JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters


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On May 10, 1901, the hall of the Royal Society in London was packed with eminent scientists. They were watching Jagadish Chandra Bose conduct experiments to show that plants and metals have feelings.


Among several experiments he conducted was this one: A highly sensitive instrument-one of Bose’s inventions to record the “pulse” of plants-was connected to a plant. The plant, with its roots, was carefully picked up and dipped up to its stem in a vessel containing bromide, a poison. Bose looked expectantly at the light spot on a screen meant to indicate the pulse of the plant. So also did everyone else.


The plant’s pulse beat, which the spot recorded as a steady to-and-fro movement like the pendulum of a clock, began to grow unsteady. Soon, the spot vibrated violently and then came to a sudden stop. It was almost like a poisoned rat breathing heavily and jerking its legs and tail its struggle against death. The plant had died because of the poison.


The experiment was greeted with thunderous applause. However, some physiologists, who steady the processes that like place inside a living organism, were not happy. Not only was Bose, a physicist, an intruder into their field, but he had, by his experiments, upset the well-known theories of some eminent physiologists present there. They were critical of Bose’s conclusion that “plants and metals have life". They urged the Royal Society not to publish his lecture unless he made certain changes. Bose refused to make these changes and his experiments went unnoticed for a time. He was, however, not a person to accept defeat easily. He had acquired the quality to fight against odds from his childhood.


Born on November 30, 1858, at Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh, Bose was brought up in a home steeped in Indian tradition and culture. He used to read the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Karna, who struggled throughout his life to achieve success, inspired him. He thus came to believe that “true success is born out of defeat".


When he joined St. Xavier’s School in Calcutta, he found himself among European and Anglo-Indian boys. They were amused to have among them a village boy. One of them was a champion boxer, who tried to bully young Jagadish. One day, Jagadish, unable to tolerate the bullying any longer, took up the challenge. In the fight that followed Jagadish somehow won and gained the respect of his classmates. Thereafter, no one dared tease him.


In 1885, he returned from abroad with a B.Sc. degree and Natural Science Tripos. He was offered a lectureship at as Presidency Collage in Calcutta on a salary half that of his “white” colleagues. He accepted the job, but refused to draw his salary as a protest. After three years, when the collage principal, a Briton, found him to be a brilliant teacher, he conceded his demand. He was paid full salary from the date he joined the collage.


Bose had thus learned the hard way to fight for justice. So, when physiologists of the Royal Society criticized him, he took up the challenge. And he won. After two years of rigorous research the published a monograph, “Response in the Living and Non-living", which convinced the Royal Society that he was right. His lecture, which was earlier withheld from publication, was published and circulated all over the world. Bose became a world famous scientist. Research in the field of plant physiology was gradually taken up in various countries. Apart from several other honours, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920.


It was on his 36th birthday that Bose decided to devote himself to pure research. Oliver Lodge’s paper on Heinrich Hertz and his successors had inspired him so much that he began to conduct research on what is today known as “radio waves". Although he did not get any facility or money from the collage, he made the equipment he needed within three months and embarked upon his research. The training in metal turning and carpentry that he had received in his teens came in handy. Later, this very training enabled him to fabricate many sensitive instruments for plant studies.


Although Bose is more famous as a biologist, he was a great physicist as well. He can rightly be called the inventor of wireless telegraphy. In 1895, a year before Guglielmo Marconi patented this invention, he had demonstrated its functioning in public. He was the first to fabricate the device that generated microwaves-radio waves of very short wavelength. Also, he was the first to use these microwaves to understand the structure of materials. One of the devices he had fabricated, now called the “wave guide", forms an essential component of several sophisticated electronic and nuclear equipment.


Bose also fabricated a highly sensitive “coherer", the device that detects radio waves. In fact, it was thanks to his detailed research on it that he switched from physics to the steady of metals and then plants. He found that the sensitivity of the coherer decreased when it was used continuously for a long period. In other words, it became tired. And, indeed, when he gave the device some rest, it regained its sensitivity, which clearly indicated that metals have feelings and memory. The metals that are used daily, such as a knife, are not dead but unconscious, like a badly beaten man. They enter this state when they are heated and moulded.


Bose also invented several sensitive instruments. The most wonderful was the crescograph, an instrument to measure the rate of growth of a plant. How sensitive this instrument was can be imagined from the fact that it could measure plant growth that was 20,000 times less than snail’s speed.


Bose arrived at the conclusion that plants and metals have life on the basis of the electric nature of living things. When a part of the body feels pain, nerves carry electric signals from it to the brain for information. Similarly, when a hand is to be moved, the brain communicates the order to do so by an electric signal. So also the brain, muscles and heart in an animal function on electric signals. Bose showed experimentally that, though plants do not have a brain, muscles or heart, there are small cells in them which behave in the same manner. The only difference between the response of a plant and of an animal is of time. A plant takes a longer time to respond.


Although Bose did most of his experiments in Calcutta, not many of his countrymen recognized their importance. Notable exceptions were Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda. His work was applauded in the country only when the Western world recognized its importance.


Before Bose died on November 23, 1937, he founded the Bose Institute at Calcutta. It was then devoted mainly to the steady of plants. Today, research on several other related subjects is also in progress at the institute.