Quantum Indians

I  did not realise that it has been exactly three months since I wrote my last post on this blog. Amazing how time passes without us adding any value to ourselves or to the society. If we do not stop, pause and reflect, then, we will live up to poet Bharati’s words of being ‘vedikkai manithargal’ who live for the day and engage in several useless acts before withering away. I recall blogging on this poem before.

In any case, this blog is an outcome of a 50-minute video that I watched. First, it was a pleasant surprise to know that the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India has produced several wonderful videos. Check them out here. I must thank Mr. Rajiv Malhotra (author of ‘Being Different’ and ‘Breaking India’) for he had referred to this video, ‘Quantum Indians’ in a post in his discussion group.

This video talks of the contributions of Satyendranath Bose, Sir. C.V. Raman and Meghnad Saha to the world of physics. Watch it yourself and with your children, nieces and nephews.

My take-aways from watching this video:

(1) Mr. Bose’s passion for teaching Science in local languages. He thought it was silly that Indians have to learn a foreign language to learn Science.

(2) Sir C. V. Raman dedicated his Nobel Prize to the freedom fighters of India and how he felt sad about not having his country’s flag at the Nobel Investiture Ceremony

(3) His open-mindedness and long-range thinking in wanting to bring Jewish scientists who were fleeing Nazi Germany at that time, including Schroedinger. The establishment, as now, then was equal to the task of resisting him! They called these scientists mediocre and blocked his attempts!!

(4) His supreme self-confidence about his discovery being worthy of a Nobel Prize.

(5) The greatness of heart, spirit and ‘no mean’ ego  shown by Professor Henry Norris Russell, Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University when he went through a paper written by a Harvard University student (?) Henrietta Levitt based on Saha equation. This professor accepted that he was wrong and every one else was wrong. He could have easily hushed it up as the narrator says. Contrast this behaviour with the one Sir. C.V. Raman had in India at IISc (see (3) above).

4 thoughts on “Quantum Indians

  1. Dear Ananth,

    If the video said that C. V. Raman was trying to recruit Erwin Schrodingder to the IISc, that is incorrect. Schrodingder was not Jewish. Prof. Raman was trying to recruit Max Born, who was indeed Jewish. I do not recall reading anywhere else that the Indian bureaucrats blocked his appointment. Perhaps that tidbit is as accurate as the suggestion that Prof. Raman was trying to recruit Schrodinger.

    In The Historical Notes of The Royal Society there was an article about the British interfering in the appointment of the successor to Prof. Raman as Director of the IISc. Their main concern was that no Indian should be appointed. That particular issue is sitting in my study in Dallas, and when I go back, I will update this comment.

    Finally, you might be wondering why I consistently say “Prof. Raman” instead of “Sir Raman.” As you know, “Sir” is a British award to which none of us should pay the slightest attention nowadays.

    Warm regards.


  2. thank you, Dr. for your comments here. Neither the video nor I mentioned ‘bureaucracy’. I meant (and that is what I understood) that the ‘establishment’ within the IISc (I could have added that) blocked his ideas on recruiting European scientists.

  3. The video (actually, these are remarks made by one of the scientists who speaks for this documentary) says that ‘the Council of the Indian Institute of Science which consisted of British industrialists took a very grim view of Raman’s desire to bring scientists from Europe to India’. This gentleman mentions two names in his remarks: Schroedinger and Max Born. According to him, they called them ‘second rate scientists who have no jobs in Europe’. Then matter went to the Privy Council in London. I think the scientist who shares this information in the video is Prof. G. Srinivasan of the Raman Research Institute. Interestingly, I came across this interesting news-item in THE HINDU on his teaching methods and aims: http://www.hindu.com/edu/2005/08/01/stories/2005080100570200.htm/.

  4. Dear Ananth,

    Now that I am back in Dallas and quasi-settled, here is the promised extract, from “Doing diaries: David Martin, the Royal Society and scientific Londin, 1947-1950, Notes & Records of The Royal Society, 66(3), 273-294. The paragraph below is from p. 283.

    “In another case, Martin declined to to help `fix’ a situation when, in March 1949,

    [the] Science Director of the British Council telephoned … and said that an advertisement had appeared for the Director of the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore. He said that the British Council regarded it of the highest importance that if possible a United Kingdom citizen should fill the post. He stated that the British Council would be prepared to subsidise the salary in a substantial way to the extent of at least GBP1,000. He strongly desired me to make a few suggestions and I (i) promised to discuss it with the Secretaries. (ii)”

    Notes: (i) “I” is the diarist, David Martin. (ii) The Royal Society has two Scientific Secretaries, for the Physical and Biological Sciences.

    The date is very significant. Remember that on August 15, 1947 India became a “dominion” of the British. It did not truly become “free” as witnessed by the above clumsy attempt by the British Council to influence the academic search for the Director of the IISc. We truly became “free” only on January 26, 1950 when we became a republic. In many ways, Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the true architect of India’s “freedom,” as much as, or more than, anyone else.

    Coming back to Prof. Raman’s attempts to recruit Schrodinger, well, if Srinivasan says so, then he must be right! He was Director of the Raman Research Institute until he retired, and a scholar in every sense of the word. And I would guess that the “blocking” of Prof. Raman’s attempts to hire Schrodinger and Born were blocked in the UK, not in India, as the above extract shows.

    Warm regards.


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