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Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman
A Legend of Modern Indian Science
C V Raman

Dr Subodh Mahanti

All historical experience confirms the truth that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he has reached for the impossible

Max Weber (1864-1920)

When the Nobel award was announced I saw it as a personal triumph, an achievement for me and my collaborators -- a recognition for a very remarkable discovery, for reaching the goal I had pursued for 7 years. But when I sat in that crowded hall and I saw the sea of western faces surrounding me, and I, the only Indian, in my turban and closed coat, it dawned on me that I was really representing my people and my country. I felt truly humble when I received the Prize from King Gustav; it was a moment of great emotion but I could restrain myself. Then I turned round and saw the British Union Jack under which I had been sitting and it was then that I realised that my poor country, India, did not even have a flag of her own - and it was this that triggered off my complete breakdown.

C.V. Raman

I have never seen anyone who enjoyed science so much. The sheer joy of seeing things and doing science filled him with exuberance and excitement. He had an incredible zest for life. He enjoyed his food, his jokes, his fights and quarrels. Yet the enjoyment he had for his science was something apart. In this pursuit it was as if his ego disappeared completely in the presence of effulgent Nature. Yes, he was truly lost in the wonder and beauty of what he was trying to comprehend.

S. Ramaseshan on C.V. Raman (quoted from C.V. Raman : A Pictorial Biography, Indian Academy of Sciences Bangalore)


Many people know Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (more popularly known as C.V. Raman) because he was the first Indian Nobel Laureate in science. Till date Raman remains the only Indian to receive a Nobel Prize in science. There are two Indian-born scientists viz., Har Gobind Khorana and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (who became US citizens) got Nobel Prizes in science.

Raman was also the first Asian to get Nobel Prize in science. Raman's celebrated discovery, the Raman Effect, experimentally demonstrated that the light-quanta and molecules do exchange energy which manifests itself as a change in the colour of the scattered light. However, this phenomenon was earlier predicted theoretically by Hendrik Anthony Kramers (1894-1952) and Werner Heisenberg (1901-76). It was the most convincing proof of quantum theory of light. This does not diminishes the importantce of Raman's discovery. As Albert Einstein (1879-1955) wrote : "C.V. Raman was the first to recognize and demonstrate that the energy of photon can undergo partial transformation within matter. I still recall vividly the deep impression that this discovery made on all of us…."

Raman's interests in science were wide, from astronomy and meteorology to physiology. 'Raman published 475 research papers and wrote five remarkable monographs on topics so varied that one's mind boggles'.

Raman made many major scientific discoveries in acoustics, ultrasonic, optics, magnetism and crystal physics. Raman's works on the musical drums of India was epoch-making and it revealed the acoustical knowledge of the ancient Hindus. It may be noted here that it was Pythagoras who first formulated what makes a sound musical to the human ear.

On the occasion of awarding the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society of London, Lord Rutherford (1871-1937) commented on Raman's scientific achievements as follows: "Sir Venkata Raman is one of the leading authorities in optics, in particular on the phenomenon of the scattering of light. In this connexion, about three years ago, he discovered that the light's colour could be changed by scattering. This had been predicted some time before, but inspite of search the change had not been found. The `Raman effect' must rank among the best three or four discoveries in experimental physics in the last decade; it has proved and will prove (to be) an instrument of great power in the study of the theory of solids. In addition to important contributions in many fields of knowledge, he (Raman) has developed an active school of research in physical sciences in the University of Calcutta".

Raman developed a vibrant and excellent school of physics. He established the Indian Academy of Sciences Bangalore (1934) and the Raman Research Institute (1948).

Raman deserves to be remembered not only for his towering scientific accomplishment but also for his indomitable will. Raman was a staunch patriot and he had great faith in India's potential for progress. He excelled under the most adverse circumstances. Raman was a great populariser of science. "He was perhaps the greatest salesman science has ever had in this country", says S. Ramaseshan, a pioneer of X-ray crystallography in India and a nephew of Raman. During his popular science lectures (or `performances' as Raman called them) Raman held his audience spellbound. His lectures were always accompanied by lively demonstrations. Raman had a deep sense of humour. According to Ramaseshan, the popular science lectures of Raman were so gripping because, "He talked only of those things about which he felt intensely or those things which he understood well or wanted to understand better. He brought out things in their simplest and their most basic elements. He made his audiences feel that they had seen it all too." Raman was a lecturer par excellence. Even his critics had to agree on this point. Throughout his life Raman lectured. He lectured to diverse audiences. However, he was at his best when he delivered popular science lectures. Raman also gave radio talks. The texts of his nineteen radio talks were brought out in a book form. The book was titled The New Physics: Talks on Aspects of Sciences and it was published by the Philosophical Library of New York. The topics covered by Raman ranged from the microscopic world of atoms to the universe itself. The quality of Raman's lectures can be guessed from what Francis Low, a distinguished theoretical physicist then working at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, wrote in the introduction to this book : "Physics by its very nature requires extreme specialization on the part of its students. Its conclusions, which must eventually predict numbers for the results of actual measurements, are best expressed in mathematical formulae. This has the disadvantage of making the subject well-nigh unintelligible to the layman. There are unfortunately few teachers who are able to surmount this handicap. Professor Raman has written a book which avoids this pitfall and thus should give the lay reader an opportunity of penetrating at least part of the way into the mysteries of this interesting and important science".

Raman believed in excellence per se. He never compromised on quality and he firmly believed that if India was to make any economic advance it could only be based on such excellence. He had a great fascination for art and music. He was not confined to a particular narrow speciality. He believed that `real fundamental progress is always due to those who had ignored the boundaries of science and who treated science as a whole.'

raman's father
R. Chandrasekhar Iyer (Raman's Father)
raman's  mother
Parvathi Ammal(Raman's mother)

Raman was a very simple man. He was also a supreme egotist. But then in private conversation he often showed utmost humility. He was a man of emotion. He never bothered to suppress his feelings. He could get violently angry. He hurt many. He feared no authority. On some occasions he publicly wept like a child. Raman had "all-too-human" drawbacks in abundance. But then he was an excellent physicist and totally devoted to the pursuit of science.

C. V. Raman was born on 7 November 1888 in his maternal grandfather's house, in a small village of Thiruvanaikaval near Tiruchirapalli (Trichonopoly in those days), on the bank's of Kaveri in Tamil Nadu. Raman's maternal grandfather Saptarshi Sastri was a great Sanskrit scholar, who in his younger days travelled on foot to distant Bengal (over 2000 km away) to learn navya nyaya (modern logic).

Raman's parents were R. Chandrasekhara Iyer and Parvathi Ammal. Raman's father, who initially taught in a local school for many years and later became a lecturer in mathematics and physics in Mrs. A.V. Narasimha Rao College, Vishakapatnam (then Vizagapatnam) in Andhra Pradesh. Raman passed his matriculation examination at the age of 11 and he passed his F.A. examination (equivalent to today's Intermediate) with a scholarship at 13. In 1903 Raman joined the Presidency College in Chennai (then Madras) from where he passed the B.A. (1904) and M.A. (1907) examinations. He stood first both in B.A. and M.A. examinations and won all the prizes available. To get some idea we quote here Raman himself.

Raman and S Chandrasekhar. Lalitha Chandrasekhar is partly seen

Raman wrote :
" I finished my school and college career and my university examination at the age of eighteen. In this short span of years had been compressed the study of four languages and of a great variety of diverse subjects, in several cases up to the highest university standards. A list of all the volumes I had to study would be terrifying length. Did these books influence me? Yes, in the narrow sense of making me tolerably familiar with subjects of so diverse as Ancient Greek and Roman History, Modern Indian and European History, Formal Logic, Economics, Monetary Theory and Public Finance, the late Sanskrit writers and minor English authors, to say nothing of physiography, chemistry and dozen branches of Pure and Applied Mathematics, and of Experimental and Theoretical Physics. But out of this welter of subjects and books, can I pick out anything really to mould my mental and spiritual outlook and determine my chosen path in life? Yes I can and I shall mention three books.

A purposeful life needs an axis or hinge to which it is firmly fixed and yet around which it can freely revolve. As I see it, this axis or hinge has been, in my own case, strongly enough, not the love of science, not even the love of Nature but a certain abstract idealism or belief in the value of the human spirit and the virtue of human endeavour and achievement. The nearest point to which I can trace this source of idealism in my recollection of reading Edwin Arnold's great book, The Light of Asia. I remember being powerfully moved by the story of Siddhartah's great renunciation, of his search for truth and of his final enlightenment.

The next set of books that I have to mention is one of the most remarkable works of all time, namely, The Elements of Euclid. Familiarity with some parts of Euclid and a certain dislike of its formalism have dethroned this great work from the apparently unassailable position which it occupied in the esteem of the learned world for an almost incredibly long period of time. Indeed, my own early reactions to the compulsory study of Euclid were anything but favourable… Not until many years later however, did I fully appreciate the central position of Geometry in relation to all natural knowledge. I can illustrate this relationship by a thousand examples but will content myself with remarking that every mineral found in Nature, every crystal made by man, every leaf, flower or fruit that we see growing, every living thing from the smallest to the largest that walks on earth, flies in the air or swims in the water or lives deep down on the ocean floor, speaks aloud of the fundamental role of geometry in Nature.

The pages of Euclid are like the opening bars of the music of the Grand Opera of Nature's great drama. So to say, they lift the veil and show to our vision a glimpse of a vast world of natural knowledge awaiting study.

Of all the great names in the world of learning that have come down to us from the remote past, that of Archimedes, by common consent, occupies the foremost place. Speaking of the modern world, the supremost figure in my judgment is that of Hermann von Helmholtz. In the range and depth of his knowledge, in the clearness and profundity of his scientific vision, he easily transcended all other names I could mention, even including Isaac Newton. Rightly he has been described as the intellectual colossus of the nineteenth century. It was my great good fortune, while I was still a student at College, to have possessed a copy of an English translation of his great work The Sensations of Tone. As is well-known, this was one of Helmholtz's masterpieces. It treats the subjects of music and musical instruments not only with profound knowledge and insight, but also with extreme clarity of language and expression." While Raman was a student, he independently undertook original investigations in acoustics and optics. Raman was the first student of the Madras Presidency College to get a research paper published, that too in a prestigious international journal. His first paper on 'unsymmetrical diffraction bands due to a rectangular aperture' was published in the Philosophical Magazine (London) in November 1906. This was the result of Raman's measuring the angles of a prism using an ordinary spectrometer in his college. This was followed by a note in the same journal on a new experimental method of measuring surface tension. Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919) took note of the papers published by Raman as a student. Rayleigh was an outstanding mathematical physicist and a good experimenter, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of argon. Raman and Rayleigh exchanged some correspondence. It is interesting to note that Lord Rayleigh addressed Raman as Professor.

Raman showing diamonds to J.D.Bernal

Raman and R.A.Millikan

Though Raman proved his brilliance in scientific investigations but as were the norms of those days he was not encouraged to take up science as a career. At the instance of his father Raman took the Financial Civil Service (FCS) examination. He stood first in the examination and in the middle of 1907 Raman proceeded to Kolkata (then Calcutta) to join the Indian Finance Department as Assistant Accountant General. He was then 18½ years old. His starting salary was Rs. 400 per month, a fabulous sum in those days. At that point of time perhaps nobody would have even dreamt that Raman would again venture into the pursuits of science. Raman's prospects in the Government service were too lucrative. And during those days opportunities for doing research were rare. But then one day while going to office Raman saw a signboard with the words "Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science" written on it. The address was 210, Bowbazar Street. On his way back he came to the Association where he first met an individual named Ashutosh Dey (Ashu Babu) who was to be Raman's assistant for 25 years. Ashu Babu took Raman to the Honorary Secretary of the Association, Amrit Lal Sircar, who was overjoyed when he came to know about Raman's intention -- to do research at the Association's laboratory. Amrit Lal had reason to be overjoyed because it was his father Mahendra Lal Sircar (1833-1904), a man of vision, who established the Association in 1876. This Association happened to be the first institute to be established in India solely for carrying out scientific investigations.

Mahendra Lal Sircar

Mahendra Lal Sircar, who took the MD degree in 1863, was appointed a Fellow of the Calcutta University in 1870 and Sheriff of Calcutta in 1887. He was also a member of the Bengal Legislative Council from 1887 to 1893 and was associated with many learned societies of Kolkata. Mahendra Lal was a staunch patriot and his interest ranged beyond medicine. Being a visionary he had visualised that many problems faced by the country could only be solved by the application of modern science. Mahendra Lal had shown a great foresight by realising that 'science would never strike a deep root in this country through the process of its introduction in the educational curriculum alone.' To realise his dreams Mahendra Lal founded the Association. Mahendra Lal stated the objective of the Association as follows: "The object of the Association is to enable the Natives of India to Cultivate Science in all its departments with a view to its advancement by original research and (as it will necessarily follow) with a view to its varied applications to arts and comforts of life." At the beginning the major activity of the Association was to organise popular science lectures by well-known scholars and scientists. The Association had built a Laboratory in 1891 with the generous donation by the Maharaja of Vizianagram. However, during Mahendra Lal's lifetime nobody came forward to do research under the aegis of the Association. Mahendra Lal was dismayed by the apathy of Indians towards the cultivation of science. A few weeks before his death Mahendra Lal had stated his wish in the following words : "Younger men must come and step into my place and make this into a great institution." So when Amrit Lal Sircar saw Raman, perhaps he felt that he (Raman) would realise his father's dream. And as we know today Raman indeed realised Mahendra Lal Sircar's dream.

It was not an easy task. Till 1917 Raman continued his research at the Association in his spare time. Doing research in his spare time and that too with very limited facilities Raman could publish his research findings in leading international journals like Nature, The Philosophical Magazine and Physics Review. During this period he published 30 original research papers. His research carried during this period mainly centred on areas of vibrations and acoustics. He studied a number of musical instruments viz., ectara, violin, tambura, veena, mridangam, tabla etc. He published a monograph on his extensive studies on the violin. The monograph was titled 'On the Mechanical Theory of Vibrations of Musical Instruments of the Violin Family with Experimental Verifications of the Results Part- I'. During this period Ashu Babu, who never entered the portals of a university, was his only collaborator. This did not prevent Ashu Babu from becoming a joint author in many papers that Raman published. Even Ashu Babu was the sole author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. It was in 1919 Raman took research students for the first time.

Amrit Lal Sircar

Ashutosh Dey

There was an interruption to Raman's work at the Association. He was transferred to Rangoon (1909) and Nagpur (1910). However, Raman's research work was not completely stopped. At both places he converted his home into a laboratory and continued his work. He came back to Calcutta in 1911.

In 1917 Raman was invited by Asutosh Mookerjee (1864-1924), to be a professor in the newly established Science College. Mookerjee, who was a judge of the Calcutta High Court for twenty years, was a great educationist and jurist of his time. On being appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University he not only started a post-graduate department for various disciplines of science but he also persuaded people to create endowment Professorships. Raman was offered the Palit Professorship in Physics. The salary for the professorship was about half the amount that Raman was getting in the Finance Department. Moreover, Raman was successful as a Finance Officer. In fact the Finance Department was reluctant to let him go. Thus the Member (Finance) of the Viceroy's Council wrote : "We find Vankataraman is most useful in the Finance Department being, in fact, one of our best men". However, Raman happily accepted the offer. He joined the Calcutta University as Palit Professor in July 1917. That Asutosh Mookerjee was touched by Raman's total devotion to science is obvious from his following remarks: "For the Chair of Physics created by Sir Taraknath Palit, we have been fortunate enough to secure the services of Mr. Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, who has greatly distinguished himself and acquired a European fame by his brilliant research in the domain of Physical Science, assiduously carried on under the most adverse circumstances amidst the distraction of pressing official duties. I rejoice to think that many of these valuable researches have been carried on in the laboratory of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, founded by our late illustrious colleague, Dr. Mahandra Lal Sircar, who devoted a lifetime to the foundation of an institution for the cultivation and advancement of science in this country. I should fail in my duty if I were to restrain myself in my expression of genuine admiration I feel for the courage and spirit of self-sacrifice with which Mr. Raman had decided to exchange a lucrative official appointment with attractive prospects, for a University Professorship, which, I regret to say, does not carry even liberal emoluments. This one instance encourages me to entertain the hope that there will be no lack of seeker after truth in the Temple of Knowledge which it is our ambition to erect."

Asutosh Mookerjee

Asutosh Mookerjee had to change the provision of the endowment before appointing Raman. Because one of the requirements, for appointment to the Palit Chair was to have been trained abroad. But Raman refused to go abroad to be 'trained'. The terms of Raman's appointment as the Palit Professor did not entail any teaching responsibilities. His duties were :

  • to devote himself to original research in his subject to extend the bounds of knowledge
  • to stimulate and guide research by students; and
  • to supervise the laboratory in the College of Science.

Though he was free from teaching responsibility but Raman, being a born-teacher, could not be away from the class room. He took a prominent part in MSc teaching. Here we quote L.A. Ramdas, one of his students : "Prof. Raman took `Electricity and Magnetism' in the year 1920-21 and `Physical optics' in 1921-22. Both sets of MSc students felt that they were indeed listening to a type of inspired teaching to which was brought all the original flavours and excitement of the past…. We shared with him much of excitement and superb thrill that Banjamin Franklin, Oersted, Arago, Gauss, Faraday, Maxwell, Hertz, Lord Kelvin and many others must have felt while they were making their actual discoveries… Often he used to take the entire forenoon, for 2 and sometimes even 3 hours - such was his tremendous love of teaching….And after each lecture we used spontaneously to look up original papers and treatises like Maxwell's Electricity and Magnetism, J.J. Thomson's Conduction of Electricity, Faraday's Experimental Researches, Lord Raylegh's and Kelvin's Collected Papers, and so farther".

Even after joining the Calcutta University Raman was allowed to continue his work at the Association's Laboratories. In fact the Association became the research arm of the University. Following the death of Amrit Lal Sircar in 1919 Raman was elected as Honorary Secretary of the Association, the post he held till 1933, when he left Kolkata. It was not that Raman was very willing to leave Kolkata. His exit was the result of the clash between him and Meghnad Saha, another great personality of Indian Science. Raman was voted out of the Honorary Secretaryship of the Association. It was certainly a moment of bitter humiliation for Raman and it was more so because he had himalayan ego. And so he decided to take up the pending invitation from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, to become its Director. He was the first Indian to become its Director. Raman succeeded Sir Martin Forster, FRS. He served IISc both as its Director (1933-1937) and head of the Physics Department (1933-1948).

Science College Calcutta

When Raman joined IISc its academic accomplishments were not very high. Its funding position was much better than Calcutta University where Raman was working. Raman brought out the following changes:

  • A new physics department came into existence
  • Some of the existing departments were reorganised
  • Steps were initiated to establish a central workshop for fabricating precision instruments.
  • The surroundings were improved by planting beautiful flowering gardens.

For achieving academic excellence he himself gathered a team of talented students and started doing high quality research in many fields of physics. Raman also wanted to initiate basic research in fields like quantum mechanics, crystal chemistry and vitamins and enzyme chemistry by recruiting outstanding faculty. At that point of time many reputed scientists were forced to leave Germany because of Hitler's racist policy. Raman wanted to bring some of these scientists to IISc. Raman had many names on his list, both foreign and Indian'. However, he was only successful in bringing Max Born, that too for a short time.

Niels Bohr and Raman

The Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore

Some of the Raman's moves were opposed by the existing staff. In fact Raman's moves to reorganize some of the existing departments and the Institute's workshops led to the resignation of two professors -- the Professor of Chemistry (Prof. Watson) and the Professor of Electrical Engineering (Prof. Modawalla). Raman's act of reapportioning the Institute's budget to aid the newly established physics department invited charges of embezzlement. He was accused of patronizing the physics department at the cost of other departments. His attempt to keep Max Born in the institute was also not liked by many. As time passed Raman found himself increasingly in isolation. Seeing the growing turmoil in the campus, the Council, the body charged with overseeing the management of the Institute, recommended to the Visitor (then Viceroy of British India) in July 1935 to appoint a Review Committee to review the Institute's affairs. The Committee, the appointment of which was formarlly announced on January 19, 1936, consisted of Sir James Irvin, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of St. Endrews University, Dr. A . H. Mackenzie, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Osmania University and Dr. S.S. Bhatnagar, then Professor of Chemistry at the Punjab University at Lahore. Irvin was to head the Committee. The Committee in its Report to the Viceroy submitted in May 1936 more or less reaffimed the accusations made against Raman. The Report stated : "Making full allowance for possible exaggeration, we greatly fear that there is much truth in these allegations. The resignations of Professor Watson and Professor Modawalla can now be readily understood". According to the Irvin Committee Report, Raman was guilty not only of administrative irregularities, but of financial lapses as well. The Committee branded Raman inimical to applied science. Besides castigating Raman, the Committee also proposed measures to curtail the powers of the Director. For example the Committee suggested that the budget be processed "through no fewer than four bodies in succession before it is finally sanctioned." Raman's warning that "it would place insuperable obstacles in the path of progressive administration such as is essential for success of a scientific institution" went unheeded. The Council endorsed the Report of Irvin Committee and the friction between the management of the Institute and Raman continued to grow. Finally the situation became such that there was no alternative for Raman other than to resign the Directorship of the Institute. In fact he was asked to resign or face action. However, he remained in IISc as Professor of Physics. Raman retired as Professor from the Institute in 1948.

Raman and Rajendra Prasad

After retirement from the Institute he concentrated his attention in building an institute of his own - the Raman Research Institute (RRI). Even before his retirement Raman had started to build an institute where he could retire and enjoy science. To quote Raman : "You know, I was to retire at 60. So two years before my retirement I started building this institute so that on the day I retired I took my bag and walked right into this institute. I can not remain idle for a single day". Raman had to gather money for building the Institute. Raman had lost most of his life's savings including his Nobel Prize money in an investment. The Institute was built on a ten acre plot of land gifted by the Maharajah of Mysore way back in 1934 the land of given to the Indian Academy of Sciences, and for its related activities. Raman traveled extensively for raising donation for constructing the building for housing the institute. When Raman moved to the institute the facilities were far from complete. Raman was opposed to the idea of taking grants from the government for running the institute. To earn money for the institute he started a few chemical industries (in association with one of his former students). The dividends from these industries were sufficient to support the institute to start with. He gifted away most of his personal properties to the Academy for the benefit of the institute, as also the Lenin Peace Prize money. A museum was built to house Raman's collection of crystals, gems, minerals, rock specimens, shells, stuffed birds, butterflies and so on. Raman had fascination for colours and so he collected everything that had colours.

Raman with Jawaharlal Nehru

The Indian Academy of Sciences Bangalore, which now publishes some of the best science journals in the country, was established by Raman. The Academy was formed on April 27, 1934. It was registered in Bangalore under the Societies Registration Act. Besides Raman, there were 160 Foundation Fellows. The inaugural meeting of the Academy was held in the campus of Indian Institute of Science in August 1934. The best scientists from all over India were elected to the Raman's Academy. Commenting on the composition of the Academy Raman, in his address at the first annual meeting, observed : "Our list of Fellows is also representative of all parts of India. Bombay heads the list with 38 Fellows closely followed by Madras Presidency with 35, and Mysore State with 33 . Other provinces are also well represented. We have 21 Fellows in the United Provinces, 13 from Punjab, 11 from Bengal, 8 from Central Provinces; Bihar, Orissa, Hyderabad, Travancore and Burma are also represented in our list."

The objectives of the Academy were:

i) to hold meetings for discussing the results of research;

ii) to hold symposia on special subjects and

iii) to publish the proceedings.

Unlike in other countries India has three Science Academies. Raman formed the Academy on his own. The need for an Academy was first highlighted by Raman in his editorial in Current Science published in May 1933. Raman wrote : "The conviction that research is civilization and determines the economic, social and political development of a nation has not yet been unreservedly accepted as part of the administrative policy of India, and we are disposed to ascribe the tardy and perhaps unwilling recognition of this fundamental fact to the absence of an all-India scientific organisation whose function would be to concentrate enlightened public opinion on the doctrine that science is material and spiritual wealth….. It seems to us that early establishment of a National Academy of Science would secure closer and better organised co-operation of activities among all research institutes in India and exercise through its official journal a wider influence for the consolidation and promotion of the best interests of science." Raman further wrote : "While the foundation of the scientific reputation of a country is established by the quality of work produced in its institutions the superstructure is reared by the national journals which proclaim their best achievements to the rest of the world". After writing the editorial Raman circulated a questionnaire among the Indian scientists to ascertain their views. The idea of an Academy proposed by Raman was discussed in the 1934 Session of Indian Science Congress presided over by M.N. Saha, who supported the idea and proposed Royal Society of London as a model. After discussing the matter in a General Committee, it was referred to an Academic Committee consisting of 25 members including Raman. However, when the Academic Committee could not take a quick decision Raman resigned from the Committee and formed an Academy on his own.

Krishnraja Wodeyar the Maharaja of Mysore

The National Institute of Sciences came into existence on January 3, 1935. Its inaugural meeting was held in Calcutta on January 7, 1935. It functioned in Calcutta till 1946 when it moved to New Delhi. Its name was changed to Indian National Science Academy in 1970. The idea behind establishing the National Institute of Sciences was not just to form just another Academy but to form a co-coordinating body. Thus in its inaugural meeting, Lewis L. Fermor, the first President of the National Institute of Sciences said :

"During the past year the word Academy has been much before us… It seems desirable, therefore, that we should first enquire what the word Academy means. It will surprise most of you to learn that the first Academy was a pleasure garden in Athens which is supposed to have belonged to an ancient Attic hero named Academus ….In this garden the Greek philosopher Plato taught for nearly 50 years; and the Academy thus started lasted from the days of Plato to those of Cicero, that is, for over 300 years…. While Academies, if we go to the original meaning, must, therefore, function locally or regionally in the most important portion of their activities, they can also legitimately make a wider appeal… When in 1933 the proposal was mooted to found an Indian Academy of Sciences, some of us overlooked the fact that there were already two such academies in existence -- one called the Asiatic Society of Bengal and the other of the United Provinces Academy of Sciences. The proposal, therefore, to found a third Indian Academy…logically meant either the creation of a fresh garden in another part of India, or of a body to co-ordinate the already existing gardens. Our friends in Bangalore knew all the time that they needed a Society of Academy status with its headquarters in Bangalore. Had they boldly said so at the beginning, the confusion that has arisen in scientific circles during the past year would have been avoided, because it is obviously correct that southern India should have its own philosopher's garden. However, Bangalore did not do this …Object as we may to the manner in which our Bangalore friends cut adrift…we… welcome the Indian Academy of Sciences found at Bangalore….But we still need a co-ordination body and that is why it is necessary to found the National Institute". The National Institute of Sciences had 125 Foundation Fellows including Raman.

Raman with some of his associates
Sitting (left to right) : V.S. Tamma, S.K. Banerji, C.V. Raman, N.K. Sur and N.K. Sethi. Standing (left to right) : K. Seshagiri Rao, Bidhubhushan Roy, Lala Govardhan Lal Dutta, Durgadas Banerjee, Y. Venkatramayya, Panchanan Das and Ashutosh Dey. Squatting on the lawn (left to right) L.A. Ramdas and Sunderaraman

Raman with some of his associates
Sitting (left to right) : A.S. Ganesan, L.A. Ramdas, K.S. Krishnan, C.V. Raman, K.R. Ramanathan, S. Venkateswaran, S.S. Moorthy Rao. Standing (left to right) : C. Ramaswamy, S. Bhagavantam, S. Paramasivan, Sreenivasa Rao, N.S. Nagendranath, R. Ananthakrishnan and C.S. Venkateswaran

The United Provinces Academy of Sciences was founded at Allahabad in 1930. It has now been renamed National Academy of Sciences Allahabad.

The journal Current Science, the most visible journal of the Indian Academy of Science Banglore was launched even before the formation of the Academy. It was founded as a result of resolution passed at a special meeting held during the Session of the Indian Science Congress in Bangalore in 1931. The Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences also started in 1934. Its objective was `to provide all scientific men with an opportunity of obtaining at least a general idea of what is being done in India in fields of knowledge other than their own specialty. However, as the amount of published matter grew rapidly the Proceedings was separated into a number of theme journals - viz., Proceedings - Chemical Sciences, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Animal Sciences, Plant Sciences and Engineering Sciences (later renamed as Sadhana). The other journals published by the Academy are : Pramanan-Journal of Physics, Bulletin of Materials Science, Journal of Biosciences, Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Journal of Genetics and Resonance : Journal of Science Education. It may be noted here that the Journal of Genetics was founded by William Bateson in 1910 in England. Subsequently the journal was brought to India by J.B.S Haldane. However, the journal ceased its publication in 1977. Later it was revived by the Academy.

Raman with Wolfgang Pauli

Raman and Werner Heisenberg(right)

The Academy has instituted a prestigious Raman Professorship. It has started a scheme of Young Associateship to provide opportunity for outstanding young scientists to be associated with the Fellows of the Academy. Since the days of Raman, the Academy continues to sponsor symposia and discussions. Raman was of the view that science alone could solve India's problems. He said: "There is only one solution for India's economic problems and that is science and more science." But then Raman insisted that India should not be dependent on others for ideas. India is capable of tackling her own problems. He said: "In the past, India had shown her greatness in the fields of scholarship, philosophy and science but today, we are helplessly dependent on Western countries for knowledge of science. India should not be a camp-follower but a leader in science. It is no use getting our ideas from the west. We have to think out our problems and find the solutions to them."

Raman with Zakir Hussain

However, Indians need to be convinced of their strength. While once addressing young people Raman said : "I would like to tell the young men and women before me not to lose hope and courage. Success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you and there is nothing worth in this world that can come without the sweat of our brow. I can assert without fear of contradiction that the quality of the Indian mind is equal to the quality of any Teutonic, Nordic or Anglo-saxon mind. What we lack is perhaps courage, what we lack is perhaps driving force which takes one anywhere. We have, I think, developed an inferiority complex. I think what is needed in India today is the destruction of that defeatist spirit. We need a spirit of victory, a spirit that would carry us to our rightful place under the sun, a spirit which will recognize that we, as inheritors of a proud civilization, are entitled to a rightful place on this planet. If that indomitable spirit were to arise, nothing can hold us from achieving our rightful destiny."

He believed that the future of any country rests with its accumulated knowledge and younger generation. He observed: "If you ask me what is the greatest industry of a Nation--the key industry--I have no hesitation in saying that it is the production and diffusion of knowledge...There is no nobler work for a man or an institution than to bring up a young generation in health and strength and in the vigour of intellectual and physical activity."

Raman with Mahatma Gandhi and Mahadeo Desai

Loksundari with Kasturba Gandhi

Raman had a holistic view of science. He thought nature is the best teacher. He said: "What is science in the last analysis but the study and the love of nature, displayed not in the form of abstract worship but in the practical form of seeking to understand nature?" Further he said: "One aspect of Indian culture was its profound understanding of Nature. Much of India's philosophy related itself to the understanding of the rationale and the meaning of the phenomena of Nature." Raman had displayed great faith in Mahatma Gandhi's ideas. He remarked: "Each textbook must contain as frontispiece a portrait of Gandhiji and there must be lessons containing the sermons of Gandhiji from Sabarmati to Birla House. This would be the best and the most potent way of offering homage to the memory of the world's greatest man and the Father of the Indian Nation, and is better than building memorials and erecting statues." Further he said: "His (Gandhiji's) teachings stressed the supreme virtue of the human spirit, utterly indestructible and unconquerable. India can never hope to find a place in the sun, unless it upholds the value of the human spirit." In the honour of Gandhiji he instituted the Gandhi Memorial Lecture in the Raman Research Institute. Till his death Raman never failed to deliver this lecture. Raman's wife Lokasundari was well-known to Kasturba Gandhi.

Raman strongly espoused the cause of women. He once said: "I have a feeling that if the women of India take to science and interest themselves in the progress and advance of science as well, they will achieve what even men have failed to do. Women have one quality--the quality of devotion. It is one of the most important passports to success in science. Let us therefore not imagine that intellect is a sole prerogative of males only in science."

Raman and AH Compton(centre)

The tree planted on the site at the campus of Raman Research Institue where Raman was cremated

Raman had displayed his great leadership in institution building and training students. Raman made both the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science and the Physics Department of the Calcutta University vibrant and excellent centres of learning. His reputation attracted students from all corners of the country. Raman was among the founders of the Indian Science Congress, which was established in 1914 and served as its Secretary for several years and also became its President. He established the Indian Journal of Physics. During his stay for over fifteen years in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he established an excellent school of Physics and trained a band of first-rate physicists. As mentioned earlier in 1934 Raman established the Indian Academy of Science. Raman was elected Founder President of the Academy and remained so till his death.

He wanted that the scientists should not be concerned with their own research alone, they should also try to develop the scientific institutions, the edifice on which the superstructure of science can be built. He remarked: "While the foundation of the scientific reputation of a country is established by the quality of work produced in its institutions, the superstructure is reared by the national journals which proclaim their best achievements to the rest of the world. Manifestly the edifice of science in India is incomplete...It is true that the spirit of science and its service are international, but is it not also true that every nation has its own Academies, learned societies, magazines and journals? India will have to organize and develop her national scientific institutions before she can enter into the comity of international scientists."

He emphasised the importance of strengthening our universities. He said: "Let us try to make our universities the best--we should not be satisfied with anything less than the best. What will be the result? Instead of a great many of our young men going out of the country, they will remain here and strive to advance our reputation and that will make us strive for more and more good things."

C V Raman with Hideki Yukawa

Raman was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1924 in recognition of his outstanding researches in physical optics, molecular diffraction of light, X-ray scattering by liquids and a molecular anisotropy. It may be noted that Raman had resigned the Fellowship of the Royal Society. He was conferred a Knighthood by the British Government in 1929. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930. The Government of India awarded him the title of "Bharat Ratna" in 1954. The erstwhile Soviet Union honoured him with the International Lenin Prize in 1957. Some of the other awards/honours, received by Raman were: Mattencci Medal of the `Societe Italiana della Scienzia of Rome (1928); Hughes Medal of the Royal Society of London (1930) and Franklin Model of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia (1941).

Raman loved children and he derived immense pleasure in showing them his museum and the laboratories of the Raman Research Institute. He believed that "The true wealth of a Nation consists not in the stored-up gold in its coffers and banks, not in the factories, but in the intellectual and physical strength of its men, women and children."

Towards the end of his life Raman chose to make himself a recluse. He not only built high walls around the Raman Research Institute but also put up a prominent signboard announcing that visitors were not welcome. He was not at all happy the way the Government was trying to build up science and technology in the country. "To Raman, scientific activity was the fulfillment of an inner need. His approach to science was one of passion, curiosity and simplicity. It was an attempt to understand. To him science was based on independent thought. Combined with hard work, science was a personal endeavour, an aesthetic pursuit and above all a joyous experience." Raman believed that science can be promoted only by doing it. He did not see any role for professional organizers of science. "For such people" Raman thought "The So-called organization of science becomes more important than science itself or its values".

Raman died on November 21, 1970. As per his desire he was cremated in the gardens of his institute.

Further Reading

  1. G. Venkataraman. Journey Into Light : Life and Science of Raman. Indian Academy of Science : Bangalore, 1988. (Subsequently reprinted by Penguin Books India : New Delhi, 1994.

  2. C.V. Raman : A Pictorial Biography. Complied by S. Ramaseshan and C. Ramachandra Rao, Indian Academy of Sciences : Banglore, 1989.

  3. S.N. Sen. Prof. C.V. Raman : Scientific Work at Calcutta. Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science : Kolkata, 1988.

  4. Jegadish Mehra. Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman, In the Dictionay of Scientific Biography, Charles Coulson Gillispie, Ed. Charles Scribner's Sons : New York, 1975, Vol. 11, pp 264-267.

  5. Nobel Lectures (Physics) 1922-1941. Elsevier Publishing Company : New York 1965, pp 263-277.

  6. Sir C.V. Raman. The New Physics : Talks on the Aspects of Science. Philosophical Library : New York, 1951.

  7. James H. Hibben. The Raman Effect and Its Chemical Applications. Reinhold Publishing Company : New York 1939.

  8. Anthony T. Tu. Raman Spectroscopy in Biology. John Wiley & Sons : New York, 1982.

  9. A Century. Indian Association for the cultivation of Science : Kolkata, 1976.

  10. Subodh Mahanti. Kariamanikkam Srinivasa Krishnan. Dream-2047, January 2002 New Delhi. Some of the photograph reproduce in the article are taken from the publication listed at 1 and 9.