National Science Day - C.V.RAMAN – A Patriotic Nobel Laureate whose love for students was exemplary

Many people know Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (more popularly known as C.V. Raman) because he was the first Indian Nobel Laureate in science. Till date Raman remains the only Indian to receive a Nobel Prize in science. Raman was also the first Asian to get Nobel Prize in science. Raman's celebrated discovery, the Raman Effect, experimentally demonstrated that the light-quanta and molecules do exchange energy which manifests itself as a change in the colour of the scattered light. Raman's interests in science were wide, from astronomy and meteorology to physiology. Raman published 475 research papers and wrote five remarkable monographs on topics so varied that one's mind boggles.

C. V. Raman was born on 7 November 1888 in his maternal grandfather's house, in a small village of Thiruvanaikaval near Tiruchirapalli, on the bank's of Kaveri in Tamil Nadu. Raman's maternal grandfather Saptarshi Sastri was a great Sanskrit scholar, who in his younger days travelled on foot to distant Bengal (over 2000 km away) to learn Navya Nyaya (modern logic). Raman's parents were R. Chandrasekhara Iyer and Parvathi Ammal. He passed his matriculation examination at the age of 11 and he passed his F.A. examination (equivalent to today's Intermediate) with a scholarship at 13. In 1903 Raman joined the Presidency College in Chennai (then Madras) from where he passed the B.A. (1904) and M.A. (1907) examinations. He stood first both in B.A. and M.A. examinations and won all the prizes available. 

Raman made many major scientific discoveries in acoustics, ultrasonic, optics, magnetism and crystal physics. Raman's works on the musical drums of India was epoch-making and it revealed the acoustical knowledge of the ancient Hindus. Raman developed a vibrant and excellent school of physics. He established the Indian Academy of Sciences Bangalore (1934) and the Raman Research Institute (1948). 

Raman deserves to be remembered not only for his towering scientific accomplishment but also for his indomitable will. Raman was a staunch patriot and he had great faith in India's potential for progress. On receiving the Nobel Prize he remarked, “When the Nobel award was announced I saw it as a personal triumph, an achievement for me and my collaborators -- a recognition for a very remarkable discovery, for reaching the goal I had pursued for 7 years. But when I sat in that crowded hall and I saw the sea of western faces surrounding me, and I, the only Indian, in my turban and closed coat, it dawned on me that I was really representing my people and my country. I felt truly humble when I received the Prize from King Gustav; it was a moment of great emotion but I could restrain myself. Then I turned round and saw the British Union Jack under which I had been sitting and it was then that I realised that my poor country, India, did not even have a flag of her own - and it was this that triggered off my complete breakdown.”

He excelled under the most adverse circumstances. Raman was a great populariser of science. "He was perhaps the greatest salesman science has ever had in this country", says S. Ramaseshan, a pioneer of X-ray crystallography in India and a nephew of Raman. During his popular science lectures (or ‘performances' as Raman called them) Raman held his audience spellbound. His lectures were always accompanied by lively demonstrations. Raman had a deep sense of humour. Raman was a lecturer par excellence. Raman also gave radio talks. The texts of his nineteen radio talks were brought out in a book form. The book was titled The New Physics: Talks on Aspects of Sciences and it was published by the Philosophical Library of New York. The topics covered by Raman ranged from the microscopic world of atoms to the universe itself. Raman believed in excellence per se. He never compromised on quality and he firmly believed that if India was to make any economic advance it could only be based on such excellence. Raman was of the view that science alone could solve India's problems. 

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

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

He received many awards/honurs both at the national level and at the international level. However, more than the awards/honours, his love for the students is unique. The then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote to Raman inviting him to be the personal guest in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, when Raman came to Delhi for the award ceremony. Sir CV Raman wrote a polite letter, regretting his inability to go. Raman had a noble reason for his inability to attend the investiture ceremony. He explained to the President that he was guiding a Ph.D. student and that thesis was positively due by the last day of January. The student was valiantly trying to wrap it all up and Raman felt, he had to be by the side of the research student, see that the thesis was finished, sign the thesis as the guide and then have it submitted. 
Here was a scientist who gave up the pomp of a glittering ceremony associated with the highest honour, because he felt that his duty required him to be by the side of the student. It is this unique trait of giving value to science that builds science.

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

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

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