SIR Jagdis Chandra Bose (Nov.30, 1858-Nov. 23, 1937) popularly known as JC Bose occupies a unique position in the history of modern Indian science. He is regarded as India’s first modern scientist and was an eminent plant physiologist, physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist as well as an early writer of science fiction. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics and made very significant contributions to plant science. He laid the foundations of experimental science and was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a US patent in March 1904. His invention of highly sensitive instruments for the detection of minute responses by living organisms to external stimuli enabled him to anticipate the parallelism between animal and plant tissues noted by later biophysicists. He explained that plants also suffer pain like humans. The scientific community remembers his birth anniversary which falls on November 30.
In 1895, a year before Guglielmo Marconi patented his invention, Dr Bose invented wireless telegraphy and demonstrated its functioning in public. Although he did invaluable work in science, but it is very sad that his work was recognised in India only when the western world acknowledged its importance. He founded the Bose Research Institute, the first scientific research institute in India at Kolkata in 1907, devoted mainly to the study of plants. Sir Neville Mott, Nobel Laureate in 1977 for his own contribution to solid-state electronics, remarked that “JC Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time”. Dr Bose 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 the parallelism between animal and plant tissues.
Dr Bose was the first Indian to be admitted in person to the Royal Institution of London. In January 1897 he delivered a Friday Evening Discourse there, the most prestigious platform for announcing new discoveries at that time. It was Michael Faraday (1791-1867) who started the Friday Evening Discourse in 1826. Some of the most prominent British scientists worked in the Royal Institution participated in these discourses. In this lecture, Dr Bose demonstrated his devices for the generation and detection of radio waves. In 1920 he became the first Indian scientist to be elected as fellow of the prestigious Royal Society.
The theories of Dr Bose about the relationship between living and non-living and plant’s response to stimuli were not taken seriously in his time and even today some of his ideas have remained esoteric. However, his physical model of memory as a mechanism for storing information justified his being considered a precursor of the modern discipline of cybernetics. It is now recognised that Dr Bose had made very significant contributions to the field of chronobiology and circadian rhythms even before these two technical terms were coined. His 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. 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.
(Author is a freelance journalist and social activist. He is Director, Indo-Gulf consulting and can be contacted on [email protected])
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