Giants of Indian science

“The Quantum Indians” drives home the point about India’s contribution to science."
Watching the Raja Choudhury-directed 52-minute documentary “The Quantum Indians” definitely swells the pride of Indian viewers and in all probability will inspire a few youngsters to pursue scientific research irrespective of the hurdles.
Produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust and the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs it won the National Film Award for Best Educational Film in 2013. It highlights how in the early part of the 20th Century and over 20 years before India’s independence, three remarkable Indian scientists Satyendra Nath Bose, C.V. Raman and Meghnad Saha revolutionised the worlds of physics and science by giving three remarkable discoveries and theories.
The film explores their individual biographies, collective impact on the world of science and their legacy in Indian science using their own words, archival imagery and footage, interviews with leading Indian scientists and historians and animated visualizations to demonstrate their theories. The Bose-Einstein Statistic, Condensate and Bosons, the Raman Effect and the Saha Equation have been responsible for some major breakthroughs in quantum physics and astrophysics in last and this century. These include the discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle, the splitting of light and the high temperature ionization of elements.
Agreeing that the film seeks to develop and inspire scientific temper among people especially youngsters, Rajiv Mehrotra, executive producer and commissioning editor, says: “There are many Indian scientists who have made a seminal impact after being trained and groomed in India. The three scientists in the film will inspire people and imbibe hope in them that they too can excel in scientific exploration and investigation after studying, training and grooming in India.” Bose and Saha did M.Sc from Calcutta University while Raman did M.A. from Presidency College Madras. Incidentally, all three taught initially at the University of Calcutta, became members of the Royal Society and Raman went on to win India’s only Nobel Prize for Science.
Remarkable it is to know that Bose sent his paper to Albert Einstein leading to half the particles in this whole world named after him. Similarly Raman who did have a spectrograph wrote to G.D. Birla requesting him for funds to buy one and assuring him that his discovery will definitely land a Nobel Prize. Saha who became a leading astrophysicist initiated creation of Planning Commission and laid emphasis on nuclear energy.
Choudhury has not limited himself to laboratories in portraying the genius of the three Indians but has also highlighted different aspects of their personalities. Bose championed teaching of science in mother tongue to break the language barrier. He was a kind-hearted person who shared food with famine stricken children.
Raman, who is credited of guiding several well known Indian scientists, was a great teacher but an intolerant perfectionist who loved children. Saha stands out for fighting against all odds and poverty before he went on to establish the Institute of Nuclear Physics, the first of its kind in India and organising the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. The scientists were not untouched by the freedom movement in the country and after Independence were committed to nation building. Receiving his Nobel Prize (1930) was hurt by the absence of the Indian flag at the ceremony and remarked that he could not claim to be an Indian there. He dedicated the prize to the freedom fighters of Indian who according to him were spending the golden time of their life in British jails.
Though PSBT movies are shown on different channels of Doordarshan, documentaries like “The Quantum Indians” need to be screened in educational institutions. It requires exposure which can be provided by various Government institutions and also by public-private partnership efforts. Despite critical acclaim such movies which are available for on Internet and for non-commercial display still remain unseen by a vast majority.
S. Ravi
The Hindu
27 Feb 2015
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