Showing posts with label bio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bio. Show all posts

Biography of Madame Curie

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

A leading figure in the history of sciences, Marie Curie was prohibited from higher education in her native Poland. Many years later, she became the first woman Nobel laureate. She remains the only person to win the most coveted prize in two different sciences. This is her story.


Maria was born in 1867 in Warsaw (Poland) which was then part of the Russian Empire. She was the fifth and youngest child of well-known science professor Władysław Skłodowski. Her mother, Marianna Bronisława operated a reputed boarding school for girls in the big bustling city.

When Maria was seven years old, her eldest sibling died of typhoid and then three years later her mother lost the battle to tuberculosis. At the same time, Władysław was fired from his job due to pro-Polish sentiments and the family eventually lost all the savings.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

In the middle of crisis, Władysław decided to join a low-paying teaching job. The Russian authorities at the school banned the usage of laboratory equipment so he brought it home and instructed his children in its use. In this way, Maria was taught to experiment at an early age.


For some years, Maria was home-schooled. But her father recognized her talent for scientific thinking and learning. Therefore, despite economic troubles, she was admitted to a prestigious learning centre for girls. Maria graduated with a gold medal in 1883 aged sixteen.

She was unable to join any regular institution of higher education because she was a woman. Her father then suggested to join the "secret flying university" a Polish patriotic institution (often in conflict with the governing Russian Empire) which welcomed women students.

During this time, she fell in love with a young man (who'd later go on to become a prominent Polish mathematician), Kazimierz Żorawski, his name. The two discussed marriage, but Żorawski’s parents rejected Marie due to her family's poverty and Kazimierz was unable to oppose them.

Higher education

Maria returned home to her father in Warsaw. The loss of relationship with Żorawski was heartbreaking for her and Władysław was devastated seeing his daughter in pain. Three years later, in 1890, he was able to secure a more lucrative position again and arranged for Maria to reach Paris.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie
Maria and her father

Maria proceeded her studies of physics and chemistry in the University of Paris where she would be known as Marie. She focused so hard on her studies that she sometimes forgot to eat. In 1893, Marie Skłodowska was awarded a degree in physics at age 26.

In 1894, she began her research career with an investigation of the magnetic properties of various steels. That same year French physicist Pierre Curie entered her life; and it was their mutual interest in natural sciences that drew them together.


Eventually they began to develop feelings for one another and Pierre proposed marriage. Marie returned to Warsaw and told her father that in Pierre, she had found a new love, a partner, and a scientific collaborator on whom she could depend. Władysław agreed.

But she was still living under the illusion that she would be able to work in her chosen field in Poland. Pierre declared that he was ready to move with her to Poland, even if it meant being reduced to teaching French.

Things hadn't changed though as she was denied again because of her gender. A letter from Pierre convinced her to return to Paris and work with him in his small laboratory. In 1895, they were married and for their honeymoon, took a bicycle tour around the French countryside.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

The Curies also got going with their research work in a converted shed (formerly a medical school dissecting room) which was poorly ventilated and not even waterproof. But they were very dedicated scientists and hardly discouraged by such problems.


In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts spontaneously emitted a penetrating radiation that could be registered on a photographic plate. Marie was intrigued by this new phenomenon (she coined the term radioactivity) and decided to look into it.

She hypothesized that the radiation was not the outcome of some interaction of molecules but must come from the atom itself. She began studying two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite, and discovered that both pitchblende and torbenite were far more active than uranium itself.

Marie concluded that the two minerals must contain small quantities of radioactive substances other than uranium. In 1898, the couple announced their discovery of Polonium and Radium, elements previously unknown, which were far more active than uranium.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

Four years later in 1902, the husband and wife team was able to separate 0.1 gram of radium chloride from a ton of pitchblende, a remarkable achievement, for which the duo shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Henri Becquerel.

The award money allowed the Curies to hire their first laboratory assistant. However, the Curies still did not have a proper laboratory. Upon Pierre Curie's complaint, the University of Paris relented and agreed to create a new laboratory, but it would not be ready until 1906.

In 1906, walking across a street of Paris in heavy rain, Pierre was struck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under its wheels, causing his skull to fracture. Marie, by then a mother to two beautiful daughters, Irène and Ève, was traumatized by her husband's death.

She continued to work in the new laboratory hoping to reach greater heights in physics and chemistry as a tribute to her husband Pierre. In 1910, she isolated the pure radium metal; and also defined a new unit  of radioactivity called "curie" in the memory of her late husband.

Affair & death

In 1911, Marie was on the front pages of local tabloids as a "foreign home-wrecker" after having an affair with French physicist Paul Langevin, a married man who was estranged from his wife. The news was exploited by her academic opponents, one declaring her "a detestable idiot."

There's no denying that the affair was painful for Langevin’s family, particularly for his wife, Jeanne, but at the time when the news broke out, Marie was giving a lecture in Brussels. And when she returned to Paris, she found an angry crowd outside of her house and had to seek refuge, with her little daughters.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences honored her a second time despite the Langevin Scandal. She was awarded the Prize in Chemistry for isolating radium hence becoming the only person to win Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

A month after accepting her 1911 Nobel Prize, she was hospitalized with depression and a kidney ailment. During her time at the hospital, she received a letter from Einstein, essentially saying, "please ignore the haters." Marie returned to her laboratory after a gap of about 14 months.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

From then onwards, it became very difficult to focus on the sciences and even more so during the World War I. Also perhaps because Marie could not forgive herself after the incident. The war ended, and she was invited to Warsaw in a ceremony, laying the foundations of the Radium Institute.

Curie visited Poland for the last time in early 1934 (before the second world war) where she died of aplastic anemia, a condition due to long exposure to radiation. Her final resting place was decided Paris Panthéon alongside her husband Pierre. In 1935, a life-size statue of Maria Skłodowska Curie was established in a Warsaw park facing the Radium Institute.


She used to wear the same dress to laboratory every day, "If you are going to be kind enough to give me one," she instructed regarding a proposed gift for her wedding, "please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory."

She refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do their research unhindered. Scientific endeavors were more dear to her than monetary benefits. In fact, she even gave much of her Nobel Prize money to friends, family, students, and research associates.

Biography of Maria Skłodowska Curie

The curies were not religious and Marie was agnostic by choice. Neither wanted a religious service for their marriage ceremony. She wore a dark blue outfit, instead of a bridal gown, which would be worn by her in the lab for years to come. One of the guests quipped, "Skłodowska is Pierre's biggest discovery."

Today, the radium is used to produce radon, a radioactive gas which is used to treat some types of cancer. At the time of their discovery, a new industry began developing, based on radium (as in self-luminous paints for watches), but the Curies did not patent their discovery and benefited little from this increasingly profitable business.

Marie had the strong conviction that her work would provide important benefits for the rest of humanity, "I am one of those who think that the world will draw more good than evil from new discoveries," her passion for science was aroused in her early years, and remained intact until her last breath.

In her final years, she advocated bravely for invoking a scientific approach in the people, "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less," she would say.

Self-taught scientist who became father of electricity

biography of michael faraday

Although Faraday received little formal education, he was one of the most influential scientists in history becoming the inspiration for likes of Einstein and Tesla. He is best known for the discovery of electromagnetic induction, his invention of the electric motor, contributions to electrochemistry or due to the fact that he was responsible for introducing the concept of field in physics.

In 1873, the standard unit of electrical capacitance was named farad in his honor. The Bank of England unveiled a £20 bill with his portrait in 1991 as he joined a distinguished group of Britons with their own notes, including William Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale and Isaac Newton. Many claim him the father of electricity and in fact, Maxwell himself had said, "Faraday is, and must always remain, the father of that enlarged science of electromagnetism."

Early education

Michael Faraday was born to Margaret and James Faraday on 22nd September, 1791. The family was not well off so they moved to London seeking more opportunities. The young Faraday, who was the third of four children, having only the most basic school education, had to educate himself, while working on the streets of London.

At the age of 14, Faraday became an apprentice to a local bookbinder and bookseller, George Riebau, in Blandford Street, Marylebone. During his seven years of apprenticeship, Faraday made good use of the priceless access to books which his employment gave him and which his generous employer allowed.

biography of michael faraday

Faraday was deeply motivated by the book, "Conversations on chemistry" by Jane Marcet so much so that when 20 years old, he attended the lectures by the most renowned English chemist of the time, Sir Humphry Davy. Faraday later on sent Davy a 300-page book based on the notes that he had taken during these lectures. Davy's reply was immediate, kind, and favourable.

The first invention

In 1813, when Davy damaged his eyesight in an accident with nitrogen trichloride, he decided to take Faraday as temporary assistant. In the class-based English society, Faraday was not considered a gentleman, because of which, Davy's wife declined to treat Faraday as an equal making his life so miserable that he contemplated suicide.

But Davy refused to let the talented young man go. He employed Faraday permanently as his scientific assistant much to his wife's displeasure. They went together on a tour of the continent meeting the scientific elite of Europe as well as exchanging ideas with them. Davy joked that his assistant Michael Faraday was his greatest discovery; little did he know that he'd be right!

In 1820, Danish physicist Hans Ørsted discovered (although by accident) that electric current in a wire could deflect magnetic needle in the immediate vicinity. Davy wasn't bothered the least by it, but Faraday, on the contrary, declared it one of the greatest discoveries of mankind. One year later, Faraday invented the electric motor by using the same principle, which is today the basis of fans, pumps, compressors, elevators, and refrigerators.

biography of michael faraday

Faraday's rapid rise made Davy jealous and he became indifferent to him, treating him more as a challenger. Towards the end, Davy even accused Faraday of plagiarism causing Faraday to cease all research in electromagnetism until his mentor's death. In 1829, Davy was paralyzed by a stroke and passed away aged 50. Despite the bitter ending, Faraday described Davy fatherlike, kind and protective.


Thus, Faraday began his great series of experiments, in which he discovered the law of electromagnetic induction. The breakthrough came when he wrapped two insulated coils of wire around an iron ring, and found that upon passing a current through one coil, a brief current was induced in the other coil.

Faraday went on to invent a rudimentary generator in 1831 and as the story is usually told, the prime minister or some other senior politician was given a demonstration of 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.

biography of michael faraday

Faraday was little interested in mathematics and his own scientific career was characterized by simple ideas and simple experiments. But the discovery of induction was eventually formalized by Scottish physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell into an equation now known as Maxwell–Faraday equation.

Faraday wrote in a letter to Maxwell, "I was at first almost frightened when I saw such mathematical force made to bear upon the subject, and then wondered to see that the subject stood it so well." The equation by Maxwell became the foundation of power generation hence making Faraday the father of electricity.

Later life

After induction, Faraday formulated the laws of electrolysis in 1834 whose applications are far and wide such as production of industrial chemicals and electroplating. For his unprecedented work, Faraday was appointed the Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution without a degree. He was also offered a knighthood but he turned it down citing religion.

In 1836, he invented the Faraday cage, an enclosure used to block the electromagnetic field. You can find a real-life version of Faraday cage right inside your kitchen: the metal shell in the microwave oven acts like a Faraday cage as it prevents the microwaves inside the oven from leaking out. Faraday cages are also used in MRI scans to prevent external frequencies from causing any distortion to the data coming from the patient.

Beyond his scientific research into areas such as chemistry and physics, Faraday accepted numerous, and often time-consuming, service projects for the greater good of the country. For example, every Christmas, Faraday would give free science lectures to a general audience, including young people, in an informative and entertaining manner.

biography of michael faraday

He delighted in filling soap bubbles with various gasses in front of his audiences and marveled at the rich colors of polarized lights, but the lectures were also deeply philosophical. In this way, Faraday was really the world's first science communicator. He delivered a total of nineteen such lectures until he was 53 years old.

Many years after his scientific career, Faraday dedicated a book to George Riebau, his first employer, writing: " kindly interested yourself in the progress I made in the knowledge of facts relating to the different theories in existence, readily permitting me to examine those books in your possession that were in any way related to the subjects occupying my attention."

Science and religion

Faraday was a devout Christian although there may have been some conflict between his religious beliefs and his activities as a scientist. Many of his colleagues and especially Henry Bence Jones had claimed through letters and writings that Faraday was a scientist first and religious second, but he was also both.

Jones, who was Faraday's junior, published the book, "The Life and Letters of Faraday", in 1870. Faraday said of himself, "Without experiment, I am nothing. In early life I was a very lively, imaginative person, who could believe in the Arabian Nights as easily as in the Encyclopedia, but facts became more important to me, and saved me. I could trust a fact. One thing is fortunate, which is, that whatever our opinions, they do not alter nor derange the facts of nature."

Faraday's laboratory journal entry on 19 March, 1849 says, "ALL THIS IS A DREAM. Still examine it by experiments. Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature; and in such things as these, experiment is the best test of such consistency." Faraday viewed his discoveries of nature's laws as part of the continual process of reading the book of nature.

When asked about his speculations on life beyond death, Faraday replied, "Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."

Nikola Tesla, a college dropout who changed the world

nikola tesla biography

On 10th of July in 1856, Nikola Tesla was born at midnight during a lightning storm. The midwife thought the violent storm was bad omen, "This will be a child of darkness", she declared mindlessly."No, replied Tesla's mother, "he will be a child of light".

His father, Milutin Tesla, was orthodox christian priest while his mother, Đuka, was hard working housewife. They recognized very early that their son was unlike other children. Young Tesla was creative, curious and blessed with photographic memory.

Milutin, a devout man, wanted his son to become priest like himself but Đuka encouraged Nikola to study science instead. Even though she had never received formal education, Đuka had the talent for making mechanical appliances at home.

nikola tesla biography
Nikola Tesla's parents

By the age of 16, Nikola was able to perform integral calculus in his head which prompted his teachers to believe that he was cheating. Tesla credited his eidetic memory and creative abilities to his mother's genetics and influence.

He finished four-year high school term in three years graduating in 1873. During those times, high school graduates were forced to join the military but Tesla ran away and remained hidden for over a year wearing hunter's garb to escape conscription.

Tesla returned in 1875. Then, he enrolled for engineering degree at Graz University of Technology in Austria.

In first year, he never missed a lecture, earned the highest grades and even received letter of commendation from the dean to his father, which stated, "Your son is a star of first rank."

nikola tesla biography

But 20-year old Nikola was mortified when his father made light of those hard won honors. In second year, Tesla came into conflict with his professor when he suggested that commutators would be unnecessary in the Gramme Dynamo.

Tesla lost the scholarship money as he became addicted to gambling. In third year, he did not even sit for the examination. He severed all relations with family to hide the fact that he had dropped out. At age 22, without contacting anyone, Nikola moved to Slovenia in search of work.

His family thought that he had committed suicide but one year later,

In March of 1879, Milutin learned that his son was seen in Maribor, the second-largest city of Slovenia. He went to Maribor to beg his son to return home. Tesla refused.

nikola tesla biography
street where Tesla lived in Maribor

Milutin was despaired. In April of 1879, he passed away aged 60. After hearing the news, Nikola returned home but too late though.

A sorrowful Nikola recalled, "My father wanted me to enter priesthood but in one of the sinking spells due to Cholera, which was thought to be the last, he rushed into my room. I still see his pallid face as he tried to cheer me up..

"Perhaps," I said, "I may get well if you will let me study engineering."

"You will go to the best technical institution in the world," he solemnly replied.

Nikola was lost and depressed especially after death of his father. He stayed home for few months. Then, he started teaching at his old primary school. He taught there until January 1880.

Next, he went to Prague and attended lectures in philosophy for a year. In 1881, Nikola moved again, this time to Budapest to work for Budapest Telephone Exchange. He was 25 years old.

nikola tesla biography

In 1882, he was employed as electrician by Continental Edison Company in Paris to install incandescent lighting. The management took notice of his advanced knowledge and soon he was promoted.

"In 1884, I was brought in intimate contact with Edison. His mind was dominated by one idea, to leave no stone unturned and to exhaust every possibility. We experimented for days and nights, holidays not excepted."

During this time, Edison made an outstanding offer. In exchange for redesigning generators, Tesla was promised a hefty cash prize.

But he was taken advantage of as it turned out to be a practical joke. Therefore, in January 1885, a furious Tesla left note for Edison which read, "Goodbye to the Edison Machine Works."

For a brief while, Nikola Tesla remained jobless in America.

nikola tesla biography

Then, with help from interested investors, Tesla founded a company in his own name, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing (1885). He worked for the rest of the year acquiring patents for improved design of DC generator which had gained recognition in the press.

But Nikola was not business-ready yet.

In 1886, the investors obtained control of the patents, renamed the company to Union County Electric Light & Manufacturing and left Tesla penniless in the process.

"My life seemed to me like mockery."

Yet, Tesla did not give up as he set about to create another company, this time with more caution, in 1887. He invented commutator-less induction motor in the same year. This innovative machine which ran on alternating current was patented by Tesla in May of 1888.

Soon, $15,000-a-year royalty deal was made for the new type of motor with Westinghouse Electric Company.

nikola tesla biography
Induction motor by Tesla

But two years after signing the Tesla contract, George Westinghouse was in deep financial trouble. Also, at this time, Edison came out with all guns blazing against the alternating current movement, saying, "It is too dangerous. Direct current is safe."

In 1891, Westinghouse explained his situation to Nikola Tesla and Tesla agreed to release Westinghouse Company from the royalty payment.

Six years later, when all troubles sorted, direct current defeated, Westinghouse purchased Tesla's 1888 motor patent for a lump-sum of $216,000. The money made Tesla independently wealthy and gave him the time and funds to pursue his own interests.

Nikola Tesla went on to obtain around 300 patents in over 25 countries for his inventions. Tesla coil, remote control, induction motor, neon lamp, wireless telegraphy to name a few.

nikola tesla biography
on the cover (1931)

Tesla died on 7 January in 1943 at the age of 86. He never married, did not have any children and devoted his life totally to the pursuit of knowledge and innovation.

"To me[Nikola Tesla], the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end and what we call 'soul' or 'spirit,' is nothing more than the sum of the functionings of the body. When this functioning ceases, the 'soul' or the 'spirit' ceases likewise".

Biography of Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan Biography For Teenagers

As a scientist, Carl Sagan contributed enormously to our knowledge of the solar system. He correctly predicted the existence of methane lakes on Saturn's largest moon Titan. When other astronomers had imagined Venus to be a balmy paradise he showed it to be dry, thick and unpleasantly hot. Carl went on to propose that the atmosphere of the early earth must have contained powerful greenhouse gases.

When she returned, all of Carl's enthusiasm turned into utter disappointment. She had with her a book on the Hollywood stars, wait what, those weren't the kind of stars that concerned an astronomer.

The librarian, a little embarrassed, shifted her attention to a different bookshelf. After searching for a while, she brought with her the correct book, titled, "secrets of the stars". She handed it to the young astronomer. This incident made a deep and lasting impression on a young Carl Sagan.

Career at NASA

Carl Sagan attended the University of Chicago where he came under the guidance of famous physicists such as Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller. As an undergraduate he worked for geneticist H.J. Muller and wrote a thesis on the origins of life.

Carl Sagan Biography For Teenagers

Carl Sagan went on to earn a masters in physics in 1956, before earning a PhD degree in 1960.

Then he became a visiting scientist to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he contributed to the making of the first Mariner orbiter mission to Venus.

The Mariner Orbiter confirmed his conclusions on the surface conditions on Venus in 1962. He also worked closely with NASA for the successful landing of man on the moon in 1969.

Next, he worked with NASA for the Viking space program which  was set up to explore the habitat and environment of planet Mars. For the first time in human history, a man-made object had landed on an alien world.

Carl Sagan Biography For Teenagers
viking on mars, 1976

However, the viking landing did not receive attention it deserved. The general public was widely unaware of a significant success in the field of space exploration. Was it not important to people? Was it not worth their time? These questions began to haunt Carl's imagination.

Therefore, just two years later in 1978, Carl Sagan began to work for a new TV show, Cosmos: a personal voyage. Its objective was to narrate to people the story of cosmic evolution, sciences and civilization. In 1980, the first episode of Cosmos was aired and became an instant hit.


Using the word "cosmos" rather than the word universe implies viewing the universe as a complex and orderly system; the opposite of chaos. Nobody had ever explained space, in all its bewildering glory, as well as Sagan did.

Carl Sagan Biography For Teenagers
ship of the imagination

Cosmos was seen in over 60 countries by more than 500 million people. It was the biggest show of the eighties.

In the fifth episode of the series, Sagan explained the kind of experiments performed by viking on the surface of planet Mars. The episode ends with the possibility of the colonization of Mars which became inspiration for the likes of Elon Musk.

During the same time, he was also working with NASA for the voyager space program whose mission was to investigate the outskirts of the solar system for signs of life.

Voyager 1, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of Carl Sagan.

This picture is called The Pale Blue Dot.

Carl Sagan Biography For Teenagers
consider again that dot

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

The earth is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

People's Astronomer

Through his appearances on TV and eloquent writings, he has shown many a times how space humbles as well as lifts. He brought astronomy into our living rooms.

Today, the word "cosmos" is on everyone's lips thanks to Carl Sagan. He made astronomy more accessible to people by popularizing it.

Carl Sagan Biography For Teenagers

In fact, Carl Sagan turned astronomy into a deep spiritual experience.

That we are not different from space but a little part of it, made from it. The nitrogen in our DNA, calcium in our teeth and iron in our blood were first forged in the interiors of the dying stars. That we are the star-stuff contemplating the stars is well and truly a great spiritual realization.

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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