computer Engineering, the first such recognition of a discovery in India.
On 30 November 2016, Bose was celebrated in a Google Doodle on the 158th anniversary of his birth.
The Bank of England has decided to redesign the 50 UK Pound currency note with an eminent scientist. Indian scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose has been featured in that nomination list for his pioneering work on Wifi technology.
- The J.C. Bose University of Science and Technology, YMCA, named in his honour.
- Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire CIE, 1903
- Companion of the Order of the Star of India CSI, 1912
- Knight Bachelor 1917
- Fellow of the Royal Society FRS, 1920
- Member of the Vienna Academy of Sciences, 1928
- President of the 14th session of the Indian Science Congress in 1927.
- Member of Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters in 1929.
- Member of the League of Nations' Committee for Intellectual Cooperation from 1924 to 1931
- Founding fellow of the National Institute of Sciences of India now the Indian National Science Academy
- The Indian Botanic Garden was renamed in his honour as the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden on 25 June 2009.
- In 2004, Bose was ranked number 7 in BBC's poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time.
- An academic building of University of Rajshahi has recently been named after him- the No.3 Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose science building.
- Nature published about 27 papers.
- Bose J.C. 1902. "On Elektromotive Wave accompanying Mechanical Disturbance in Metals in Contact with Electrolyte". Proc. Roy. Soc. 70 459–466: 273–294. doi:10.1098/rspl.1902.0029.
- Bose J.C. 1902. "Sur la réponse électrique de la matière vivante et animée soumise à une excitation — Deux procédés d'observation de la réponse de la matière vivante". Journal de Physique. 4 1: 481–491.
- 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
- Life Movements in Plants vol.1, First Published 1918, Reprinted 1985
- Life Movements in Plants, Volume II, 1919
- Physiology of the Ascent of Sap, 1923
- The physiology of photosynthesis, 1924
- The Nervous Mechanism of Plants, 1926
- Plant Autographs and Their Revelations, 1927
- Growth and tropic movements of plants, 1929
- Motor mechanism of plants, 1928
- J.C. Bose, Collected Physical Papers. New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co., 1927
- Abyakta Bengali, 1922
Contributions to plant biology
Companion of the Order of the Star of India (CSI) (1911)
Knight Bachelor (1917)