Jagadish Chandra Bose Memorial Day on 23rd Nov


Who was Jagadish Chandra Bose?

A Bengali physicist who did pioneering research in wireless wave technology, Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on November 30, 1858. When he died on November 23, 1937, he left behind a rich and diverse legacy, not only as a founding father of experimental science in India but also as a botanist, biologist, and thinker.

Early life of Jagadish Chandra Bose

Bose was born in Bikrampur, Bengal (now a part of Bangladesh’s Munshiganj district). His father, Bhagawan Chandra was a prominent member of the Hindu reformist organization Brahmo Samaj. He worked as a senior government official.

Bose studied early on in a vernacular school. It was because his father was keen that he should be familiar with his mother tongue. Bose later remarked, “At that time, sending children to English schools was an aristocratic status symbol. In the vernacular school, to which I was sent, the son of the Muslim attendant of my father sat on my right side, and the son of a fisherman sat on my left…It was because of my childhood friendship with them that…I never realized that there existed a problem common to the two communities, Hindus and Muslims.”

How was Bose’s father like?

Bhagawan Chandra was relatively well off. But he invested his savings in several business ventures such as tea-growing in Assam. Most of them failed and he went heavily into debt. Recalling his father’s entrepreneurial adventures, in a lecture in 1917, Bose said with remarkable eloquence: “Everyone had said that he [my father] wrecked his life, which was meant for far greater things. Few realize that out of the skeletons of myriad lives, vast continents have been built. It is on the wreck of a life like his and of many such lives that will be built the Greater India yet to be.”

Bose’s higher studies

After finishing his school education and securing a Bachelor’s degree, Bose went to Britain to study medicine. But he had to leave it on account of ill health. He then studied Natural Science at Cambridge.

Later life of Jagadish Chandra Bose

After returning to India, he got an appointment as officiating professor of physics in Calcutta’s Presidency College. However, the authorities discriminated against him and initially offered him a lower salary than his European counterparts.

With the university lacking resources for conducting proper research, he had to work against great odds. The British social worker and author Sister Nivedita noted this. He wrote that she was “horrified” at the “continuous annoyance and petty difficulties” the scientist faced.

Bose nevertheless carried out various experiments in the college, including ones in refraction, polarisation, and diffraction. He would use several types of junctions connected to a very sensitive galvanometer in order to receive radiation.

What did Bose invent?

In 1895, he gave a public demonstration of electromagnetic waves, using them to remotely ring a bell remotely and explode gunpowder. “The inventor (J.C. Bose) has transmitted signals to a distance of nearly a mile and herein lies the first and obvious and exceedingly valuable application of this new theoretical marvel,” England’s Daily Chronicle reported in 1896.  

Bose’s astonishing public demonstration predated similar work that Russia’s Popov and the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi were doing. People often credit him as being the inventor of the radio. However, unlike Marconi, who was keen on finding commercial and practical uses to his research, Bose rarely thought along those lines.

What does D.P. Sen Gupta write about Jagadish Chandra Bose?

When Marconi was fighting one lawsuit from another, trying to establish the claims of his companies, Bose immersed himself in a different world of scientific discoveries. Besides, he never made any official claim to being the pioneer of radiotelegraphy and his nephew Prof. D. M. Bose recalls that when people asked him (J.C. Bose) as to who was the inventor of the radio, his answer used to be, ‘The invention is more important than the inventor’,” writes D.P. Sen Gupta in the book Remembering Sir J C Bose. “He (Jagadish Chandra Bose) was so consistent about his faith of distributing the fruits of one’s labor without thinking of personal benefits that he made it one of the rules of the constitution of the Bose Institute that he set up, that ‘no invention from this Institution should be patented’.”

When did Bose retire?

By the turn of the century, Bose became more interested in plant research including showing the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli, such as chemical agents, in plants. A very popular teacher, he retired from Presidency College in 1915 but the students made him Professor Emeritus. They founded the Bose Institute two years later.

What does Tagore say about Jagadish Chandra Bose?

After Jagadish Chandra Bose’s death in 1937, one of India’s greatest poets, the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, had this to say about his friend: “Years ago, when Jagadish Chandra, in his militant exuberance of youthfulness, was contemptuously defying all obstacles to the progress of his endeavor, I came into intimate contact with him, and became infected with his vigorous hopefulness. There was every chance of his frightening me away into a respectful distance, making me aware of the airy nothingness of my own imaginings. But to my relief, I found in him a dreamer, and it seemed to me, what surely was a half-truth, that it was more his magical instinct than the probing of his reason which startled out secrets of nature before sudden flashes of his imagination.”

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