Friday, April 1, 2011

J C Bose- India's Greatest Botanical Scientist

ACHARYA JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE [1858-1937]
---India’s Greatest Botanical Scientist.


Our ancient Rishis had taught the basic truth that a Spirit or Immanent Principle, supreme and unchanging, pervades the entire universe and that all matter is nothing but energy. This concept, when extended to the plant kingdom means that plants have an inherent consciousness, they breathe, they are sensitive to external stimuli and they are also susceptible to pleasure and pain. This fact was proved by experiment to the scientific community in the world for the first time at the dawn of the 20th Century by an Indian Botanical Scientist by name Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. The Western scientific world was taken aback by the genius of Bose.

Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on 30th November 1858 at Mymensingh, West Bengal,
[now in Bangladesh]. His father, Bhargava Chandra, was a Deputy Magistrate. Even as a student, Jagadish took unusual interest in the observation of the lives of plants and animals.
It is said that he would sow seeds in their garden and observe their sprouting and growth. After his early education in his hometown, Jagadish went to Calcutta where he graduated from the St. Xavier College. In 1880, at the age of 22, he went to Cambridge University and got the Hons. Degree in Botany and returned to India in 1884.

After returning to India, he joined the faculty of the Presidency College, Calcutta. However, his salary was kept at two-third that of a European Professor due to the discriminatory attitude of the British Government and it was further reduced to half, as he was supposed to be officiating only. Bose’s protest against this blatant injustice was unique and typical of the man. He accepted the job but refused to take the salary cheque for the next three years. Finally, realizing the value of the glorious work done by him during these three years and the international credit it brought to the Calcutta University, the demand of Bose was conceded by a special order of His Majesty’s Government and he was paid full salary at par with that of a European, with retrospective effect from the date of joining. In 1887, Bose married Abala Das who was at that time studying in the Government Medical College in Madras. Abala was a brilliant student who, in her later years, involved herself in social activities and served in the field of education. Jagadish was not getting his salary when he married. In spite of this, Abala supported her husband ably in the stand taken by him.

With the passage of time, Bose’s name and fame spread all over the world. In 1896
The London University recognized his services and accorded him with an Honorary Doctorate. The Government of India sent him to England for six months on a lecture tour.
After his tour o England, Bose’s name became a household world in the scientific community. Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore spoke very high of Bose and conferred on him the title of ‘Devotee of the Goddess of Science’ in 1899.

In 1901 Bose went to England to attend the International Conference of Scientists. On 19th May 1901 all the great scientists of London had assembled to witness Bose’s experiment to prove that plants have life. When the plant did not die as expected after he had injected it with poison, Bose was unperturbed. He simply said, “ The poison did not kill the plant. So, it should not kill me, another living being”. So, just to make sure, he brought the injected syringe close to his left arm to inject its contents to his own body. At that moment, a man got up from his seat “ I apologise. I accept my defeat Mr. Bose. It was myself who had replaced the vial of poison with colored water”. Needless to say that the experiment was successful the second time.

When Bose went to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, there was an interesting episode. As a representative of India, he was exempted from paying the entrance fees. However, he had to pay for his wife. Bose did not know French. He could not understand what the man at the counter was saying. So, some gentleman who knew English helped him out. Bose gave his visiting card to that person, who on seeing his name in the card exclaimed with joy “ You are that great Indian Botanist Jagadish Chandra Bose. Are you?” Even laymen knew Bose and his genius by then.

When Bose was teaching in the Presidency College, Calcutta, twice a year he and his wife would go on a tour, visiting places of pilgrimage, places of historical importance, temples, caves, cultural centers and sites of ancient universities and historic monuments. It is said that when the couple visited the ancient ruins of Nalanda and Takshashila Universities, Bose got an intuition that one day or the other he must found an institution of international character which would cater to the needs of researchers in the field of Botany. This intuitive thought became a seed, which germinated into the world famous Bose Research Institute in Calcutta subsequently founded in 1917.

The British Government knighted Bose in 1917 and in the same year he founded the Bose Research Institute in Calcutta. He was the Director of the Institute till his death in 1937. There were twelve research scholars working under him He had trained them to go on their research work undeterred by any obstruction in the pursuit of their goal. He had made them conscious of the Indian tradition of single-minded pursuit of Truth, unaffected by illusion or wavering.

When Bose was in Paris in 1927 he was the guest of Romain Rolland, the world famous philosopher. Romain Rolland gave him a copy of his novel ‘Jean Christophe’ as a reminder o their memorable meeting. In it he wrote “ To one who has shown a new world’. In England,
George Bernard Shaw presented him a collection of his writings in which he wrote “ From the least botanist to the greatest living botanist”

In 1927, Calcutta University honored Bose with a Hon. D.sc. degree and in the same year he was elected the President of the Indian Science Congress. In 1931 the Calcutta Municipality honored him in a function presided over by Subash Chandra Bose. Subhash Babu paid eloquent tributes to the scientific research work done by Bose. As an expression of of the love and respect of the people of India in general, Jagadish Chandra Bose was honored with the title ‘Acharya’ on that memorable occasion.

Even in his old age Bose continued to visit his institute often, supervise its function and give appropriate guidance to the researchers. Even though his general health was quite good, he suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes. During the last years of his life, he used to stay in Darjeeling for rest and recuperation. On 30th November 1937, while he was having his bath, he suffered a severe heart attack and passed away while his friends and the several scientists of the Bose Research Institute in Calcutta were preparing for his birthday. It was the body of Bose that came to the venue and not the scientist Bose. A couple of years before his death, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose had written a letter to Ravindranath Tagore in which he had stated “ Even if I am born a hundred times, I would like to be born in India. India should be my motherland”

Paying tributes to the genius of Jagadish Chandra Bose, some eight years after his death,
The Encyclopedia Britannica in its 1945 edition wrote “ His research was so much in advance of his time that precise evaluation is not possible”

B.M.N.MURTHY

J.C. BOSE [1858-1937]--India's Greatest Botanical Scentist
Created: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 8:51 PM

1 Comments:

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