Satyendranath Bose – Our beloved teacher

The following article is written by Juthika Ray Chaudhuri, who had the pleasure of being his student and learning from the great man himself. She passed out in 1952 and studied directly under him for 2 years before majoring in pure Physics with specialization in X Rays. Here is an article written by her about her experiences as student. She is now 81 years old and has tried her best to narrate the incidents as accurately as possible.

Well most of you might not have heard his name so I'll give a quick and a brief intro as to who he  was and why I consider him the greatest. He was essentially one of the first Indian quantum physicists who had the pleasure of working with Einstein. He laid the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the Bose-Einstein condensate. He was awarded the Padma-Vibhushan by the Indian Government in 1954. Most of us might have heard about bosons, they are particles which follow the Bose-Einstein statistics and thus the inventor Paul Dirac named it after Satyendranath Bose. One of the main goals of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in  Geneva is to test the presence of these Higgs-boson particles. He also has the bose-gas named after  him, the bose gas contains bosons and follows the ideal gas equation. He died at the age of 80 in 1974.

Professor Bose was our beloved teacher. Now after so many years ( I passed out of college in 1952). At that time he hadn’t received the Padma Vibhushan one of the highest honours given by the Indian government so was not very well known. He led a simple life and often wore dhoti and a white coloured vest while the kurta rested on his shoulders.  He often strode out of his car while his driver carried his briefcase to his office.
There were five people in our batch including me, who were pursuing X-rays as a special paper under him in Rajabazaar Science College, Kolkata. He taught like an expert and even though he wasn’t conferred a doctorate, he seemed to be very knowledgeable about all topics especially particle physics.  The arrangement was a round conference table, he as a teacher took the head seat and we gathered around in the remaining seats. He never used a black board while teaching; he preferred writing on pieces of paper and then threw them away on the floor, which we at once collected.  It was almost like a competition and all of us would pounce for the precious notes which he so easily threw away.

Another incident which I vividly remember is the time when the instructor complained about me to Prof Bose and he sided with me defending my actions. During the practical class when we were assigned to watch the X-ray particles captured by a high speed camera, it often got boring. So Ahana di, my senior once asked me to sing. From that day onwards I kept singing in the practical class much to the annoyance of my instructor. One day he decided to go and complain about my singing to the professor himself. The professor listened to the complaint pretty intently and then smiled and said that singing is better than chit-chat. If I prevent them from singing they will gossip which is a worse habit.

SN Bose

After passing out in 1952, I didn’t know where to get the result from so I went directly to sir. When he got to know that I hadn’t seen my result yet, he immediately sent his assistant to find out and because of his high stature in the college, got it out in a jiffy.

I could not finish my research work under him as the daily travel had become a huge problem. I used to stay in extreme South Kolkata and travelling everyday took its toll on me. Also the experiment work took a lot of time and often we would be required to stay till late night which wasn’t much approved in my family.
I am very happy that a particle ‘boson’ has been named after him and wished that he got more credit for his work as he did deserve more.

The recent article about him in the Bengali magazine “Desh” rekindled his memories in me. Through these fond memories I try to re-live those golden experiences I had with him and hope to reproduce the same effects in you. 

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