Satyendra Nath Bose Biography

Biography & Early Life

Satyendra Nath Bose was a great physicist, mathematician, theoretician, experimentalist, eminent educationist, and a voracious reader majorly known for his “Bose-Einstein Statistics”, a landmark formula who put his stamp in the history of physics. As long as the study of physics goes on the contribution of Satyen Bose, he will be remembered, as long as the research on the Higgs Boson particle continues his name will reverberate through the world.

Satyendra Nath Bose was born on the 1st of January 1894 in Bengal. He was the first child of Surendranath Bose and Amudali Devi. His childhood was immersed in arts, culture, music and education. He demonstrated a flair for mathematics very early on and amazed his teachers with his abilities. The mathematics teacher awarded SN Bose 110 marks out of the maximum of 100 because all questions set including alternative, had been answered correctly each in a novel way. The teacher was filled with admiration at Bose’s originality and prophesied, that he would one day be a great mathematician.

From school across the road to The Presidency College and through a corridor of learning Satyendranath Bose climbed from the year 1909 on wards to higher studies. When Bose got to Presidency College in 1910, he studied Applied Mathematics with Meghnad Saha as those were heady-days for many a young men who were drawn towards the freedom movement. When Ashutosh Mukherjee founded the new University College of Science, Bose and Meghnad Saha jumped at the chance of teaching there. So these young guys went and convinced Sir Ashutosh that they were competent to start the Physics department. Most of the important papers were being published in German and some in French, so they learnt both the languages. The brave new world of theoretical physics was unfolding a whole new universe and they were the first people to actually translate Einstein's paper on relativity into English and it was published by Calcutta University.

Satyendra Nath Bose

Jagdish Chandra Bose as a Teacher to S.N. Bose

Among his teachers there was a great scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose for physics, no better teacher could have been found to mould Satyen’s youthful and plastic mind. It caused them to presume that this teacher had reminded the students time and again not to take anything for granted but to be guided by their own reason and observation. It’s a unique coincidence that a group of brilliant students of The Presidency College came under the care of the great Jagdish Chandra Bose. Satyen’s academic career was exceptionally brilliant and finally in his chosen subject mixed mathematics, he stood first in 1915 and created a record which has not been equaled yet.

In 1917, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the famous educationist appointed Satyen as a lecturer in the newly founded College of Science of the Calcutta University. But the thirst for knowledge urged Satyen to seek complete information of contemporary scientific thought. With his colleague and friendly rival Meghnad Saha, SN Bose sticked to translating Einstein's “General Theory of Relativity” from the German, being the first English translation of Einstein's work.

In 1924, Professor Satyendra Nath Bose at the age of 30 made an original contribution to theoretical physics. His work assisted new theories and inspired many a scientists of that time.

Many scientists from far and near assembled to pay tribute to the great thinker. Sri Subramanyam inaugurated the seminar and drones the far reaching effects of his work published and he says “It is indeed a pleasure and privilege for me to associate myself to the seminar”. In January of 1974, which marks the 50th anniversary of Bose statistics, is the year of special importance to Indian Science. Professor Bose acknowledges tribute from his compatriots.

Revolution of Science

In 1917, a new spirit was blowing through the streets of Calcutta, the Grand capital of British India and the jewel of the empire stirring with revolutionary activity. The then partition of Bengal in 1905 had reinitiated the movement to free India. At Calcutta University, a very different revolution was underway, A revolution in Science. Indian Science had a long and rich history because India has given the world The Zero, Sanskrit, Yoga, Ayurveda and the world's first universities at Nalanda and Takshashila (In around 700 B.C). But then from 11th century India entered a dark age with the destruction of great learning centers by invaders. By the same time the British colonized India, it had lost much of her once cherished Scientific vigour. Then from 19th century a new age of enlightenment began and Kolkata was the epicenter, this was the birth of the Bengal Renaissance.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded Hindu College in 1817, educating Indians in English for the first time. This was later renamed as Presidency College by Thomas Babington Macaulay. Then Lord Caning established the University of Calcutta in 1857, to educate its citizens of the empire from Lahore to Rangoon. When Ashutosh Mukherjee became the Vice Chancellor in 1906, he began working on Roy's dream of Science College. In 1914, with generous donations from Sir Taraknath Palith and Suresh Bihari Ghosh, he launched the University College of Science and Technology. Meanwhile, at Presidency College two young M.Sc students were making waves Satyendra Nath Bose and Meghnad Saha who stood jointly first in their M.Sc examinations and were ready to take on the world. Around the corner, at the Indian Association for the cultivation of science, another young scientist C.V Raman was creating a stir with his experiments and papers. Mukherjee realized that in order to make his science college great he would need intellectually radiant people. Meanwhile, a very different revolution was taking place in Europe. The old Physics of Newton and Maxwell were being turned on its head. Max Planck came to the conclusion that energy was being let out in discrete energy quantities or particles. He called these particles as Quantum. The equation came to be known as Planck's law. This was the beginning of the Quantum age. Then three amazing developments occurred, Einstein demonstrated that light was both of a wave and made up of particle, and called it as “Light Quanta”. Lord Rutherford discovered the solar system model of the atom, with a dense positive nucleus and electrons spinning around it and finally Neils Bohr demonstrated that those electrons could only move at the quantum energy levels predicted by Plank. So these three great shots in the dark had already been made when Bose entered to fire the final and fourth great shot in the dark.

Satyen Works - Higgs-Boson particle

In 1921, Satyendra Nath Bose left Calcutta for the Dhaka University, as a Reader in Physics. The congenial atmosphere free from constraints, aided the young scientist to carry on his work on fundamental research. Three years later in 1924, Bose wrote a paper deriving Plank's Quantum Radiation Law without any reference to classical physics. This paper was seminal in creating the very important field of Quantum statistics. Based on this statistics British scientist Peter Higgs conceived the idea of the God Particle and in recognition of the Bengali physicist's contribution "the particle" was named "Higgs-Boson particle".

Bose had been very dissatisfied with the way Planck's law was being derived in Europe. Earlier Ludwig Boltzmann had developed a mathematics using Probability and Statistics to predict how gases worked in a closed thermodynamic system. Bose realized that he could apply statistics in a novel way, to predict the number and probability of Einstein's photons using Planck's equation in the same way. A new statistics would be needed that could work at the quantum level to count photons. This was Bose’s great breakthrough. What he showed was that in the case of photons classical statistics doesn't hold. It's a new statistics which is now of course called Bose statistics. So there are new kinds of objects which people were not aware of. So the first paper was called Planck's law and the light Quantum hypothesis. He sent his paper first to the film Mag in Britain, but it was turned down, and then in one of the seminal moments in history he decided to send his paper to Albert Einstein. It was a bold decision and became one of the great moments in modern science.

Bose Letter to Albert Einstein

Respected Sir I have ventured to send you the accompanying article for your perusal and opinion. I am anxious to know what you think of it.

So Einstein was delighted so he said This is what I was looking for saying my photons are not like classical billiard balls, they are Bosons.

So, overnight Bose became very famous name in the world of Physics. Einstein then sent a postcard to Bose saying his work was "A beautiful step forward".

When Einstein's postcard arrived, Bose became an overnight celebrity and was immediately granted permission to travel to Europe to meet Albert Einstein.

Einstein regarded Bose’s paper as a significant step forward in the field of theoretical Physics.

Satyen Bose

Einstein appreciated the originality of young Bose’s derivation and he forthwith translated the paper and saw that it was published in the foremost scientific journal of Germany, and thus Bose joined the scientific thinkers of his days. For his original contribution to fundamental physics, Bose was granted study leave for two years by the Dhaka University for investigating new developments that were taking place in Europe particularly in applied sciences.
In October 1924, Bose arrived in Paris. In the first year he actually spent a lot of time with Maurice de Broglie who was setting off the X-ray crystallography lab and then he worked for 6 months with Madame Curie. He proceeded to Berlin the next year and in addition to meeting his Hero Einstein, he also met some of the leading theoreticians of the age. Einstein was so impressed he said Bose’s way of counting should not only apply to photons, it also should apply to material atoms that were Einstein's extension of Bose’s idea. And he wrote to Einstein to know the Master’s opinion of his second paper entitled “Thermal equilibrium in radiation field in presence of matter”. Einstein again translated Bose’s second paper and published it in the same journal, but this time with a note of dissent which Bose did not hold the except.


Bose hoped that, one day future scientists would find some meaning in his point of view. While still in Paris, Bose realized the importance of Applied Sciences. He had the privilege of working in the Madam Curie laboratory. Yet Bose, yearned to meet the great scientist of the day. He traveled to Berlin and Einstein received him cordially, introducing Bose to the famous members of the Academy of science, in the pursuit of knowledge including Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, Max Born, Louis-Victor de Broglie, Paul Langevin and many others.

As a Professor for Various University

Satyendra Nath Bose returned from Europe in 1926, as a Professor of Physics at the Dhaka University. He saw the need of the future and he devoted his time to providing new avenues of research and to teach the younger generations. For nearly 24 years Professor Bose taught and guided his beloved students in the Dhaka University, and during his lifetime became a legend.

Now in 1928, Paul Dirac wrote a famous book called “Principles of Quantum Mechanics” and in the book he coins two words “Bosons” and “Fermions”. So, one can say that, half the particles in this universe are Bosons and just as somebody said as long as there is light in this universe, there will be Bosons everywhere. This one simple idea in Dhaka completely revolutionized everything and then of course, Bose became a household name or rather “Boson”.

In 1945, back to Calcutta University, his Alma mater hired him as a Professor of Physics. Professor Bose found a group of students of different branches of Physics, and initiated research on “Thermoluminescence and designed an original type of Spectrophotometer. Equally competent as a theoretician and an experimentalist Professor Bose would take nothing for granted in regard to laboratory procedures. “Make your own instruments” the Professor told his students “Never mind if suitable instruments can be got from abroad, while designing and making your own you have a clear idea of the problems”.

Internationally well-known, the Professor was often invited to conferences abroad. In 1954, in the Crystallographic conference in Paris, he presented a paper on the details of the Spectrophotometer designed by him. During the last years of his life, Einstein was taken up with the problem of a “Unified Field Theory” which would furnish all the answers to the problems of the physical world. Einstein's Unified field theory, owes the Professor Bose much towards its development. During 1952-53 Professor Bose devoting his time with characteristic vigor to solve the sixty-four equations of Einstein's “Unified Field Theory”, which provides the guideline to future scientists working on the problem. The years of work were occupied by Professor Bose on diverse problems. His papers were published from 1917 to 1955 in an important scientific journal of the world.

Honors and Recognition

Honors and recognition came as they come to the great. Professor Bose was the general president of the India Science Congress in 1944. Honorary member of the “National Institute of Science Padma Vibhushan”. Doctorates confirmed by various universities in India and at last in 1958, Professor Bose was honored by the Royal Society of England for the fellowship and in recognition of his achievements Prime Minister Nehru appointed Bose the first national Professor of Physics.

SN Bose Honours

The Professor never yearned for formal recognition. He believed that awards were not the end when a time he impressed on all his students to comprehend the problems of their subjects rather than to strive for doctorates.

Bose became vice chancellor of Tagore's newly created University at Shanti Niketan Calcutta University in 1956. As far back as 1937, Rabindranath Tagore dedicated his work of “Vishwa Parichay” of Satyendranath Bose. In recognition of his efforts to popularize science through Bengali. The “Bangiya Vigyan Parishad”, was founded by Professor Bose in 1948. So he endeavored ceaselessly to impart scientific knowledge in a regional language of Bengal. This was very dear to his heart.

In 1958, came the supreme honor to Professor Bose of a national Professorship. Bose emphasized that physics should no longer be restricted to universities and research institutes. So Professor Bose in association with Dr. Shaunadas Chatterjee, launched the experiment for the extraction of helium gas from the hot spring of Bakreshwar since 1954 in west Bengal. Helium gas is very rare. There are many uses in modern technology. Today the “Bose-Einstein Condensate” phenomenon is being applied to extract this rare gas in India.

The man of learning is also deeply human, he is equally at home with prominent people as with his friends who may not be so well-known. Humble in his humility Bose never did strive for fame. The end came unexpectedly, at the break of dawn on the 4th of February 1974, in existence there is an episode that “Great minds break the bonds of earthly desires and continue to pass on their findings” in Chitragyan.

Professor Bose has left a legacy to the scientific world. With the passing away of Professor Satyendra nath Bose an era comes to an end. A great physicist he certainly was, yet he was a complete human, gentle beyond words. Warm-hearted towards friends, he was unassuming and unpretentious and gave no indication of his scholarly achievements. A liberated mind is well aware that no man is an island complete unto himself.


Questions and Answers

Q 1. SatyendraNath translated which Einstein’s work from German to English?

a) General theory of gravity

b) Theory of Force

c) General theory of Relativity

d) None of these

Ans c

Q 2. Who renamed the Hindu college founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Presidency College.

a) Thomas Babington Macaulay

b) Henry Macaulay

c) Neil Bohr

d) None of these

Ans a

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