Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose is known for working with Albert Einstein on the Bose-Einstein Condensate and as namesake of the boson, or “God particle.”
Physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, born on January 1, 1894, in Calcutta, India, discovered what became known as bosons and went on to work with Albert Einstein to define one of two basic classes of subatomic particles. Much of the credit for discovering the boson, or “God particle,” was given to British physicist Peter Higgs, much to the chagrin of the Indian government and people.
Physicist Satyendra Nath Bose was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal, India, on January 1, 1894, the eldest and only male of seven children. Bose was a brainiac early on. He passed the entrance exam to the Hindu School, one of India’s oldest schools, with flying colors and stood fifth in the order of merit. From there, Bose attended Presidency College, where he took an intermediate science course and studied with renowned scientists Jagadish Chandra Bose and Prafulla Chandra Ray.
Bose received a Bachelor of Science in mixed mathematics in 1913 from Presidency College and a Master of Science in the same subject in 1915 from Calcutta University. He received such high scores on the exams for each degree that not only was he in first standing, but, for the latter, he even created a new record in the annals of the University of Calcutta, which has yet to be surpassed. Fellow student Meghnad Saha, who would later work with Bose, came in second standing.
Between his two degrees, Bose married Usha Devi at age 20. After completing his master’s degree, Bose became a research scholar at the University of Calcutta in 1916 and began his studies on the theory of relativity. He also set up new departments and laboratories there to teach undergraduate and graduate courses.
Research and Teaching Career
While studying at the University of Calcutta, Bose also served as a lecturer in the physics department. In 1919, he and Saha prepared the first English-language book based on German and French translations of Albert Einstein’s original special and general relativity papers. The pair continued to present papers on theoretical physics and pure mathematics for several years following.
In 1921, Bose joined the physics department at the University of Dhaka, which had then been recently formed, and went on to establish new departments, laboratories and libraries in which he could teach advanced courses. He wrote a paper in 1924 in which he derived Planck’s quantum radiation law without referencing classical physics—which he was able to do by counting states with identical properties. The paper would later prove seminal in creating the field of quantum statistics. Bose sent the paper to Albert Einstein in Germany, and the scientist recognized its importance, translated it into German and submitted it on Bose’s behalf to the prestigious scientific journal Zeitschrift für Physik. The publication led to recognition, and Bose was granted a leave of absence to work in Europe for two years at X-ray and crystallography laboratories, where he worked alongside Einstein and Marie Curie, among others.
Einstein had adopted Bose’s idea and extended it to atoms, which led to the prediction of the existence of phenomena that became known as the Bose-Einstein Condensate, a dense collection of bosons—particles with integer spin that were named for Bose.
After his stay in Europe, Bose returned to the University of Dhaka in 1926. Although he did not have a doctorate, Einstein had recommended he be made a professor, and so Bose was made head of the physics department. But upon his return, Bose did not publish for a significant period of time. According to a July 2012 New York Times article in which Bose is described as the “Father of the ‘God Particle,'” the scientist’s interests wandered into other fields, including philosophy, literature and the Indian independence movement. He published another physics paper in 1937 and in the early 1950s worked on unified field theories.
After 25 years in Dhaka, Bose moved back to Calcutta in 1945 and continued to research and teach there until his death in 1974.
Recognition and Honors
Several Nobel Prizes were awarded for research related to the concepts of the boson and the Bose-Einstein Condensate. Bose was never awarded a Nobel Prize, despite his work on particle statistics, which clarified the behavior of photons and “opened the door to new ideas on statistics of Microsystems that obey the rules of quantum theory,” according to physicist Jayant Narlikar, who said Bose’s finding was one of the top 10 achievements of 20th-century Indian science.
But Bose himself responded simply when asked how he felt about the Nobel Prize snub: “I have got all the recognition I deserve.”
The Indian government honored Bose in 1954 with the title Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India. Five years later, he was appointed as the National Professor, the highest honor in the country for a scholar. Bose remained in that position for 15 years. Bose also became an adviser to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, as well as president of the Indian Physical Society and the National Institute of Science. He was elected general president of the Indian Science Congress and president of the Indian Statistical Institute. In 1958, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.
About 12 years after Bose’s death on February 4, 1974, the Indian parliament established the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences in Salt Lake, Calcutta.
Regardless of the honors and recognition his own country bestowed upon Bose, the international community failed, for the most part, to regard him as a scientist who made a major discovery. When in the summer of 2012 people celebrated the international cooperation that led to a breakthrough in identifying the existence of the boson particle, they credited British physicist Peter Higgs and the Higgs boson particle.
“Many in India were smarting over what they saw as a slight against one of their greatest scientist,” The Huffington Post wrote in a July 10, 2012, article. The article also quoted an editorial written earlier that week in The Economic Times, which said, “Many people in this country [India] have been perplexed, and even annoyed, that the Indian half of the now-acknowledged ‘God particle’ is being carried in lower case.”
The editorial went on to say that what people do not realize that is the naming of all bosons after Bose “actually denotes greater importance.”