There is a general perception that our freedom struggle was primarily political and economical, with only social aspects to it. But, very few people know that the Independence movement was going on in the field of science as well, and scientists also played an important role. To dream of building the future of the country, in the difficult times of Anglo subjugation, and lay the foundation stone of science and technology institutes shows the indomitable spirit of Indian scientists and their unmatched contribution.
In the second half of the 19th Century, along with the freedom struggle, a new wave of knowledge and science had also emerged in the country. Many eminent scientists were born during this period, in which the names of great scientists like Jagadish Chandra Basu, Prafulla Chandra Ray, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Chandrasekhar Venkataraman came up. These were the first generation scientists of modern India, whose works and ideals gave a new direction to Indian science.
Acharya Ray was the pillar of the scientific and industrial renaissance in India. Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray was a true symbol of the Indian Rishi tradition. He always put the country's independence above science. He believed that science is for the service of mankind, and its path goes through political freedom; otherwise, the benefit of science will not go to the countrymen but to the British who ruled on them
Stepping into the 75th year of its Independence, the country is again paying homage to the great personalities who sacrificed their lives to attain Independence. Remembering the contribution of such brave-hearts, the 75th year of Independence is being celebrated across the country as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. Various programmes are being organised so that the indomitable spirit of those great personalities of India can be shown through different mediums, who played a great role in laying the strong foundation for the independence movement.
The importance of science and technology has been well understood since time immemorial. The British were no exception. Thus, ten years after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, Robert Clive founded the Survey of India, which is now the oldest organisation of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. They realised that without the application of science and technology, they would not be able to understand the country. This organisation helped them in making the map of the country. They clearly understood that if the Indian population will be kept away from the latest developments in science and technology, they would be able to rule India very efficiently.
We know that England was able to establish industries because of its scientific advances. In 1760, the first Industrial Revolution started in Britain. This revolution was based on both natural and economic resources. After winning the Battle of Plassey in India, the British got the civil rights of Bengal and Bihar. They got wealth and power, as well as ownership of natural resources. This helped them immensely in the first Industrial Revolution.
Rationale For Establishing Survey of India
We need to deeply examine the reasons behind this decision exactky ten years after the Battle of Plassey. It was clear that they needed support in two ways. Firstly, to help the Army, they needed deep knowledge of the geographical area, and therefore, the Survey of India was necessary. Later, with introduction of more surveys, the Geological Survey of India, the Botanical Survey of India, the Zoological Survey of India, and the Archaeological Survey of India were eventually established. The British knew that natural resources in India should be studied scientifically so that they could be used for the success of the Industrial Revolution.
British rulers also brought many other advanced technologies to India, but they were not for the development of the country and the betterment of Indians. For example, they introduced the post and telegraph in India, as the Army needed them for communication. The railway was started in 1853, but the railway was also not for the convenience of the common people but used to transport the looted natural resources to England through the Mumbai Port. In 1835, the East India Company also started the practice of modern medicine, Allopathy, in a college in Kolkata. This modern medicine was also brought to the British Army. Thus, the modern science and technology brought by the British rulers aimed to strengthen their power and to exploit the country's rich natural resources.
Nevertheless, our scientists continued their struggle with determination, self-respect, and love for their nation. Pramath Nath Bose was one of the first Indian scientists included in the Survey of India. As an eminent geologist, Bose was inspired by an indigenous approach. Despite having a better experience, he was denied promotion to the post of superintendent, which was given to a very junior Englishman. Thus, Bose decided to leave the Survey of India and joined the State of Mayurbhanj as a geologist. Bose was the first Indian graduate in science from a British university, who first discovered oil in Assam, established the first soap factory in India, founded the Bengal Institute of Technology, which later became the famous Jadavpur University, and more importantly, he led the establishment of Tata Steel in Jamshedpur.
Even today, English medicines are more prevalent in India, and the British also wanted other medical systems to not flourish compared to Allopathy. Despite this, Indian physician, researcher, and social reformer Mahendralal Sarkar promoted homoeopathy in front of English medicine. He believed that homoeopathy's effect in medicines is not in any English medicine. Even today, many such diseases can only be treated with homoeopathic medicines. In 1876, he laid the foundation of the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science (IACS), the oldest scientific institution in the country. He was the doctor of stalwarts like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and the Maharaja of Tripura. In a meeting of the British Medical Association, homoeopathy was described as better than Western treatment, after which he had to become a victim of discrimination and harassment by the British.
In 1904, after the death of Dr Mahendra Sarkar, Dr Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay, father of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukhopadhyay; became the President of IACS. It was he who had invited Chandrasekhar Venkataraman to this institution. While working here, Raman received the Nobel Prize, which became synonymous with honour not only for Indians but for the whole of Asia. This institution paved the way for the National Science Movement. Here the first generation of scientists continued to develop. Not only Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, people like Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray and Dr Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay, and Swami Vivekananda used to visit the institute.
Motherland Mattered More Than Remuneration
Here, we should also remember the famous Indian scientist Dr Jagdish Chandra Bose. In 1904, Lord Rayleigh received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of argon gas. He was the President of the Royal Society of London. He had sent a letter of recommendation for his brilliant student Jagdish Chandra and suggested that he should be allowed to teach physics. Bose was originally a physicist. When he applied for the job, he was told that Indian ideas were not rational and, therefore, could not be allowed to teach a subject like physics. It is important here that it was not said that Jagdish Chandra did not have rational thinking, but a genius Indian was ignored by blaming Indian people in general for lack of logical thinking. Bose did not tolerate this insult and protested. He taught physics to Indians but did not take a British salary. For three years, he taught without pay, and his love for the motherland inspired this noble cause. After three years, the British Government itself came under his shelter and accepted him as a professor of physics. Thus, Bose’s fight against injustice and discrimination; It was similar to Gandhiji's 1917 Champaran Satyagraha.
British realised that without the application of science and technology, they would not be able to understand the country. Department of Science and Technology organisation helped them in making the map of the country. They clearly understood that if the Indian population will be kept away from the latest developments in science and technology, they would be able to rule India very efficiently
Science involves research and knowledge creation, but the British rulers made every effort to suppress it in India. There were many Indians working in the Geological Survey, Botanical Survey, Zoological Survey, and Archaeology. Their scientific research papers were published in research journals of England. The knowledge of India was also used by the British for the advancement of science in England. The British did not want Indian scientists to do any research in India and be successful. The first scientist to oppose this was Jagdish Chandra Bose. After teaching for ten years, he began his research in 1894. But, he did not get any help from the British. He set up his own scientific laboratory and bore all the expenses.
James Clark Maxwell propounded the theory of electromagnetic waves, and he needed to verify it through experiments. Till then, no one in the world had generated microwave waves. Jagdish Chandra Bose did this for the first time in the world. After this, he went to London and presented his research there. However, Marconi later received the Nobel Prize for the invention. We can easily imagine the struggle these scientists had to face. Jagadish Chandra Bose reiterated the fact that unless we are successful in producing knowledge, we will not be respected in the world. Today he is not only referred to as the ‘Father of the Microwave’, but also regarded as the father of biophysics and plant neurobiology. Not only this but he can also be considered the Father of Chronobiology, another emerging field of science.
The research and inventions of physicist Sir Chandrasekhar Venkataraman (CV Raman) are also very important in the scientific progress of India. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Raman Effect. To remember his invention made on this day in 1928, every year February 28 is celebrated as ‘National Science Day’. CV Raman is counted among the greatest scientists of all time in the country. His discovery on light scattering is counted among the world's extraordinary scientific achievements. Sir CV Raman discovered the Raman Effect on February 28, 1928. But his discovery was only recognised on February 28, 1930. Every year, since 1987, this day is celebrated as National Science Day in India. Its purpose is to encourage the new generation towards science by enriching Raman’s scientific tradition so that scientific activities can be strengthened.
Another great scientist of India, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, is considered the Father of Chemistry in India. He made efforts for the country’s self-reliance on chemical technology. Acharya Ray was the pillar of the scientific and industrial renaissance in India. He was a true symbol of the Indian Rishi tradition. He always put the country’s Independence above science. He believed that science is for the service of mankind, and its path goes through political freedom; otherwise, the benefit of science will not go to the countrymen but to the British who ruled on them.
Professor Meghnad Saha, the great Indian scientist and astronomer who established the ‘Saha equation’, was an astronomer of international repute. This equation explains the physical and chemical state of stars. Professor Saha is credited with establishing many important institutions, such as the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics; and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. In 1919, a research paper of Saha was published in an astrophysics journal of America. This was the same research paper in which he had propounded the ‘ionisation formula’. This formula is said to have the potential to provide astronomers with information about the internal temperature and pressure of the Sun and other stars. This discovery has been called the 12th major discovery of astronomy. This equation proved to bring new energy and far-reaching results in astrophysics, and much research was done on this theory later.
The contribution of women scientists is also not less in any case. Anna Mani is one such great woman in the world of science. People know very well about Raman, but not so much about Anna Mani, who worked closely with him. A meteorologist, she held the post of Deputy Director of the Meteorological Department of India and made significant contributions in the field of meteorological instruments. His research work in the field of solar radiation, ozone, and wind energy measurement is important. It was only under the guidance of Anna Mani that the programme was made possible, due to which India could become self-reliant in the field of meteorology. If Anna Mani was a physicist of a high order, the same could be unquestionably bestowed on Asima Chatterjee who did remarkable work on vinca alkaloids, which are currently used to make cancer drugs.
Renowned botanist Shankar Purushottam Agarkar founded the Maharashtra Association for Cultivation of Sciences in Pune despite all odds. It is said that he had to sell his personal belongings and even his wife’s jewellery for the same. That institute established in Pune is now known as Agharkar Institute.
In this way, the contribution of scientists before independence and even after Independence has been remarkable, without which it would not have been possible to plan the future of the country and move forward. After 25 years from today, when the country celebrates the centenary of its Independence, it should be expected that India will emerge as a world leader in the field of science and technology.