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With equipment worth hardly Rs. 200/- and limited facilities, Raman was able to make a discovery which won him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1930. This is his story.
Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman
On November 7, 1888, Raman was born in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. From the beginning, he was an excellent student. Raman finished a master’s programme at Presidency College in Madras (now Chennai). He started writing research papers for science publications because science had already left an influence on him. He joined the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science at the age of just 19.
He accepted an administrative position in the Finance Ministry in Calcutta in the interim, as per his parents’ desires. But he never lost interest in science. Raman’s interest in acoustics, the science of sound, peaked in his early years. He researched the symbiotic nature of music and stringed instruments like the violin and sitar.
At the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science headquarters in December 1927, one of the laboratories was buzzing with activity. Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman was showing some of his instruments to a visitor when K.S.Krishnan rushed in and announced that professor Compton had won the Nobel Prize. A.H.Compton had demonstrated that the nature of X-rays changes when they pass through matter. The change was dependent on the kind of matter. This phenomenon was known as the “Compton Effect.”
The Raman Effect
Raman was curious if light could change its nature when passed through a transparent medium. He had been conducting research in optics, the science of light, for five years. Raman’s lab lacked advanced apparatus, but he was optimistic that with a few adjustments to his existing equipment, he could still locate the solution.
In front of an assembly of scientists in Bangalore, Raman unveiled his discovery of “new radiation” four months later, on March 16, 1928. He described how a light beam behaves as it passes through a liquid chemical. The discovery was named the “Raman Effect” by the entire world. It was a historic day for scientific research in this country. The entire globe was interested in what he had discovered.
Raman was able to produce a discovery that earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1930 with equipment that was barely worth Rs. 200 and inadequate facilities. His advice to young scientists was to look at the world around them and not to confine themselves to their laboratories. “The essence of science,” he said, “is independent thinking and hard work, not equipment.”
The first Indian academic to complete their studies wholly and win the Nobel Prize was C.V. Raman. He was the first Asian and non-white to get such a prestigious science prize. On November 21st of 1970, he passed away. But we still have his memories. National Science Day is observed on February 28 to honour his outstanding contribution to science and to commemorate the day he discovered the “Raman Effect.”