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Jagadish Chandra Bose

Acharya Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose,[1] CSI,[2] CIE,[3] FRS[4] ( J godish Ch ndro Boshu) (30 November 1858 23 November 1937) was an Indian polymath: a physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist, as well as an early writer of science fiction.[5] He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, made very significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent.[6] IEEE named him one of the fathers of radio science.[7] He is also considered the father of Bengali science fiction. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a US patent, in 1904. He also invented the crescograph.

Born during the British Raj, Bose graduated from St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. He then went to the University of London to study medicine, but could not pursue studies in medicine due to health problems. Instead, he conducted his research with the Nobel Laureate Lord Rayleigh at Cambridge and returned to India. He then joined the Presidency College of University of Calcutta as a Professor of Physics. There, despite racial discrimination and a lack of funding and equipment, Bose carried on his scientific research. He made remarkable progress in his research of remote wireless signalling and was the first to use semiconductor junctions to detect radio signals. However, instead of trying to gain commercial benefit from this invention, Bose made his inventions public in order to allow others to further develop his research.

Bose subsequently made a number of pioneering discoveries in plant physiology. He used his own invention, the crescograph, to measure plant response to various stimuli, and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues. Although Bose filed for a patent for one of his inventions due to peer pressure, his reluctance to any form of patenting was well known.

He has been recognised for his many contributions to modern science.


Early life and education

Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose was born in Bikrampur, Bengal, (now Munshiganj District of Bangladesh) on 30 November 1858. His father, Bhagawan Chandra Bose, was a Brahmo and leader of the Brahmo Samaj and worked as a deputy magistrate/ assistant commissioner in Faridpur,[8] Bardhaman and other places.[9] His family hailed from the village Rarikhal, Bikrampur, in the current day Munshiganj District of Bangladesh.[10]

Bose s education started in a vernacular school, because his father believed that one must know one's own mother tongue before beginning English, and that one should know also one's own people.[11] Speaking at the Bikrampur Conference in 1915, Bose said:

At that time, sending children to English schools was an aristocratic status symbol. In the vernacular school, to which I was sent, the son of the Muslim attendant of my father sat on my right side, and the son of a fisherman sat on my left. They were my playmates. I listened spellbound to their stories of birds, animals and aquatic creatures. Perhaps these stories created in my mind a keen interest in investigating the workings of Nature. When I returned home from school accompanied by my school fellows, my mother welcomed and fed all of us without discrimination. Although she was an orthodox old fashioned lady, she never considered herself guilty of impiety by treating these untouchables as her own children. It was because of my childhood friendship with them that I could never feel that there were creatures who might be labelled low-caste . I never realised that there existed a problem common to the two communities, Hindus and Muslims. [9]

Bose joined the Hare School in 1869 and then St. Xavier s School at Kolkata. In 1875, he passed the Entrance Examination (equivalent to school graduation) of University of Calcutta and was admitted to St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. At St. Xavier's, Bose came in contact with Jesuit Father Eugene Lafont, who played a significant role in developing his interest to natural science.[9][10] He received a bachelor's degree from University of Calcutta in 1879.[8]

Bose wanted to go to England to compete for the Indian Civil Service. However, his father, a civil servant himself, cancelled the plan. He wished his son to be a scholar, who would rule nobody but himself. Bose went to England to study Medicine at the University of London. However, he had to quit because of ill health.[12] The odour in the dissection rooms is also said to have exacerbated his illness.[8]

Through the recommendation of Anandamohan Bose, his brother-in-law (sister's husband) and the first Indian wrangler, he secured admission in Christ's College, Cambridge to study Natural Science. He received the Natural Science Tripos from the University of Cambridge and a BSc from the University of London in 1884.[13] Among Bose s teachers at Cambridge were Lord Rayleigh, Michael Foster, James Dewar, Francis Darwin, Francis Balfour, and Sidney Vines. At the time when Bose was a student at Cambridge, Prafulla Chandra Roy was a student at Edinburgh. They met in London and became intimate friends.[8][9]

On the second day of a two-day seminar held on the occasion of 150th anniversary of Jagadish Chandra Bose on 28 29 July at The Asiatic Society, Kolkata Professor Shibaji Raha, Director of the Bose Institute, Kolkata told in his valedictory address that he had personally checked the register of the Cambridge University to confirm the fact that in addition to Tripos he received an M.A. as well from it in 1884.

Joining Presidency College

Jagadish Chandra Bose

Bose returned to India in 1885, carrying a letter from Fawcett, the economist to Lord Ripon, Viceroy of India. On Lord Ripon s request Sir Alfred Croft, the Director of Public Instruction, appointed Bose officiating professor of physics in Presidency College. The principal, C. H. Tawney, protested against the appointment but had to accept it.[14]

Bose was not provided with facilities for research. On the contrary, he was a victim of racialism with regard to his salary.[14] In those days, an Indian professor was paid Rs. 200 per month, while his European counterpart received Rs. 300 per month. Since Bose was officiating, he was offered a salary of only Rs. 100 per month.[15] With remarkable sense of self respect and national pride he decided on a new form of protest.[14] Bose refused to accept the salary cheque. In fact, he continued his teaching assignment for three years without accepting any salary.[16] Finally both the Director of Public Instruction and the Principal of the Presidency College fully realised the value of Bose s skill in teaching and also his lofty character. As a result his appointment was made permanent with retrospective effect. He was given the full salary for the previous three years in a lump sum.[8]

Presidency College lacked a proper laboratory. Bose had to conduct his research in a small room.[8] He devised equipment for the research with the help of one untrained tinsmith.[14] Sister Nivedita wrote, I was horrified to find the way in which a great worker could be subjected to continuous annoyance and petty difficulties ... The college routine was made as arduous as possible for him, so that he could not have the time he needed for investigation. After his daily grind, which he of course performed with great conscientiousness, he carried out his research far into the night, in a small room in his college.[14]

Moreover, the policy of the British government for its colonies was not conducive to attempts at original research. Bose spent his hard-earned money for making experimental equipment. Within a decade of his joining Presidency College, he emerged a pioneer in the incipient research field of wireless waves.[14]

Radio research

Bose's 60 GHz microwave apparatus at the Bose Institute, Kolkata, India. His receiver (left) used a galena crystal detector inside a horn antenna and galvanometer to detect microwaves. Bose invented the crystal radio detector, waveguide, horn antenna, and other apparatus used at microwave frequencies.

The British theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell mathematically predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves of diverse wavelengths, but he died in 1879 before his prediction was experimentally verified. British physicist Oliver Lodge demonstrated the existence of Maxwell s waves transmitted along wires in 1887-88. The German physicist Heinrich Hertz showed experimentally, in 1888, the existence of electromagnetic waves in free space. Subsequently, Lodge pursued Hertz s work and delivered a commemorative lecture in June 1894 (after Hertz s death) and published it in book form. Lodge s work caught the attention of scientists in different countries including Bose in India.[17]

The first remarkable aspect of Bose s follow up microwave research was that he reduced the waves to the millimetre level (about 5 mm wavelength). He realised the disadvantages of long waves for studying their light-like properties.[17]

In 1893, Nikola Tesla demonstrated the first public radio communication.[18] One year later, during a November 1894 (or 1895[17]) public demonstration at Town Hall of Kolkata, Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using millimetre range wavelength microwaves.[16] Lieutenant Governor Sir William Mackenzie witnessed Bose's demonstration in the Kolkata Town Hall. Bose wrote in a Bengali essay, Adrisya Alok (Invisible Light), The invisible light can easily pass through brick walls, buildings etc. Therefore, messages can be transmitted by means of it without the mediation of wires. [17] In Russia, Popov performed similar experiments. In December 1895, Popov's records indicate that he hoped for distant signalling with radio waves.[19]

Bose s first scientific paper, On polarisation of electric rays by double-refracting crystals was communicated to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in May 1895, within a year of Lodge s paper. His second paper was communicated to the Royal Society of London by Lord Rayleigh in October 1895. In December 1895, the London journal the Electrician (Vol 36) published Bose s paper, On a new electro-polariscope . At that time, the word coherer , coined by Lodge, was used in the English-speaking world for Hertzian wave receivers or detectors. The Electrician readily commented on Bose s coherer. (December 1895). The Englishman (18 January 1896) quoted from the Electrician and commented as follows:

Should Professor Bose succeed in perfecting and patenting his Coherer , we may in time see the whole system of coast lighting throughout the navigable world revolutionised by a Bengali scientist working single handed in our Presidency College Laboratory.

Bose planned to perfect his coherer but never thought of patenting it.[17]

Microwave receiver and transmitter apparatus

In May 1897, two years after Bose's public demonstration in Kolkata, Marconi conducted his wireless signalling experiment on Salisbury Plain.[19] Bose went to London on a lecture tour in 1896 and met Marconi, who was conducting wireless experiments for the British post office. In an interview, Bose expressed disinterest in commercial telegraphy and suggested others use his research work. In 1899, Bose announced the development of a "iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector" in a paper presented at the Royal Society, London.[20]

Bose's demonstration of remote wireless signalling has priority over Marconi.[21][22] He was the first to use a semiconductor junction to detect radio waves, and he invented various now commonplace microwave components.[22] In 1954, Pearson and Brattain gave priority to Bose for the use of a semi-conducting crystal as a detector of radio waves.[22] Further work at millimetre wavelengths was almost non-existent for nearly 50 years. In 1897, Bose described to the Royal Institution in London his research carried out in Kolkata at millimetre wavelengths. He used waveguides, horn antennas, dielectric lenses, various polarisers and even semiconductors at frequencies as high as 60 GHz;ref name="Emerson" /> much of his original equipment is still in existence, now at the Bose Institute in Kolkata. A 1.3 mm multi-beam receiver now in use on the NRAO 12 Metre Telescope, Arizona, U.S.A. incorporates concepts from his original 1897 papers.[19]

Sir Nevill Mott, Nobel Laureate in 1977 for his own contributions to solid-state electronics, remarked that "J.C. Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time" and "In fact, he had anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors."[22]

Plant research

His major contribution in the field of biophysics was the demonstration of the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli (e.g., wounds, chemical agents) in plants, which were earlier thought to be of a chemical nature. These claims were later proven experimentally by Wildon et al. (Nature, 1992, 360, 62 65). He was also the first to study the action of microwaves in plant tissues and corresponding changes in the cell membrane potential. He researched the mechanism of the seasonal effect on plants, the effect of chemical inhibitors on plant stimuli, the effect of temperature etc. From the analysis of the variation of the cell membrane potential of plants under different circumstances, he hypothesised that plants can "feel pain, understand affection etc.".

Electrical response in metals

Bose was the first physicist who began an examination of inorganic matter (metals and certain rocks) in the same way as a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. He subjected metals to various kinds of stimulus mechanical, thermal, chemical, and electrical. He found that all sorts of stimulus produce an excitatory change in them. And this excitation sometimes expresses itself in a visible change of form and sometimes not; but the disturbance produced by the stimulus always exhibits itself in an electric response. He next subjected plants and animal tissues to various kinds of stimulus and also found that they also give an electric response. Finding that a universal reaction brought together metals, plants and animals under a common law, he next proceeded to a study of modifications in response, which occur under various conditions. He found that they are all(metals and living tissues) benumbed by cold, intoxicated by alcohol, wearied by excessive work, stupefied by anaesthetics, excited by electric currents, stung by physical blows and killed by poison they all exhibit essentially the same phenomena of fatigue and depression, together with possibilities of recovery and of exaltation, yet also that of permanent irresponsiveness which is associated with death they all are responsive or irresponsive under the same conditions and in the same manner. The investigations showed that, in the entire range of response phenomena (inclusive as that is of metals, plants and animals) there is no breach of continuity; that the living response in all its diverse modifications is only a repetition of responses seen in the inorganic and that the phenomena of response are determined, not by the play of an unknowable and arbitrary vital force, but by the working of laws that know no change, acting equally and uniformly throughout the organic and inorganic matter. [23][24]

Science fiction

In 1896, Bose wrote Niruddesher Kahini, the first major work in Bangla science fiction. Later, he added the story in the Abyakta book as Palatak Tuphan. He was the first science fiction writer in the Bengali language.[25]

Bose and patents

The inventor of "Wireless Telecommunications", Bose was not interested in patenting his invention. In his Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution, London, he made public his construction of the coherer. Thus The Electric Engineer expressed "surprise that no secret was at anytime made as to its construction, so that it has been open to all the world to adopt it for practical and possibly moneymaking purposes."[8] Bose declined an offer from a wireless apparatus manufacturer for signing a remunerative agreement. Bose also recorded his attitude towards patents in his inaugural lecture at the foundation of the Bose Institute on 30 November 1917.


Acharya Bhavan, the residence of J C Bose, that built in 1902 has been turned to museum [26].

Bose s place in history has now been re-evaluated, and he is credited with the invention of the first wireless detection device and the discovery of millimetre length electromagnetic waves and considered a pioneer in the field of biophysics. [20]

Many of his instruments are still on display and remain largely usable now, over 100 years later. They include various antennas, polarisers, and waveguides, which remain in use in modern forms today.

To commemorate his birth centenary in 1958, the JBNSTS scholarship programme was started in West Bengal.


  • Nature published about 27 papers.
  • J.C. Bose, Collected Physical Papers. New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co., 1927
  • Abyakta (Bangla), 1922



References and general information

  • Frontiers in Biophysics, Vol. 6. Chapter "The ascent of sap", pp. 11 14.
  • Davies, E., in The Biochemistry of Plants, Academic Press, 1987b, vol. 12, pp. 243 264.
  • J.M. Payne & P.R. Jewell, "The Upgrade of the NRAO 8-beam Receiver," in Multi-feed Systems for Radio Telescopes, D.T. Emerson & J.M. Payne, Eds. San Francisco: ASP Conference Series, 1995, vol. 75, p. 144
  • Fleming, J. A. (1908). The principles of electric wave telegraphy. London: New York and.
Papers and essays

Further reading

  • The life and work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose by Patrick Geddes, Longmans London, 1920

External links

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