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Satyendra Nath Bose: about the God of particles

Satyendra Nath Bose: about the God of particles

Satyendra Nath Bose was born on January 1, 1894, in Calcutta to Surendra Nath Bose, an engineer.

New Delhi: Satyendra Nath Bose was born on New Year's Day, 1894, in Calcutta to Surendra Nath Bose, an engineer with the East Indian Railway Company. The eldest among seven siblings, Satyendra Nath Bose, attended Hindu School, a school that had made notable contributions to the Bengal Renaissance and the Reformation movement.

He made a name for himself for his mathematical prowess and his love for science. Bose, as a student at the vaunted Presidency College, Calcutta, went on to secure the highest marks in every discipline (a few of them remains unbroken even now). Meghnad Saha, his classmate and another celebrated Indian nuclear scientist after whom the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics is named, came a close second.

Bose would later take up teaching assignments at Calcutta and Dhaka universities where he would set up entire laboratories to teach his students.

Bose's biggest contribution to Particle Physics came in the form of a study that he sought to present before his students at Dhaka to show them that contemporary theory was not in accordance with results gathered from experiments. During this lecture, Bose committed a 'mistake' in applying the theory, which unexpectedly gave a prediction that agreed with the experiment. But the 'error' was a statistical one and not an experimental one.

That would evolve into Bose writing a paper deriving Planck's quantum radiation law without any regard to classical physics. He used a new way of counting states with identical particles. He sent the paper directly to Albert Einstein in Germany.

Bose wrote to Albert Einstein:

“I have ventured to send you the accompanying article for your perusal and opinion. I am anxious to know what you think of it. You will see that I have tried to deduce the coefficient 8π v2/c3 in Planck’s Law independent of classical electrodynamics, only assuming that the elementary regions in the phase-space has the content h3. I do not know sufficient German to translate the paper. If you think the paper worth publication I shall be grateful if you arrange for its publication in Zeitschrift für Physik. Though a complete stranger to you, I do not feel any hesitation in making such a request. Because we are all your pupils though profiting only by your teachings through your writings. I do not know whether you still remember that somebody from Calcutta asked your permission to translate your papers on Relativity in English. You acceded to the request. The book has since published. I was the one who translated your paper on Generalised Relativity.”

Albert Einstein, recognising the importance of the paper, translated it into German himself and submitted it on Bose's behalf to the prestigious Zeitschrift für Physik journal. As a result of this recognition, Bose was able to work for two years in European X-ray and crystallography laboratories, during which he worked with Louis de Broglie, Marie Curie and Einstein himself.

Bose's 'mistake' is today what the world calls Bose–Einstein statistics. This result derived by Bose laid the foundation of quantum statistics, as acknowledged by Einstein and Paul Dirac.

Though Nobel Prize in Physics awards have been awarded in connection with research in this domain, many find it strange that Satyendra Nath Bose himself was not awarded one. But having an elementary particle named after oneself is an honour that far outstrips any award. A Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded every year. But nomenclature of an elementary particle lasts till the end of time.

Also one needs to keep in mind that the theoretical existence of Higgs boson was proposed in 1964 by the group of scientists led by Peter Higgs. So that way, Bose did not play any direct role in this respect. His impact on this entire Higgs boson saga is much of an inspirational and generic one, a fact that is often lost in the face of jingoism.