SUBRAHMANYAN Chandrasekhar was born on October 19, 1910 in Lahore. His father, Chandrasekhara Subrahmanya lyar was an officer in Indian Audits and Accounts Department. His mother Sitalakshmi was a woman of high intellectual attainments. Sir CV Raman, the first Indian to get Nobel Prize in science, was his paternal uncle. Till the age of 12, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar had his education at home under his parents and private tutors. In 1922, at the age of 12, he attended the Hindu High School. He joined the Madras Presidency College in 1925. Subrahmanyan Chandrashekhar passed his Bachelor’s degree, B.Sc. (Hon.), in Physics in June 1930. In July 1930, he was awarded a Government of India scholarship for graduate studies in Cambridge, England.
Chandrasekhar completed his Ph.D. degree at Cambridge in the summer of 1933. In October 1933, Chandrasekhar was elected to a Prize Fellowship at Trinity College for the period 1933-37. In 1936, while on a short visit to Harvard University, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was offered a position as a Research Associate at the University of Chicago and remained there even since. In September 1936, Subrahmanyan Chandrashekhar married Lomita Doraiswamy. She was his junior at the Presidency College in Madras.
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar is best known for the discovery of Chandrasekhar Limit. He showed that there is a maximum mass which can be supported against gravity by pressure made up of electrons and atomic nuclei. The value of this limit is about 1.44 times of solar mass. The Chandrasekhar Limit plays a crucial role in understanding the stellar evolution. If the mass of a star exceeded this limit, the star would not become a white dwarf. It would continue to collapse under the extreme pressure of gravitational forces. The formulation of the Chandrasekhar Limit led to the discovery of neutron stars and black holes. Depending on the mass there are three possible final stages of a star-white dwarf, neutron star and black hole.
Apart form the discovery of Chandrasekhar Limit, major work done by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar includes: Theory of Brownian Motion (1938-1943); Theory of the Illumination and the Polarization of the Sunlit Sky (1943-1950); the Equilibrium and the Stability of Ellipsoidal Figures of Equilibrium, partly in collaboration with Norman R Labovitz (1961-1968); the General Theory of Relativity and Relativistic Astrophysics (1962-1971); and the Mathematical Theory of Black Holes (1974-1983).
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was awarded (jointly with the nuclear astrophysicist WA Fowler) the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983. He died on August 21, 1995.