These words by Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, a great physician still reverberates in the hearts of millions of youth who are aspiring to follow his path. CV Raman may have been a great physicist of his time, but not much is known about his life beyond science. February 28, which is marked as National Science Day by the government to commemorate his ground-breaking discovery of the 'Raman Effect' — the change in the wavelength of light that occurs when a light beam is deflected by molecules, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930. He also became the first Asian to receive the prize in the field of science. He was 42 at that time.
"Treat me right and you will see the light…Treat me wrong and you will be gone"
Why February 28 is celebrated as National Science Day?
Every year on February 28 National Science Day is celebrated to commemorate the discovery of the 'Raman Effect'. The Government designated the day as National Science Day in 1986 as on this day, Sir CV Raman announced the discovery of the 'Raman Effect' for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930.
On 28 February 1928, Raman led an experiment with K. S. Krishnan, on the scattering of light, when he discovered the effect.
CV Raman, who?
C V Raman was born in Thiruvanaikovil, Tamil Nadu, on 7 November 1888. Raman started taking interest in physics from a very young age. His father was a lecturer in physics and mathematics. Being a child prodigy, Raman passed his matriculation at the age of 11, securing a first-class, and then received a scholarship after passing his intermediate exam at the age of 13. He completed his graduation from the University of Madras with a gold medal in 1904. Then he earned an MSc degree with the highest distinction from the same university in 1907.
Raman, who was fond of Indian classical music, took great interest in the acoustics of stringed instruments such as veena and tanpura. He also studied the violin in great detail and constructed a mechanical violin.
One of Raman’s discoveries includes the relation between the frequency response of the violin and its quality. The frequency response curve is called ‘Raman curve’.
CV Raman's Family
Raman was married on 6 May 1907 to Lokasundari Ammal. They had two sons, Chandrashekhar and radio-astronomer Radhakrishnan. Raman was the paternal uncle of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics (1983) for his discovery of the Chandrasekhar limit in 1931 and for his subsequent work on the nuclear reactions necessary for stellar evolution.
Throughout his life, Raman developed an extensive personal collection of stones, minerals, and materials with interesting light-scattering properties, which he obtained from his world travels and as gifts. He often carried a small, handheld spectroscope to study specimens. These are on display at the Raman Research Institute, where he worked and taught.
CV Raman: Honours and awards
- He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society early in his career (1924) and knighted in 1929. He resigned from the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1968 for unrecorded reasons, the only Indian FRS ever to do so.
- In 1930 he won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
- In 1941 he was awarded the Franklin Medal.
- In 1954 he was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
- He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1957. In 1998, the American Chemical Society and Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science recognised Raman's discovery as an International Historic Chemical Landmark.
CV Raman's infamous rift with Pandit Nehru
It is said Raman used to resent then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for his take on science. He objected to Nehru’s policy of prioritising research only in state-owned institutes such as Atomic Research Establishment at Trombay, Mumbai, and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Laboratories, while universities were left to fend for themselves.
It is said Raman was so upset with Nehru’s policies that he smashed the Bharat Ratna medallion, India’s highest civilian award that he won in 1954 with a hammer.
Raman collaborated with his student K.S. Krishnan in his scientific experiments and together they coined the term the Raman Effect. However, Krishnan’s contribution to this discovery that earned Raman a Nobel Prize was rarely acknowledged.
Raman’s collaboration with Krishnan was said to have angered other scientists such as Meghnad Saha who was believed to be vying for the position Krishnan was occupying.
Raman was appointed the first Palit Professor of Physics at the University of Calcutta in 1917. In 1932, he quit this job and joined the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) as the head of the department of physics.
In 1948, he became the director of Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, a position he occupied until his death on 21 November 1970. Among the various awards and honours conferred upon him including a knighthood by the Royal Society, London (1929), Lenin Peace Prize (1957), Franklin Medal (1941), among others.
CV Raman's demise
In October 1970, Raman suddenly collapsed in his laboratory. He was rushed to the hospital and the doctors gave him four days to live. He survived and after a few days, he refused to stay in the hospital as he preferred to die in the gardens of his Institute surrounded by his followers.
Two days before Raman died, he told one of his former students, "Do not allow the journals of the Academy to die, for they are the sensitive indicators of the quality of science being done in the country and whether science is taking root in it or not." That evening, Raman met with the Board of Management of his Institute and discussed (from his bed) with them any proceedings with regards to the Institute's management. Raman died from natural causes on 21 November 1970.