|Born: 1 Jan 1894 in Calcutta, India
Died: 4 Feb 1974 in Calcutta, India
Bose's mother, Amodini Devi, had received little formal education but
she skilfully brought up her large family of seven children. Bose's
father was Surendranath Bose who worked for a while as an accountant
before joining the East Indian Railways. He later set up his own
chemical and pharmaceutical company. Satyendranath was the eldest of
Amodini and Surendranath's seven children, having six younger
Satyendranath began his education
at an elementary school in Calcutta before entering the Hindu School
in 1907. It was here that his interest in mathematics and science
began, and as is so often the case, it was due to an outstanding
mathematics teacher coupled with encouragement from the
He began his studies at
Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1909 where he had a brilliant
academic record. He was awarded a B.Sc. in 1913 and an M.Sc. in 1915
proving himself to be by far the best student of mathematics. In the
year he was awarded his Master's degree, Bose married Ushabala Ghosh.
They had five children, three daughters and two sons.
Had Indians been allowed to take administrative posts in
the government service, Bose would almost certainly have followed
that route. As it was, he continued to study physics and mathematics
and was appointed to the newly opened University College of Science
in Calcutta in 1917. This university was a research institution for
postgraduate studies and here Bose was able to study recent European
texts on quantum theory and relativity which, before the opening of
the new institution, had not been readily available in India. Gibbs
book on statistical mechanics stimulated Bose's interest in this
topic. He also studied Einstein's papers on relativity and obtained
Einstein's permission to translate them for publication in
Bose was appointed as a Reader in
physics at the University of Dacca in 1921 and taught there until
1945, being a professor and head of the physics department from 1927.
In 1945 he returned to Calcutta University when he was appointed as
Guprasad Sing Professor of Physics, a position he held until he
retired in 1956 when he was made Professor Emeritus.
He did important work in quantum theory, in particular on Planck's
black body radiation law. Bose sent his paper Planck's Law and the
Hypothesis of Light Quanta (1924) to Einstein. He wrote a covering
Respected Sir, I have
ventured to send you the accompanying article for your perusal and
opinion. You will see that I have tried to deduce the coefficient ..
in Planck's law independent of classical electrodynamics.
This paper was only four pages long but it was highly
significant. The derivation of Planck's formula had not been to
Planck's satisfaction, and Einstein too was unhappy with it. Now Bose
was able to derive the formula for radiation from Boltzmann's
statistics. The paper, and his method of deriving Planck's radiation
formula, was enthusiastically endorsed by Einstein who saw at once
that Bose had removed a major objection against light quanta. The
paper was translated into German by Einstein and submitted with a
strong recommendation to the Zeitschrift für Physik. Einstein
extended Bose's treatment to material particles whose number is
conserved and published several papers on this extension.
An important consequence of Einstein's response to Bose's
article was that his application to the University of Dacca for two
years research leave beginning in 1924 was approved. He now had the
chance of meeting European scientists and travelled first to Paris
where he met Langevin and de Broglie. In October 1925 Bose travelled
from Paris to Berlin where he met Einstein. Much progress had been
made by Einstein following his receipt of Bose's paper for he was
able to see how the ideas could be taken forward. While he was in
Berlin Bose attended a course on quantum theory given by Born.
Bose published on statistical mechanics leading to the
Einstein-Bose statistics. Dirac coined the term boson for particles
obeying these statistics. Through these terms his name is rightly
known and remembered, for indeed his contributions are remarkable,
especially given the fact that he made his important discoveries
working in isolation from the mainstream developments in
It was not only for his research
contributions that Bose is important, however, for his efforts to
improve education in India led to a much greater use of technology.
He gave leadership in many ways: as president of the physics section
of the Indian Science Congress in 1939, as general president of the
Indian Science Congress in Delhi in 1944, and as president of the
National Institute of Science of India in 1949. His greatest honour
was election to the Royal Society of London in 1958.
After Bose retired from Calcutta University in 1956 he was appointed
as vice-chancellor of Viswa-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Two
years later he was honoured with the post of national
P T Landsberg writes :-
The high regard with which [Bose] was held in India can
hardly be appreciated in the West, where respect for old age is much
less developed than it is in India. Bose's shock of white hair and
friendly personality was probably last in evidence ant a public
function in January of this year, when an international symposium on
statistical physics was held in Calcutta. Special references were
made to his famous paper, and Bose himself also addressed the
meeting, asking his colleagues to keep afresh "that wonderful spark"
which gave fulfilment to scientific work.
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson