Bose Satyendra Nath
The Creator of Quantum Statistics


Who doth ambition shun,
And loves to live i’ the sun,
Seeking the food he eats
And pleas’d with what he gets,
Shakespeare in As You Like It

The main human lesson drawn from investigation of natural phenomena ever more remote from ordinary experience is the recognition of the inseparability of objective knowledge from our ability to put questions to nature by means of experiments suited to give unambiguous answers.
Niels Bohr

Never accept an idea as long as you, yourself, are not satisfied with its consistency and logical structure on which the concepts are based. Study the Masters. These are the people who had made significant contributions to the subject. Lesser authorities clearly bypass the difficult points.
Perhaps Satyen Bose’s greatest charm lies in his ability to look at life in a total manner. The minor pleasure of leisure and pleasant company were to him a part of a bigger universe of the pleasures of the mind and the intellect. In a sense this was also his strongest limitation. Bose was a man who tried to see the world around him in its entirety, in its complexity and in which his particular science and himself were small parts.
B. D. Nag Chaudhuri

Satyendranath bose along with meghnad saha, established modern theoretical physics in india. Bose made significant advances in statistical mechanics and quantum statistics, the description of all forces by a single field theory, x-ray diffraction and the interaction of electromagnetic waves with the ionosphere. In 1924 bose derived planck’s blackbody radiation law without the use of classical electrodynamics as max karl ernst ludwig planck (1854-1947) himself had done. Albert einstein’s generalization of bose’s work led to the system of statistical quantum mechanics, now known as bose-einstein statistics which describes particles of integral spin, which may multiply occupy the same quantum state. Such particles are now known as “bosons” after the name of s. N. Bose. Bose’s name has become part and parcel of modern physics. There is no other scientist whose name is so indissolubly linked with einstein in all the textbooks of physics. ‘indeed bose’s work stands out as one of the central columns supporting the edifice of modern physics’. As partha ghose has stated, “bose’s work stood at the transition between the `old quantum theory’ of planck, bohr and einstein and the new quantum mechanics of schrodinger, heisenberg, born, dirac and others.”

Bose was a rare combination of kaleidoscopic versatility and evergreen vivacity. He made two important contributions in mathematical physics one in his 20s and the other in his fifties. In terms of number of publications (if we go by the present trend where every scientist would tend to flaunt his number of publications rather than their contents) his contribution would appear to be hopelessly insignificant. He published only twenty-five papers including the obituary note on einstein published in science and culture. Out of these 25 papers 17 were single authored that is by bose himself. He had certainly the ability to do more important work in mathematical physics. But he did not do. Why? Bose alone could have answered that. However, it does not mean that in the intervening thirty years he did not do anything. He worked in as diverse fields as chemistry, mineralogy, biology, soil science, philosophy, archaeology, the fine arts, literature and languages.

Unfortunately in india bose’s name is not so familiar. This is a reflection of sad state of indian science. To quote g. Venkataraman: “the name of satyendranath bose will live for ever in physics…unfortunately, most people in india have never heard of him. I would not be surprised if most of our scientists also do not know much about him, although they might have heard his name. Indeed, i am prepared to bet that barring a sprinkling of physicists (mostly theorists), many in our physics community too are ignorant about bose. Even if they have heard of him, it is quite likely that they are not aware of the significance of his work.”

Satyendranath bose (or s. N. Bose, as he is mostly known) was born on january 1, 1894 in kolkata (then calcutta). His ancestral home was in the village bara jagulia in nadia district. In the late 18th century, when kolkata was yet to emerge as metropolitan city, nadia used to be the centre of cultural and intellectual activities in bengal. The dialect of nadia was adopted as standard form of bengali language. He was the eldest and only son of his parents, surendranath bose and amodini bose. Bose had six sisters. His father, surendranath worked in railways. Bose’s grandfather ambika charan also held a government job. Bose started his primary school education in the normal school, which was close to their home. Incidentally this was the same school where rabindranath tagore spent a short period. As the family moved to their own house in different location bose’s school also changed. This time he was admitted in the new indian school. He was again shifted to another school, the hindu school. The mathematics teacher of the hindu school, upendra bakshi was a legendary figure. Once bakshi gave bose 110 marks out of hundred in a test examination. It was certainly a crazy behaviour because you do not expect to get more marks than the specified maximum marks allotted to a particular subject. So the headmaster asked for an explanation. The unrepentant teacher replied: “satyen had succeeded in the allotted time in correctly solving all the questions without excluding any of the alternatives.” He passed the entrance examination from the hindu school in 1909. In fact he stayed one year more in the hindu school as he was due to sit for the entrance examination in 1908. But just two days before the examination he contracted chicken pox and so he could not appear for the examination. Bose utilized the time by studying advanced mathematics and sanskrit classics.

After passing the entrance examination he joined the intermediate science course at the presidency college of kolkata. Here his teachers included prafulla chandra ray(1861-1942) and jagadish chandra bose (1858-1957) . He passed his intermediate examination in 1911. It is interesting to note that he had physiology as his fourth subject in isc examination and in which he scored 100 marks out of hundred. In the bsc honours examination in mathematics, which he passed in 1913, he stood first in order of merit. He passed the msc examination in mixed mathematics (modern-day equivalent to applied mathematics or mathematical physics). He not only stood first in the examination but also created a new record in the history of the calcutta university by securing ninety-two percent marks. Meghnad saha stood second in both the examinations. Bose, and also saha, joined the newly created university college of science as lecturer. Their first appointments were in the department of applied mathematics but after a year they got themselves transferred to the department of physics. On their initial teaching assignments bose said: “we took upon ourselves the teaching of postgraduate students. Saha taught theory of heat and thermodynamics and spectroscopy in the physics department and hydrostatics in the mathematics department. I was more amphibious, teaching both physics and applied mathematics quite regularly. On me fell the task of teaching general physics and giving all entrants suitable introduction to mathematical physics, teaching them differential equations, harmonic analysis etc. I also taught elasticity and relativity in the mathematics department.”

Besides teaching, both bose and saha started doing research. They did not have any laboratory facility. The only thing they had was the library of the presidency college. Even there the advanced books by the great masters were not available. Fortunately for bose and saha one dr. Bruhl in the bengal engineering college had many important books and they started borrowing from him. Dr. Bruhl belonged to austria. On health ground he was advised to live in a country with a warmer climate. That is how dr. Bruhl landed at kolkata. Dr. Bruhl, who was trained as botanist, taught engineering physics and run the laboratory in the bengal engineering college.

Bose’s first important contribution in theoretical physics was a joint research paper with saha. The paper titled “on the influence of the finite volume of molecules on the equation of state”, was published in the philosophical magazine in 1918. The next year bose published two papers in the bulletin of the calcutta mathematical society. One was on “the stress equation of equilibrium” and the other “on horpolhod”. Both these papers were on pure mathematics. In 1920 he again published a joint paper with saha on the equation of state in the philosophical magazine. This was followed by bose’s paper “on the deduction of rydberg’s law from the quantum theory of spectral emission” in 1920. This was also published in philosophical magazine. Then there was no publication from bose for three years.

When the dacca university was founded in 1921, bose moved there as reader in the department of physics. In a letter written to his friend m. N. Saha, bose described the situation at the dacca university: “…it has been well over a month since i moved to your part of the country. Work has not yet started. Your dacca college had quite a few things but due to utter neglect they are in a bad way. Perhaps i need not elaborate. On the table of the sahibs are scattered lots of nicol prisms, lens and eye-pieces. It would require a lot of research to determine which one belongs to which apparatus. We do suffer from lack of journals here, but the authorities of the new university have promised to place order for some of them alonwith their back numbers. Talk is going on about having a separate science library.”

While teaching post-graduate students at the dhaka university bose felt dissatisfied with the existing derivations of plank’s radiation law. Inspired by discussion with saha, bose developed a logically satisfactory derivation based entirely on einstein’s photon concept. As in earlier cases he sent his paper to the philosophical magazine but to his disappointment this time his paper was turned down. Then he decided to send the paper to albert einstein with a request to arrange its publication in zeitschrift für physic. It was a bold decision. Bose’s letter to einstein has become important document in the history of science. Bose in his letter dated june 04, 1924 wrote:
“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 8p v2/c3 in Plank’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 Physic. 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.”

Einstein not only acknowledged the receipt of Bose’s letter but also assured Bose that he would have it published as he regarded it as an important contribution. Einstein himself translated Bose’s paper into German and it was published in August 1924 issue of Zeitschrift für Physic under the heading “Plancksgesetz Lichtquantenhypothese” (Its English title was “Planck’s Law and Light Quantum Hypothesis”) with the following comment of the translator: “Bose’s derivative of Plank’s formula appears to me to be an important step forward. The method used here gives also the quantum theory of an ideal gas, as I shall show elsewhere.” This is how quantum statistics was born. It may be noted here that statistical ideas entered physics through the work of James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79) and Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann(1844-1906) on the kinetic theory of gases, more than a century ago.

Einstein applied Bose’s method to give the theory of the ideal quantum gas, and predicted the phenomenon of Bose-Einstein condensation.

When Bose was trying to rederive Planck’s Law he himself was not even aware that he would make a revolutionary discovery. Planck’s Law had been known for well over twenty years and there were a number of derivations including the one by Einstein. Bose said to J. Mehra: “I had no idea that what I had done was really novel. I thought that perhaps it was the way of looking at the thing. I was not a statistician to the extent of really knowing that I was doing something, which was really different from what Boltzmann would have done from Boltzmann statistics. Instead of thinking of the light quantum just as a particle, I talked about these states. Somehow, this was the same question that Einstein asked when I met him. How had I arrived at this method of deriving Plank’s formula? Well, I recognized the contradictions in the attempts of Planck and Einstein, and applied the statistics in my own way, but I did not think that it was different from Boltzmann’s statistics.” It may be noted that even Einstein could not foresee the full potential and application possibilities of Bose’s idea, which, along with its subsequent development by Fermi provided the basis of categorizing the fundamental particles into two groups –bosons after Bose and fermions after Fermi.

In early 1924 Bose applied for two years leave from the Dacca University to enable him to go to Europe to familarise himself with latest developments in his fields. He got the permission only after he could show Einstein’s appreciative postcard to the Vice Chancellor of the University. Thus Bose in one of his letters to Einstein wrote: “Your first postcard came at a critical moment and it has more than any other made this sojourn to Europe possible for me.”

Bose arrived in Europe in October 1924. He intended to spend a few weeks in Paris before going to Berlin to meet Einstein. He was more comfortable in French than in German. However, he ended up in staying about a year in Paris. Explaining this Bose said to Mehra: “I wanted to go abroad directly to Berlin but I did not venture to go straight on because I was not sure of my knowledge of German. I came out thinking that perhaps after a few weeks in Paris I should be able to go to Berlin to see Einstein. However two things happened:
i) Friends
ii) Letter of introduction to Langevin

My friends, who received me on arrival there, took me to their boarding house, where they were staying. Then they all insisted that I should stay there. Well I found it convenient to be among friends.”

After reaching Paris he wrote to Einstein requesting his permission to work with him and also for his opinion on his second paper. Bose wrote:
“My heartfelt gratitude for taking trouble of translating the paper yourself and publishing it. I just saw it in print before I left India. I have also sent the middle of June a second paper entitled, “Thermal equilibrium in Radiation Field in the presence of Matter.”

I am rather anxious to know your opinion about it, as I think it to be rather important. I don’t know whether it will be possible also to have this paper published in Zeitschrift für Physic.

I have been granted leave by my university for 2 years. I have arrived just a week ago in Paris. I don’t know whether it will be possible for me to work under you in Germany. I shall be glad, however, if you will grant me permission to work under you, for it will mean for me the realization of a long-cherished dream…”

While Einstein did not acknowledge the receipt of Bose’s second paper but this time Einstein replied. In his letter to Bose dated November 03, 1924, Einstein wrote: “Thank you sincerely for your letter of 26 October. I am glad that I shall have the opportunity soon of making your personal acquaintance. Your papers have already appeared sometime ago. Unfortunately the reprints have been sent to me instead of you. You may have them at any time. I am not in agreement with your basic principle concerning the probability of interaction between radiation and matter, and have given the reasons in a remark which has appeared together with your paper…We may discuss this together in detail when you come here.” Bose was naturally disappointed by Einstein’s comments on his second paper. However, he started thinking deeply about the objections raised by Einstein. He informed Einstein that he was attempting to answer Einstein’s criticism in the form of a paper. In fact Bose had shown the manuscript to Paul Langevin(1872-1946) in Paris, who thought it worth publishing. However, the paper was never published.

At Paris, one of his friends, Prabodh Chandra Bagchi, introduced Bose to Sylvian Levi, the well-known French Indologist, who in turn gave Bose a letter of introduction to Paul Langevin. Bose wanted to familarise himself with latest developments in theoretical as well as experimental physics. Accordingly Bose thought that he should learn radioactivity techniques from Marie Curie(1867-1934) and something of X-ray spectroscopy from Maurice de Broglie (1892-1967). Langevin, who suggested that Bose should pursue the possibility of working in Curie’s laboratory, gave him a letter of introduction to Curie. Accordingly Bose met Curie. Although Curie recognised Bose’s genius but at the beginning she was hesitant in admitting him in her laboratory as she was not sure Bose’s knowledge in French. This was because of earlier unhappy experience with an Indian student, who had no knowledge in French. So she had given Bose a long lecture emphasising the importance of knowing French. So after spending few months in learning French Bose returned to Curie’s laboratory Bose and where he made certain difficult measurements of piezoelectric effect. However, Bose’s desire to learn techniques in radioactivity remained unfulfilled. Though Bose had a good working knowledge in French but he did not tell the same to Curie at their first meeting. If he informed Curie about his knowledge of French she would have accepted him as her research assistant. Throughout his life Bose never tried to draw attention to himself. Those who did not understand Bose’s nature explained it in other ways. For example William A. Blampied thought that `Bose was terribly intimidated by most Europeans.’ To support such conclusion Blampied cited the following instances: “Although he (Bose) was in Paris with Langevin while the latter was communicating with Einstein on de Broglie’s thesis, there is no evidence that Bose ever tried to impress upon Langevin his dream of working with Einstein. Presumably Madame Curie would have accepted him as research assistant had he been able to convince her that he knew sufficient French. Yet he was either too polite or too frightened to interrupt he English monologue by replying in French and thus (perhaps) convincing her.”

With a letter of introduction from Langevin, Bose met Broglie, who readily allowed Bose to work with his chief assistant, Alexander Dauvillier. At Broglie’s laboratory Bose not only learnt diverse techniques of crystallography but also became interested in theoretical aspects of crystal behaviour.

In October 1925 that is after spending about a year, Bose proceeded to Berlin. He was anxious to meet Einstein. But he had to wait several weeks before he could meet Einstein, who was on his annual visit to Leyden. Bose did not work with Einstein but his meeting with him was quite profitable. Einstein’s letter of introduction enabled him to borrow books from the University Library and attend the physics colloquium. With Einstein’s help he could meet some of the topmost German scientists— Fritz Haber (1868-1934), Otto Hahn (1879-1968), Lise Meitner (1878-1968), Walther Bothe (1891-1957), Michael Polanyi, Max von Laue (1879-1960), Walter Gordon(1893-1940), Paul Eugene Wigner(1902- ) and others. He worked in X-ray crystallography in Polanyi’s laboratory and got engaged in theoretical studies with Gordon. He also frequently visited `Radioactivity’ laboratory of Hahn and Meitner. Bose visited Gottingen and where he met Max Born(1882-1970) and Erich Huckel (1896-1980).

In the latter half of 1926 Bose returned to Dhaka. Though he stayed nearly two years in Europe Bose did not publish anything. His friends suggested that he should apply for the post of Professor in the Physics Department of the Dacca University. They also suggested that he should get a letter of recommendation from Einstein. Einstein was little surprised at the request because he thought Bose should naturally get the appointment. But he complied with the request. Apparently Einstein’s recommendation letter did not help Bose. The post was offered to D. M. Bose. However, when D. M. Bose declined the offer Bose was appointed as Professor and Head of the Department of Physics in 1927. At Dhaka he got engaged in experimental physics. He initiated studies on crystal structures. Perhaps such studies were undertaken for the first time in the country. He took up the task of designing his own experimental equipment. He designed and constructed X-ray diffraction cameras for rotation and powder photography. He formulated a simple method for identifying the indices of the plane of reflection of Laue photographs recorded in cylindrical camera. He had a fascination for chemistry. So he started doing research in organic chemistry. He studied the reactions of p-acetyle-amino-benzene-sulphonazide with pyridine and he also worked on the synthesis of some r-pyrone derivatives related to Patulin. In his chemistry related work he was assisted by P. K. Dutta. In 1938 Bose investigated the problem of total reflection of radio waves in the ionosphere. It is said that it was M. N. Saha who induced Bose to look into this problem. To quote one of Bose’s colleagues Dr. Satish Ranjan Khastgir: “Prof. Saha had once come to Dacca from Allahabad. He gave a lecture in the Physics Department. He addressed a huge gathering at the Curzon Hall. Saha spoke these problems relating to reflection of radio waves from the ionosphere on which he was working. He asked his friend Bose to work out a solution for an intricate problem like this. Appleton had given three conditions for the reflection of radio waves, Saha introduced a fourth one based on the hypotheses that there is no absorption of radio waves in the ionosphere. But Saha knew himself that the assumption was arbitrary. So he requested Prof. Bose in the open meeting to give a general solution to the reflection problem. After this lecture Satyendranath concentrated on the problem and finally succeeded in finding a general solution.”

Bose returned to Kolkata in 1945 to become the Khaira Professor of Physics in Calcutta University. During 1953-54 Bose published five important papers on the Unified Field Theory. Although these papers were quite important but they did not create a great stir as earlier papers in 1924. He sent these papers to Einstein. Einstein was not sure how precisely Bose’s solution was to be used in physics and he discussed it in detail in one of his papers. Bose wrote down his reply in detail and he was supposed to discuss it personally with Einstein at Bonn on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the theory of relativity. It did not happen. Einstein died in 1955. When Bose came to know the death of his master (as Bose addressed Einstein in his letters to Einstein) he was so overwhelmed with grief that he tore and threw away the only copy of his important paper. And that was the end of his work on the unified field theory,

He had set up a laboratory of Organic Chemistry at the Department of Pure Physics at the University College of Science. A group of research students under Bose’s leadership initiated an extensive study of Indian clay minerals by X-rays, chemical analysis and cation exchange technique. He also tried to synthesise emetine and quinine but was forestalled by other foreign scientists. He initiated a systematic search for germanium in Indian sulphide minerals. Dr. Asima Chatterjee, a well-known Indian chemist, who worked with Bose on the structure and stereochemistry of several alkaloids and other inorganic substances said: “Work on inorganic complex salts and clay minerals was another major contribution of Professor Bose. A large number of samples of clays, shale and soil from different parts of India were studied. X-ray diffraction methods and the differential thermal analysis were employed in order to understand the atomic structure of common clay minerals and the effect of the layer thickness upon cation exchange. Since clays are poor reflectors of X-rays, there is a tendency to choose small diameter cameras but in general with small cameras important details of the power diagram may not be resolved. As such, an adjustable flat-plate camera was designed and used in this investigation. The differential thermal analyzer used in the present investigation was constructed after the design of Berkelheimer.

Very little work was done in India at the time when this project was undertaken. As clays were formed under widely varying environmental conditions the study of minerals from regions still unexplored is important both for the purpose of verification and for new information. With this object in view a differential thermal analyzer and a micro-focus X-ray tube were designed at the laboratory for the study of a number of Indian clays obtained from a wide variety of sources and isolated from different types of soils.”

In 1956 Bose became the Vice Chancellor of the Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Bose was to start teaching of science. He was also to initiate scientific research in the newly created University. It may be noted here Tagore had dedicated his book Visva Parichay (Introduction to the World of Science) to Bose. However, Bose was not welcomed by the old-timers at Shantiniketan. Perhaps they thought that Bose’s initiative would go against the established tradition of Visva Bharati. Whatever might be the reasons for their disliking towards Bose’s presence at Shantiniketan, Bose was quite disappointed and returned to KolkaIt in 1958. It was in 1958 that he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Bose should habe been elected long back. In 1959 he was appointed as national Professor, a post he held till his death

To most of the smaller minds, Bose represents an image of a genius–which disliked hard work and wasted his energies in trivialities. This is because Bose took almost thirty years after the publication of the paper in 1924, which made him internationally known to publish another important paper. But then physics was not the only thing for Bose. Bose’s range of interests was unlimited. Bacon had said: “I have taken all knowledge to be my province.” This was equally true for Bose, though he himself might not have declared it. In this context it is important to quote what B. M. Udgaonkar had to say about Bose: “For smaller minds he had become a drop-out. However, his keen, perspicuous and versatile mind, trained in the method of physics and mathematics was allowing itself to range over a variety of fields, including chemistry and biology, soil science and mineralogy, philosophy and archaeology, fine arts, literature and music. Then after thirty years, during 1953-55, at the age of sixty he performed a tour de force and published some important papers in Unified Field Theory, showing that his mathematical powers were still as keen as ever.”

Bose was an unconventional scientist. He detested any form of formal dress. He would not even mind attending an international scientific conference wearing a lungi around him. He was totally informal. Anybody could enter his room just by pushing the door. An interesting episode depicting Bose’s informal nature has been described by Shantimay and Enakshi Chatterjee: “ Professor P. A. M. Dirac had come to Calcutta along with his wife in the mid-fifties. They were sharing the same car with Bose. Bose let them have the back seat. The front seat, which Bose occupied along with the driver, did not have much room; nevertheless Bose asked some of his students to get in. Dirac, a little surprised, asked if it wasn’t too crowded. Bose looked back and said in his disarming fashion, `We believe in Bose statistics,’ Dirac explained to his wife, `In Bose statistics things crowded together.’ But surprisingly enough Bose preferred not to talk of his work except by way of joke.” Bose mostly worked out his calculations on loose sheets of paper and he did not bother to preserve them.

Bose was averse to anything that would publicise his name. He did not attempt to get a PhD degree and so while doing path-breaking work in science he remained a plain MSc. He enjoyed all good things in life.

In meetings, conferences or in any public forums Bose would often close his eyes and people would think that he had fallen asleep. But he used to be alert all the time. To quote S. D. Chatterjee: “The conscious and the unconscious appeared to have a strange deep unity in his restless brain. At different level of perception the legend curved out a superb figure of a giant who was engagingly childlike and a man of supreme genius who was entirely human. Often he appeared to be immersed in laziness, but the somnolescence was full of alertness. Once presiding over a lecture of Professor Niels Bohr at the Saha institute of Nuclear Physics, he had closed his eyes and it seemed that he was asleep. But when Professor Bohr hesitated before the blackboard and said ‘Perhaps professor Bose can help me here’, he at once opened his eyes, explained the mathematical point and seemed to revert to his unseeing meditation. On another occasion, at the same venue, he was presiding over a lecture by Professor Frederic Joliot Curie. After introducing the speaker in English, he closed his eyes as usual. But when Professor Joliot asked for an interpreter to render his speech in French into English and none came forward, Professor Bose opened his eyes, stood up and translated Professor Joliot’s speech into chaste English sentence by sentence.”

Bose loved music and fine arts. Commenting on Bose’s love for fine arts and music, S. D. Chatterjee wrote: “His (Bose’s) personality casts its spell of genius on the common people. They regarded him as a living myth or legend. Often in informal musical concerts, Bose, the connoisseur of classical music, would close his eyes and seem to fall asleep, to everybody’s dismay. But at the end, he would open his eyes and put extremely pertinent questions to the performer. He was extremely fond of instrumental music and played on the Esraj like a master. People have seen him playing on his Esraj in a lonely corner of his home, with tears rolling down his eyes. He also had an absorbing interest in fine arts, and often discuss about the elegance of mural paintings with maestros like Jamini Roy. Seldom did he decline to attend any musical soitree, cultural function or art exhibition, when invited.”

Further Shantimay and Enakshi Chatterjee have written that Bose played the flute too. They wrote: “ The fact that he played the Esraj himself is well known. What is not so well known is that he played the flute too. Music was one of his early loves and his interests ranged from folk music to classical as well from Indian to Western. When Professor Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee was writing his book on Indian music he received a number of helpful suggestions from his friend Bose. Dhurjati Prasad used to say that if Bose had not been a scientist he might have become a master musicologist.”

Bose was a great populariser of science. He strongly felt that it was duty to present science to the common man in his own language. For popularizing science Bose wrote in Bengali. This is the reason why his contribution in popularizing science is not known outside Bengal. It were largely Bose’s efforts which led to the establishment of the Bangiya Bijnan Parishad (Science Association of Bengal), a registered society with the sole objective of promoting and popularizing science through the vernacular. The Parishad was formally inaugurated on January 25, 1948. The circular announcing the formation of the Parishad stated: “We need science at every step, but our system of education does not prepare us for it, so that we are not able to utilize science in our everyday life. The main obstacle so far was a foreign language through which education was being imparted. Today the ties have changed. New hopes and aspiration are emerging. Now it is the duty and the responsibility of our scientists to popularize science through the medium of our scientists to popularize science through the medium of vernacular and thus help to create a healthy scientific attitude among the people. As a first step to this effort it has been resolved to form a `Bangiya Bijnan Parishad’. It was mainly through the inspired leadership of Professor Satyendranath Bose.” The Parishad started a monthly magazine on popular science in Bengali, Jnan O Bijnan (Knowledge and Science). As part of his attempt in popularizing science through the vernacular Bose even started teaching Relativity to post-graduate students in colloquial Bengali.

Bose died on February 04, 1974. As S. D. Chatterjee has written, “With Professor Satyen Bose’s death an era ended—an era of great men who created science in India.” Bose was too precious for India. India has many scientists but it woefully lacks great scientists. In the Centenary Edition of Chambers Biographical Dictionary (1997), which has entries of over 17,500 detailed biographies, only the names of six scientists figure namely J. C. Bose. C. V. Raman, S. Ramanujan, S. N. Bose, M. N. Saha, and Homi J. Bhabha. In Cambridge Dictionary of Scientists (2002) this number is reduced to four, where J.C. Bose and H. J. Bhabha do not figure and in the Dictionary of Scientists of the Oxford University Press (1999) this number is five, where the name of Bhabha does not figure. So there are only four Indian scientists namely C. V. Raman, S. Ramanujan, S. N. Bose and M. N. Saha whose names figure in all the three publications mentioned above. Can we hope to add some few more names in these publications? Our younger generation has a lot to learn from the lives of our great scientists like S. N. Bose.

Today there is an institute at Kolkata named after Bose—the S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences.

For Further Reading

1 – Satyendranath Bose by Santimaya Chatterjee & Enakshi Chatterjee, National Book Trust, India, New Delhi, 1976.
2 – The Unconventional Scientist by Santimay Chatterjee and Enakshi Chatterjee, Science Reporter, January 1994.
3 – An Ingenious Derivation by Partha Ghose, Science Reporter, January 1994.
4 – Bose and His Statistics by G. Venkataraman, Universities Press (India) Limited, Hyderabad, 1992.
5 – Satyendra Nath Bose by S. D. Chatterjee in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Indian National Science Academy (Vol.7), New Delhi, 1983.
6 – Satyendranath Bose (1894-1974) by J. Mehra in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (London), Vol.21, pp.118-154, 1975.
7 – A World of Bose Particles by E.C.G. Sudarshan, Science Today, January 1974
8 – The Crisis of Science by Satyendranath Bose, Resonance, February 1996 (this an English translation Bose’s article published in Bengali in August 1931 issue of Parichay. The article is translated by Arnab Rai Chaudhuri)
9 – Bose-Einstein Condensation Observed by Rajaram Nityananda, Resonance, February 1996.
10 – Some Eminent Indian Scientists by Jagjit Singh, Publications Division, Government of India, 1965.
11 – Prof. S. N. Bose: 70th Birthday Homage by Prof. S. N. Bose Seventieth Birthday Committee, Calcutta, 1964.
12 – Bosons – The Birds That Flock and Sing Together by V.B. Kamble, Dream-2047, January 2002.