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Movies Every Physics Student Should Watch

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

Physics movies often make us wow due to the combined impact of scenery and music, technical detail and philosophical dialogue, futuristic lighting and a multitude of other special effects, that can't be found in run of the mill films. So, take a look at the following spoiler-free list of 20 science movies that everyone should watch in their lifetime.

Primer (IMDb 6.9)

This 2004 film is based on the physics of time. The principles of time travel in the film are inspired by Feynman diagrams in which there is no difference between watching an interaction happen forward or backward in time.

The film is so mind-bending that it makes Back To The Future look like a children's cartoon. It has deep philosophical implications and complex technical terminology in the dialogue which make us want to Google their meanings.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The film was written, directed, produced, edited and scored by Shane Carruth, who also is the protagonist of the story. In real life, he is a mathematics major (no surprises) who has previously worked as software developer before becoming a full-time filmmaker.

The Theory of Everything (IMDb 7.7)

This 2014 movie is less about physics and more about life. It is based on Professor Stephen Hawking who is played almost effortlessly by Eddie Redmayne. The film has multiple themes including science, love, life and religion. It is a beautiful mix of everything; you can watch on Amazon prime.

Hawking (IMDb 7.5)

Compared to The Theory of Everything, this 2004 film is a little less known. However, it has more substance to it than its successor. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Professor Stephen Hawking, the movie has more physics in it and less of philosophy.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The film has debates and arguments on the Steady State and the Big Bang theories which were part of Hawking's early years as a PhD student. Benedict received his first nomination for a BAFTA Award for his role in the film.

Infinity (IMDb 6.2)

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

This movie is based on the autobiography of Richard Feynman in which the Nobel Prize winning physicist has described his early childhood, his work during the second World War and his relationship with the love of his life, Arline Greenbaum. You can watch it on Amazon prime; it was released in 1996 starring Matthew Broderick and Patricia Arquette.

Copenhagen (IMDb 7.4)

This 2002 film is based on the chemistry between two genius physicists, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. It has actors Daniel Craig and Stephen Rea as Heisenberg and Bohr respectively.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The movie is quite serious as it is set against the backdrop of the second World War. It has a running time of 90 minutes followed by an epilogue by physicist Michio Kaku.

Interstellar (IMDb 8.6)

This 2014 epic science fiction film directed by Christopher Nolan is probably the most scientifically accurate film. It has a star cast of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon. Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was the executive producer of the film.

The film has portrayed the correct depiction of the Penrose Process which is a means by which energy can be extracted from a rotating black hole. It was widely praised by eminent scientists such as Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson; watch it on Amazon prime.

Coherence (IMDb 7.2)

This is a science fiction thriller movie which is based on the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It has the idea of multiple realities in a single location. The film was released in 2013 starring Emily Baldoni in the lead role.

Einstein and Eddington (IMDb 7.3)

This is a British drama movie based on the friendship of Albert Einstein and Arthur Eddington and their groundbreaking work on the theory of general relativity.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The film has David Tennant and Andy Serkis as Eddington and Einstein respectively. It is a story about the pursuit of truth against a background of war, violence, nationalism, subterfuge, and prejudice.

Predestination (IMDb 7.5)

This is not just another time travel movie: if you want your mind to be blown, then this is the one to watch. The entirety of the film is full of twists and turns and the ending is absolutely jaw-dropping. It has Ethan Hawke in the lead role.

A Serious Man (IMDb 7)

This 2009 comedy movie is fully based on the concept of Schrödinger's cat. The idea is simple: if you place a cat and something which could kill the cat in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box so that until the box was opened, the cat was, in some sense, both "dead and alive".

Contact (IMDb 7.4)

This film is based on the prize winning novel written by Carl Sagan. It is the story of a radio astronomer who has found strong evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

It has Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in the lead roles. The film has been described as the most accurate cinematic study of alien life.

2001: A Space Odyssey (IMDb 8.3)

This movie was released way back in 1968 but it is on par with Interstellar due to its stunning ahead of the time special effects for which it even received an Oscar. The main theme of the film was artificial evolution of intelligence: from tool-making ancestors to sentient machines in the future.

Gravity (IMDb 7.7)

This film is the winner of seven academy awards; starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It is the story of astronauts who are stranded in space after mid orbit destruction of their Space Shuttle and attempt to return to Earth. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

Flatland: The Movie (IMDb 6.9)

Flatland is a romance of many dimensions. It is an animated movie with a voice cast of Martin Sheen, Kristen Bell and Tony Hale. Based on the 1884 novel written by Edwin Abbott; it is a combination of science, maths and philosophy.

October Sky (IMDb 7.8)

Released in 1999 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern, this is a film about a coal miner's son who wants to become a NASA engineer, against his father's wishes. The good thing is that the story is based on real events, which is why, the movie is deeply motivational, especially for young, growing minds.

physics movies list

Back To The Future (IMDb 8.5)

This is probably the best science fiction comedy of all time. The theme is time travel and its bizarre implications such as the grandfather paradox. The movie was released in 1985, has Michael J. Fox in the lead, and earned a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

The Martian (IMDb 8)

It is the story of an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars after his team members assume him dead. He must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, this is one of the most scientifically accurate films.

Marie Curie: More Than Meets The Eye (IMDb 7.5)

This is a movie on the life of Marie Curie who is remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium and her contributions to finding treatment for cancer. The film is set amidst the backdrop of world war starring Kate Trotter as Marie Curie.

Particle Fever (IMDb 7.4)

This 100 minute film is a story of the large hadron collider at CERN and its discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in 2012. Particle fever is so well made that you don't have to be a physics student to enjoy it.

Apollo 13 (IMDb 7.6)

This film was released in 1995 starring Tom Hanks as Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell. Based on a true story; nominated for nine academy awards; most technically accurate film because it was executed by NASA engineers and actors took a crash course in physics.

10 Recommended Books For Physics Students

best physics book beginner 10 recommended physics books india

The following is a complete (all-you-need) list of books that every physics student has to have in their library at home. From popular science best-sellers, to comprehensive guides and textbooks, this has it all. Want to study physics? Then read these books!

A brief history of time

Hawking wrote the book for non-specialist readers with no prior knowledge of physics and astronomy. He clearly possessed a natural teacher's gifts: easy good-natured humour and ability to illustrate the complexities of the subject through well thought out analogies.

The book has sold more than 10 million copies in 20 years, and was translated into more than 30 languages by 2001. You may like to know: what makes it everyone's favorite? There are many, many things, including:

  • A concise introduction by renowned astronomer, Carl Sagan, who declares Hawking a worthy successor of Newton and Dirac
  • A whole range of topics (from the big bang to black holes) makes it the single best book on astrophysics for the common reader
    10 recommended physics books india
  • Illustrations by award-winning artist, Ron Miller, add to the beauty and mystery of science
  • Mix of history and philosophy of physics and narration by Stephen Hawking

All in all, the book is a masterpiece, suggested to anyone who's driven by their curiosity. It infuses our thinking and questioning with a spiritual aspect: was there a beginning of time? why there's something rather than nothing? is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? and, is there a god required to create it?

Feynman lectures Vol.1

Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman, has often been called "the great explainer", particularly because of this book, which is held in high regard, especially by teachers, and even by leading physicists of the current times.

There are 52 chapters in the first Feynman book alone, and each topic has been presented with unwavering enthusiasm and insight. The book is based on a series of lectures delivered by Feynman (on the request of California Institute of Technology) to undergraduate students. Even professors attended the lectures!

The Feynman lectures on physics are beautiful books, which will teach you a considerable amount of the long-view of physics. They will also inspire you and have you feeling as though you really understand physics for the first time in your life. Mainly mechanics, radiation and heat is recommended for the start.

Mathematical Methods

What is physics without maths? Plain observation, to be honest! Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to get yourself familiar with mathematical methods in order for you to translate the physical reality into concrete concepts and language. There are hundreds of books available but none of them as good as this one:

What makes it stand out from the crowd? As you can tell from the image, it is a thick textbook (1362 pages) of math, containing 31 chapters: from preliminary algebra, to beginner and advanced-level calculus, from complex numbers to quantum operators. In short, whatever's required to do physics and engineering, the book has it!

Quantum mechanics

This book written by renowned American physicist and professor Leonard Susskind is an excellent introduction to quantum mechanics from the ground level (pun intended). It contains in-depth physics as well as minimum mathematical tools required to tackle the most bizarre field of science.

One may also consider the book by David Griffiths which is more mathematically inclined than Susskind's book. The book is full of illustrative examples and numerical exercises at the end of each chapter. For fun and non-serious reading, buy Graphic guide to Quantum mechanics.

For the love of physics

In this book, Professor Walter Lewin will introduce a mystery and then show how you can understand it with just a little bit of physics. 'The' Bill Gates himself has endorsed the book by saying, "The book captures Lewin's extraordinary intellect, passion for physics, and brilliance as a teacher."

According to Walter Lewin, "Teachers who make physics boring are criminals.. and if you hate physics, you have probably learned it from the wrong teacher." Because, he says, "Physics is naturally interesting!"

For more than 40 years, Professor Lewin has honed his singular craft of making physics not only accessible but truly fun.This book has his stories, his research in physics, tips on teaching, and serves as an all-round motivation for students, to love and enjoy physics of everyday life.

10 recommended physics books india

When you finish reading the book, you will feel blessed, reminded of the tiny miracles of physics, happening all the time, around you. According to one review on Amazon, "If you like physics, this book's for you. If you hate physics, this book's for you. Lewin is phenomenal!"


Published by Einstein himself with the aim of giving an exact insight into the theory of relativity to those readers who, from a general scientific and philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical toolkit of theoretical physics.

Both special and general versions of the theory have been included in the book. Einstein has succeeded in putting across the fundamentals of his theory for undergraduate students before they can decide to go deep in the field.

Handbook of formulas

If you want to keep important notes, key terms, definitions and formulae of physics by your side, then this book is made for you. It is about 450 pages thick and recommended for revision purposes in all exams, especially for classes 11 and 12.

The chapters have been illustrated with well-designed diagrams and illustrations with examples. The book is a handy book, which can be used as ready reference. On the whole, the data is precise and presented in a form that can help students in the long run.


The word "cosmos" has ancient origin but popularized first by American astronomer Carl Sagan in the twentieth century. In this book, he has told the story of fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution, science and civilization, in the most comprehensible and exciting way.

This book has 13 chapters on a range of topics: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and philosophy. In one sentence, "it is amalgamation of the sciences" in one book, a complete text that every mind passionate about learning must own.

In fact, the book also became an inspiration for the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, who went on to become an astrophysicist himself! He followed further in the footsteps of his hero and created a TV show of the same name, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

Written some 38 years ago, the book single-handedly managed to draw the attention of people towards the wonders of science; for the first time in history, science no more seemed alien and became a thing of familiarity. Cosmos is relevant even today, for the data, the thought processes, the inferences remain all the same.

Halliday Resnick Walker

This well-known textbook is often called the bible for physics. It is recommended for high school students to prepare for competitive examinations like IIT-JEE. In 2002, the American Physical Society named it the most outstanding introductory physics text of the 20th century.

The textbook covers all the fundamental topics in physics:

  • Mechanics
  • Waves
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Optics
  • Special Relativity
  • Quantum theory
  • Nuclear physics
  • Cosmology

It is as good as its Indian equivalent Concepts of Physics by H.C. Verma. The book by Professor Verma is divided over two parts but this book is 1300 pages, all-in-one, making it the first choice of many aspirants.

Autobiography of Feynman

Richard Feynman was an artist, a story-teller and an everyday joker whose life was a combination of his intelligence, curiosity and uncertainty. This book is his autobiography written with his friend Ralph Leighton.

According to one review, "It is a good funny read for everyone who loves physics and common sense. Easy and engaging language which takes you back in those days when Feynman stood tall among all giants of physics like Bohr, Bethe, Oppenheimer etc."

Why is this book included in the list? Firstly, because it is entertainment coming from a Nobel Prize winning scientist! Of course when you're tired of struggling with maths and physics, you want to have some fun, and if reading happens to be your hobby, this book has numerous hilarious anecdotes from Feynman's personal life.

Second, this book also is motivational in nature. Feynman has continuously reminded his readers that even the idiotic, ordinary or average folk, can go on to achieve great things in life. He has then given valuable tips on how to learn and how to teach physics. So overall, this book is a good read for any physics student.

Top 10 Important Equations In Physics

These simple-looking equations went on to have great consequences and applications in science, society and technology. Let us take a look at the ten most influential formulae in physics (in no particular order) which have changed the course of history.

Second law of motion

The force, often intuitively described as push or pull, is actually the cause of acceleration in a moving particle. Without it coming from any external agency, the particle cannot undergo change in the way it goes. Newton defined the force formally in 1686 in the famous equation, F=ma.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

It tells you how powerful an engine has to be in order to pull a car, how much thrust required to lift a rocket, how far a cannonball flies and so on. But more importantly, the equation helped debunk the Aristotelian beliefs which had remained unchallenged for thousands of years.

According to Aristotle, force is necessary to keep an object going. Why otherwise would a ball rolling on the ground eventually stop? Because, Aristotle said, it isn't pushed anymore, that's why.

Then, in the 17th century, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei explained, with experiment, "The ball stopped due to the ground being rough and had it been sufficiently smooth, the ball would roll forever. No force required!"

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

Newton said further, that the state of rest or uniform linear motion both imply zero acceleration. Thus, the particle will remain in place or keep going at the same rate and it will maintain itself in the state in which it's been until of course when acted upon by external force.

Energy-mass relation

It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing. The mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. If 1 gram of mass is converted into energy, it'd be 90 trillion Joules. This is equal to the energy emitted by a 100 watt light bulb for 30,000 years!

It is important to understand that Einstein's most famous equation is not his major work. The formula is just so well-known because of its association with the atomic bomb. Einstein himself had said, "If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905," despite him having played a minor role in the Manhattan Project.

Uncertainty principle

Formulated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, uncertainty principle is one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics. The equation single-handedly ended the classical determinism, meaning, that in the realm of infinitesimal atoms, chance has its play and the drama of existence is not absolutely predestined in character.

In its most familiar form, it says that the more precise the measurement of position, the more imprecise the measurement of momentum, and vice-versa. Thus, one can never know with perfect accuracy both of those two important factors which determine the movement of one of the smallest particles, its position and its velocity, at the same instant.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

The uncertainty principle was immediately rejected by leading physicists of the time, including Albert Einstein. There, Niels Bohr did try his best to convince Einstein that the uncertainty relation is fundamental law in physics. Einstein still refused, and they agreed to disagree. By 1933, the political situation became much worse in Germany, and Einstein moved to the United States.

In 1954, Heisenberg visited Einstein's house in Princeton. They talked only about physics, but Einstein's position on the principle hadn't changed. In 1955, Einstein passed away leaving Werner Heisenberg disheartened that he had failed to get Einstein's endorsement of his uncertainty relation.

Although Einstein and others objected to Heisenberg's and Bohr's views, even Einstein had to admit that they were indeed a logical consequence of quantum mechanics. But for Einstein, something still was missing and the quantum mechanics was incomplete, "I am convinced that god does not throw dice," he claimed metaphorically.

Heisenberg, supported by Bohr, Pauli, Schrödinger and others, maintained until his death that quantum uncertainty is not inaccuracy of the measurement, it is inherent in quantum phenomena. It leads to probabilistic and not deterministic outcomes.

Maxwell-Faraday equation

In 1831, as the story is usually told, the prime minister or some other senior politician was given a demonstration of electromagnetic induction by Faraday. When asked, “What good is it?” Faraday replied: “What good is a newborn baby?” Fifty years passed before electric power really took off as envisioned by Faraday.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

Generators and motors both make use of Faraday's Law. The equation by Maxwell became the foundation of power generation hence making Faraday the father of electricity. Maxwell said of Faraday, "He is, and must always remain, the father of that enlarged science of electromagnetism."

Dirac equation

Symmetry is the keyword of physics and Dirac used it perfectly in 1928. He developed an equation that explained spin number as a consequence of the union of quantum mechanics and special relativity. The equation also predicted the existence of anti-matter, previously unsuspected and unobserved, and which was experimentally discovered in 1932.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

This accomplishment has been described on par with the works of Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein before him. Dirac even speculated that there may also be mirror universe of anti-particles, thus becoming a source of inspiration for science-fiction writers. Dirac was also equally famous for his contribution to quantum electrodynamics, which described how electric and magnetic forces would work on the scale of things smaller than atoms.

Law of entropy

The famous inequality which says that when energy changes from one form to another form, or when matter moves freely, the disorder in a closed system increases. According to renowned astronomer Arthur Eddington, "The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of nature."

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

The concept of the second law of thermodynamics applies not only to internal combustion engines used in our cars, motorcycles, ships and airplanes but also to explain the processes of life, when considered in terms of cyclic processes.

The second law also has profound consequences for the universe in large scale. Imagine being shown a video clip of a cup being dropped and breaking. You'd clearly be able to tell whether the video was being played backward or forward, from the flow of entropy.

Similarly, if the movie of our universe is played backwards, the universe would be getting more and more ordered, like the cup, and when played forward, we'd expect it getting disordered, like the pieces of broken cup.

Einstein field equations

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

Einstein's equations led to the fusion of the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional spacetime. The expression on the left hand side of the equation represents the curvature of spacetime. The expression on the right is the energy density of spacetime. The equation dictates how energy determines the curvature of space and time.

The cosmological constant term (Λ) was introduced by Einstein to allow for a universe that is not expanding or contracting. This effort was unsuccessful because in 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered evidences for an expanding universe. Einstein was invited by Hubble to see for himself that the universe indeed was changing.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

As a result, Einstein abandoned the cosmological constant in the equation, calling it the biggest blunder he ever made. So from the 1930s until the late 1990s, most physicists assumed the cosmological constant to be equal to zero. But, recently improved astronomy techniques have found that the expansion of the universe is accelerating implying the non-zero value of the constant.

Why are the Einstein field equations important in physics? Firstly, because they unify the two concepts of space and time, previously considered separate by the limitations of our intuition, into one spacetime. Just like Maxwell had unified electricity and magnetism into electromagnetism in the 19th century.

Secondly, they describe – not the force – but the fundamental "interaction" of gravitation as a result of spacetime being curved by energy (mass too is energy from Einstein's energy-mass equivalence).

Although Newton did give the formula to calculate the magnitude of gravitational force between any two bodies of mass separated by a distance, he didn't quite explain the cause of gravitation in the first place.

Wave equation

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

The single-dimensional wave equation has a scalar function (u) of one space variable and one time variable since waves propagate in space, and in time also. This equation was first written by French mathematician Jean le Rond d'Alembert, hence it's sometimes also called the d'Alembert's equation. Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler wrote it in three dimensions in 1707.

We are constantly surrounded by waves, whether perceptible to us or not, they are always there. Like when you play a guitar or drop a stone into a pond. The wave equation isn't as elegant as others on this list but it is groundbreaking as it's been applied to sound waves (and instruments), waves in fluids, waves in earthquakes, light waves, quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Planck's equation

This formula is responsible for the birth of quantum mechanics, also television and solar cells. Leading German physicist of the time Max Planck postulated in 1900, that energy was quantised and could be emitted or absorbed only in integral multiples of a small unit, which he called "energy quantum".

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

Einstein extended Planck's idea in 1905 when he introduced the concept of "light quantum", the particle of light, or photon. Thus, the electromagnetic radiation wasn't continuous like a wave but isolated in the packets of light, Einstein proposed.

Planck had simply introduced the equation as a trick to solve a problem with black body radiation, but Einstein envisioned it to be more. In 1887, experimenter Heinrich Hertz stumbled upon the photoelectric effect for the first time; the emission of electrons when light of specific frequency hit a material.

The phenomenon of photoelectric effect remained largely unexplained, even with the wave theory of light, until the arrival of Planck-Einstein relation in 1905. Einstein described it in terms of particle-particle interaction between the photon and electron. He said, "...below some critical frequency, no photon has enough energy to knock an electron free."

This means that if a photosensitive material requires photons of blue light to emit the electrons, which is the characteristic of the material, then the photons of green or yellow light won't be able to knock the electrons out of the material.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

The characteristic energy or work-function of the material is absorbed, to loosen the bonds, and then the remainder of the energy is observed as kinetic energy of the free electron. Einstein's clarification was consistent with the law of conservation of energy. He was recognized with Nobel Prize in physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect (and not for energy-mass relation or relativity).

Planck said his introduction of "quantum" in 1900 was an act of desperation but when Einstein adopted it and gave it meaning, a whole new debate had started and the old laws were swept away within a decade or so. Einstein who himself was accountable for it refused to endorse the new quantum revolution.

The discovery by Planck and Einstein became the basis of all twentieth-century physics, without which, it would not have been possible to establish a workable theory of molecules and atoms and the energy processes that govern their transformations.

Schrödinger's equation

In his 1924 doctoral thesis, French physicist Louis de Broglie proposed, that just like light has both wave and particle properties, electrons must also possess wave-like properties, in order to support the energy-matter symmetry. Two years later, in 1926, Austrian scientist Erwin Schrödinger published an equation, describing how the matter wave should evolve in space and in time.

ten most groundbreaking equations in physics

Just like Newton's equations are used to calculate how a football behaves when kicked, you use the Schrödinger's equation to calculate the behaviour of electron in the orbit of an atom. More generally, it is used for many calculations in quantum mechanics and is also fundamental to much of the modern technology, from lasers to transistors, and the future development of quantum computers.

Half The Particles In The Universe Obey Him

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

Half the particles in the universe obey him: This is how a professor of physics once introduced Satyendra Nath Bose to his students. Bose was a self-taught scholar and polymath who laid the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose-Einstein condensate.

Several Nobel Prizes were awarded for research related to the field initiated by him but Bose himself was not awarded the most coveted Prize. Yet, it is true that half the particles in the universe obey him and that in itself is a remarkable achievement.

Early Life

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Satyendra was born on January 1, 1894 to a middle-class Bengali family in Calcutta. He was the eldest of seven children with six sisters after him. At an early age, Bose showed an aptitude for learning and a thirst for knowledge.

Surendra Nath, an accountant by profession, encouraged his son's mathematical skills. Each morning, he would leave arithmetic problems scribbled on the veranda floor, and a young Bose would sit and do his sums and proudly show his father when he returned.

When he was 13, Satyendra began attending the illustrious Hindu School in Central Calcutta. Bose was quickly recognized as an outstanding pupil especially in mathematics and the sciences. He was also fortunate to have had brilliant teachers and class fellows.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Hindu School

Like any other student, Satyendra was anxious before taking matriculation exam but he still passed with flying colors standing fifth in the order of merit. The year was 1909 and a fifteen-year-old Bose decided to join Presidency College for an Intermediate Science Course.

Meanwhile in the west, Albert Einstein had become a much celebrated scientist thanks to the success of Special Relativity in 1905.

While at Presidency College, Satyendra came under the guidance of teachers like Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray. A 17-year-old Bose thrived his intermediate examination, then chose Applied Mathematics for Bachelor of Science Degree, graduating two years later in 1913, at the top of his class.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
The Hub of Learning

Just one year later (1914), at age 20, newly graduate Satyendra was married to Ushabati Ghosh, the eleven-year-old daughter of a prominent Calcutta physician. This was before the passing of Child Marriage Restraint Act which had fixed the age of marriage for girls at 18 years and boys at 21 years.

The marriage had been arranged by Bose's mother, Amodini Rai Chaudhuri. Bose would rather have married later but went along with his mother’s wishes. He refused to accept dowry for his marriage in a time when it was commonly practiced, and set about to teach the English language to Usha afterwards.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
A young couple

Bose also continued his education by enrolling for Master's Degree in Applied Mathematics at University of Calcutta. In 1915, at age 21 he not only graduated at the top of his class but also created a record in the history of the University by securing 92% marks!

During this time, World War I had begun in the west. Also, Albert Einstein had successfully published his Theory of General Relativity.

Any modern scholar at this stage in their career would enroll for PhD degree; this would be a straightforward process. But Bose was rather interested in teaching. And so, from 1916 to 1921, he worked as a lecturer in the Physics Department of the University of Calcutta.

During this time, Bose came across the newly published theory of general relativity.  He was instantly fascinated by it, so much so that along with colleague and friend, Meghnad Saha, Bose went on to translate Einstein's scientific papers from German to English and published them in a book.

As a polyglot, Bose was well versed in several languages such as Bengali, English, French, German and Sanskrit.

In 1921, Albert Einstein was given the prestigious Nobel Prize for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the Law of the Photoelectric Effect, a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. Bose in Calcutta was overjoyed by the victory of his hero.

The Breakthrough

The same year (1921), Satyendra left his beloved Calcutta and took up a position at Dhaka University, in present-day Bangladesh, where he was Reader (associate professor) for the Physics Department. In a letter written to his friend Meghnad Saha, Bose described the situation at the University:

It has been well over a month since I moved to your part of the country. Work has not yet started. Your Dacca College had quite a few things but due to utter neglect they are in a bad way. We do suffer from lack of journals here, but the authorities of the new University have promised to place order for some of them along with their back numbers. Talk is going on about having a separate science library.

Bose helped in setting up whole new departments at the University, including laboratories, for teaching advanced courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students of Physics and Chemistry. And as Reader, he gave lectures on Thermodynamics and Classical Electromagnetism.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
In Dhaka

During one such lecture, Bose felt dissatisfied with the existing derivations of Plank’s Radiation Law. After much thought and several discussions with Saha, Bose came up with a paper deriving the same result without the use of classical physics as Planck himself had done. This was a breakthrough!

Bose's derivation was rejected at first, because it was a radical idea which couldn't be accepted just about by anyone. Bose was not disheartened though as he sent the paper directly to Albert Einstein in Germany.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Bose's letter to Einstein

In a way, Bose helped revive Einstein's falling scientific career. This was the mid-1920s and Einstein was deeply involved in opposing the ongoing quantum revolution, despite him having pioneered it. Bose's letter came like a breath of fresh air catching the attention of the great scientist.

Einstein was quick to recognize the importance of the received letter. He translated Bose's paper into German and had it published in Zeitschrift für Physik, a popular peer-reviewed German scientific journal of the time, under Bose's name, in 1924. Hence, Bose-Einstein statistics was born!

Einstein was greatly impressed that a certain young man from India had reached out to him for the sake of scientific progress. Einstein wrote to Bose: Your paper is an important step forward and I liked it very much.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

The more Einstein thought about Bose's paper, the more influenced he became by its implications. The reason Bose's interpretation produced accurate results was that since photons are indistinguishable from each other, one cannot treat any two photons having equal energy as being two different photons.

Understanding this is pretty easy: consider the situation when you have to toss two distinguishable and unbiased coins at the same time. Then there may come one of the four possible outcomes as shown by the following picture.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

In this way, the probability of getting Two Heads is merely 1/4, which is of course obvious. But suppose that the two coins become indistinguishable from one another, that is, by looking at them you cannot tell the difference.

Then, there will be three possible outcomes only: Two Heads or Two Tails or One of Each. Now the chance of getting Two Heads is increased to 1/3. This means that in the world of Bose statistics, the likelihood of events happening is quite different from our everyday expectations.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Einstein had started to realize just how important this proposition was. In fact, Bose himself had not been aware of the potential of his idea. Einstein adopted Bose's idea and extended it to atoms. This led him to predict the existence of phenomena which we now call Bose-Einstein Condensate.

Bose-Einstein condensate is the fifth state of matter in which every atom becomes indistinguishable from the others forming a giant super atom. In a normal gas, atoms move randomly at very high speeds but in the case of Bose-Einstein Condensate, the atoms stay together in a perfect harmony.

In 1995, 70 years after its prediction, the Bose-Einstein Condensate was first observed to exist. This was achieved by cooling a gas of Bosons to very close to Absolute Zero, at which point the microscopic quantum phenomena, particularly wavefunction interference, become apparent macroscopically!
Bose's work had earned him an invitation to collaborate with the greatest minds of the time in Europe. Bose applied for a two-year leave from the Dhaka University to enable him to go to Europe. He was permitted only after he showed Einstein’s appreciative postcard to the Vice Chancellor of the University.

After arriving in Paris, Bose wrote to Einstein.

I have been granted leave by my University for two years. I have arrived just a week ago in Paris. I do not know whether it will be possible for me to work under you in Germany. I shall be glad, however, if you will grant me the permission to work under you, for it will mean for me the realization of a long-cherished dream.

Bose waited eagerly for the great scientist to respond. In the meanwhile, he was fortunate to have helped the legendary Marie Curie in her lab work where he made certain difficult measurements of the Piezoelectric Effect. Bose also met Maurice de Broglie later, who introduced him to X-ray diffraction and spectroscopyAnd at last, Einstein's reply came in.

Thank you sincerely for your letter. I am glad that I shall have the opportunity soon of making your personal acquaintance.

Bose proceeded to Berlin. Even though he did not get the opportunity to work with Einstein, his meeting with him was quite profitable. Einstein wrote a letter of recommendation for Bose which enabled him to meet some of the best German scientists including Fritz Haber, Lise Meitner and Max Born.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
In good company

After his stay in Europe, Bose returned to Dhaka in 1926. He was 32 years old. Bose did not have a doctorate and as a result, he would not be qualified for the post of Professor he had applied for. But again, Einstein's letter of recommendation was much help. Bose was declared Head of the Department of Physics at Dhaka University.

Whatever Bose had learned in Europe, he applied it in Dhaka. Bose designed equipment himself for an X-ray crystallography laboratory. He also set up laboratories and libraries to make the department a center of research in Unified Field Theories. Bose continued to teach at the University until 1945.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

When the partition of India became imminent, Bose returned to Calcutta. He was depressed by the division of India and Pakistan and felt it to be a wound in the heart of his beloved nation. Bose found it very difficult to focus on the sciences in the middle of this social imbalance. Bose decided to stay in Calcutta and taught there until retirement.

Bose’s path breaking work won him Einstein’s admiration and a permanent place in the history of theoretical physics. But few know about his passionate patriotism or his talent as an Esraj player. He was a man who tried to see the world around him in its entirety, in its complexity and in which his particular science and himself were but small parts.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
A celebrated Esraj player

Bose devoted a lot of time to promoting Bengali as teaching language, translating scientific papers into it, and promoting the development of the region. He strongly felt that it was duty to present science to the common man in his own language. Being Bengali, Bose was devastated by the division of Bengal on the basis of religion in 1905.


Bose was made Professor Emeritus on his retirement. He was 62 years old. Then followed innumerous invitations to big events and parties but Bose dearly missed the pleasure of finding things out, the never ending quest for knowledge and the kick in the discovery.

He returned to the University of Calcutta to continue research in nuclear physics, organic chemistry and unified field theories. This seeking he enjoyed the most. It was during this time that physicist Paul Dirac had come to visit Calcutta along with his wife.

They were sharing the same car with Bose. Bose let them have the pleasantly warm back seat. The front seat, which Bose occupied along with the driver, did not have much room, nevertheless, Bose asked two more of his students to get in.

Dirac, a little surprised, asked if it wasn’t too crowded. Bose turned around and said in his disarming fashion, "We believe in Bose-Einstein statistics."

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Dirac and Bose

Dirac explained to his wife, "In Bose-Einstein statistics things are crowded together." The term Boson was coined by Dirac to commemorate the contributions of Bose in theoretical physics. Such was their friendship.
In 1958, Bose was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, finally. A year later, he was appointed as National Professor by the Government of India, a post he held till his death. As mentioned before, Bose was never awarded the Nobel Prize. When Bose himself was asked about the same, he simply replied, "I have got all the recognition I deserve."

Bose died in Calcutta, 1974, aged 80. With his death, an era ended. It would not be wrong to address Bose as the greatest Indian physicist of all time. Not just because he was a great scientist but also because he loved his country dearly. It is quite unfortunate that Bose's name is not mainstream popular in India. But things are changing now.
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