Jagdish Chandra Bose

From New World Encyclopedia

Jagdish Chandra Bose in his lab.

Jagdish Chandra Bose জগদীশ চন্দ্র বসু


November 30, 1858
Flag of Bangladesh Mymensingh, Bangladesh

Died November 23, 1937

Flag of India Giridih, Jharkhand, India

Residence Undivided India
Nationality Undivided India
Field Physicist, Biophysicist
Institutions Presidency College
Alma mater Calcutta University
Christ's College, Cambridge
London University
Academic advisor  John Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) Nobel.svg
Known for Millimeter waves

Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose (Bengali: জগদীশ চন্দ্র বসু Jôgdish Chôndro Boshu) (November 30, 1858 – November 23, 1937) was a Bengali from undivided India, who contributed to the foundations of experimental science there. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave signaling and optics, and made highly significant contributions to plant science.[1] He is also considered the father of Bengali science fiction.

Bose is highly regarded in the scientific communities of the world not merely for his contributions, but also for the changes they brought to India and the Western attitude toward Indian science. He was a man of strong principles, who went beyond the restrictions of the caste system and beyond Hindu-Muslim animosity. In addition, based on his principles, he was reluctant to patent his inventions and was willing to forgo a salary that was deliberately demeaning.

Early life and education

Bose was born in Mymensingh in East Bengal (what is now Bangladesh) , on November 30, 1858. His father, Bhagawan Chandra Bose was a respected leader of the Brahmo Samaj and worked as a deputy magistrate/assistant commissioner in Faridpur,[2] Bardhaman, and other places.[3] His family originally hailed from the village Rarikhal, Bikrampur, in the current day Munshiganj District of Bangladesh.[4]

Bose’s education started with a vernacular school, because his father believed that one must know his own mother tongue before beginning English, and that he should know his own people. Speaking at the Bikrampur Conference in 1915, Bose said:

At that time, sending children to English schools was an aristocratic status symbol. In the vernacular school, to which I was sent, the son of the Muslim attendant of my father sat on my right side, and the son of a fisherman sat on my left. They were my playmates. I listened spellbound to their stories of birds, animals and aquatic creatures. Perhaps these stories created in my mind a keen interest in investigating the workings of Nature. When I returned home from school accompanied by my school fellows, my mother welcomed and fed all of us without discrimination. Although she an orthodox old fashioned lady, she never considered herself guilty of impiety by treating these "untouchables" as her own children. It was because of my childhood friendship with them that I could never feel that there were "creatures" who might be labeled "low-caste," I never realized that there existed a "problem" common to the two communities, Hindus and Muslims.

Bose joined the Hindu College and then St. Xavier’s College (an institution) in Calcutta in 1869. In 1875, Bose passed the Entrance Examination (equivalent to school graduation) of University of Calcutta and was admitted into St. Xavier's College for undergraduate studies. At St. Xavier's, Bose met Father Eugene Lafont, who played a significant role in developing Bose’s interest in the natural sciences. He received a B.A. in Science from the University of Calcutta in 1880.

Bose wanted to go to England to compete for the Indian Civil Service, but although his father was an able administrator, he vetoed the plan, as he wished his son to be a scholar. He, however, readily consented to his son’s intention to study medicine. Bose went to England to study Medicine at University of London. However, he had to quit study of medicine because of ill health.[5] The odor in the dissection rooms is also said to have exacerbated his illness.

Through the recommendation and influence of Ananda Mohan Bose, his brother-in-law (sister's husband) and the first Indian Wrangler, he secured admission in Christ's College, Cambridge, at the Cambridge to study Natural Science. He received the Natural Science Tripos from Cambridge University and a B.Sc. from the London University in 1884. Among Bose’s teachers at Cambridge were Lord Rayleigh, Michael Foster (physiologist), James Dewar, Francis Darwin, Francis Balfour, and Sidney Vines. At the time when Bose was a student at Cambridge, Prafulla Chandra Roy was a student at Edinburgh. They met in London and became intimate friends.

Joining Presidency College

Bose returned to India in 1885, carrying a letter from Fawcett, the economist, to Lord Ripon, Viceroy of India. On Lord Ripon’s request, Sir Alfred Croft, the Director of Public Instruction, appointed Bose officiating professor of physics in Presidency College. The principal, C.H. Tawney, protested against the appointment but had to accept it.[6] The British still believed that Indians were gifted in sciences but lacked the capability to deal with exact sciences.

Soon after joining Presidency College, Bose started to teach practical classes at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, where his former teacher, Father Eugene Lafont, was still lecturing on physics. Here, as Subrata Dasgupta stated, “Bose’s demonstrations were primarily in the realm of electricity and magnetism.”

In 1894, he decided to undertake research, viewing science as a means by which he could allow India to recover her pride and break Western prejudice toward Indian science. However, Bose was not provided with any facilities for research. On the other hand, he was a "victim of racialism" with regard to his salary. In those days, an Indian professor was paid Rs. 200 per month, while a European drew Rs. 300 per month. Since Bose was officiating, he was offered a salary of only Rs. 100 per month.[7] With a remarkable sense of self respect and national pride, he decided on a new form of protest. He refused to accept the salary check. In fact, he continued his teaching assignment for three years without any salary.[8] Finally, both the Director of Public Instruction and the Principal of the Presidency College fully realized the value of Bose’s skill in teaching and also his lofty character. As a result his appointment was made permanent with retrospective effect. He was given the full salary for the previous three years in lump sum.

Presidency College lacked a proper laboratory. Bose had to conduct his researches in a small 24 square foot room. He devised equipments for the research with the help of one untrained tinsmith. He was also known as an excellent teacher who believed in the use of classroom demonstrations, a trait apparently picked up while studying with Lord Rayleigh at Cambridge. He influenced many later Indian physicists, including Satyendra Bose (no relation) and Meghnad Saha, who later went on to be influential figures in twentieth century physics.

Sister Nivedita writes, "I was horrified to find the way in which a great worker could be subjected to continuous annoyance and petty difficulties … The college routine was made as arduous as possible for him, so that he could not have the time he needed for investigation." After his daily grind, which he of course performed with great conscientiousness, he carried out his research far into the night, in a small room in his college.

Moreover, the policy of the British government for its colonies was not conducive to attempts at original research. Nobody expected to be favored with a research laboratory or research grant. Bose was not a person to quarrel with circumstances but confronted them and dominated over them. He spent his hard-earned money on making experimental equipment. Within a decade of his joining Presidency College, he emerged a pioneer in the research field of wireless waves.


In 1887, he was married to Abala Das, daughter of the renowned Brahmo reformer, Durga Mohan Das. Earlier, Abala was denied admission to Calcutta Medical College (female students were not accepted in the college then). Later, she went to Madras (now Chennai) in 1882, on Bengal government scholarship to study medicine at Madras Medical College. Like Bose, she had to give up because of ill health.[9] At the time of their marriage, Bose was facing great financial crisis. On one hand he was not accepting his salary. On the other, the failure of some of the indigenous ventures of his father had failed and landed the family in dire straits. The newly married couple faced many privations and came out with flying colors, repaying the father's debts. Bose's parents lived for some time after all the debts were cleared.

Radio research

The British theoretical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, mathematically predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves of diverse wave lengths, but he died in 1879, before his prediction was experimentally verified. British physicist Oliver Lodge demonstrated the existence of Maxwell’s waves transmitted along wires in 1887-88. The German physicist Heinrich Hertz showed experimentally, in 1888, the existence of electromagnetic waves in free space. Subsequently, Lodge pursued Hertz’s work and delivered a commemorative lecture in June 1894, a few months after Hertz’s death and published it in book form. Lodge’s work caught the attention of scientists in many countries, including Bose in India.[10]

The first remarkable aspect of Bose’s follow up microwave research was that he reduced the waves to the millimeter level (about 5 mm wavelength). That was within a few octaves of visible light. He knew that long waves were advantageous because of their great penetrative power but realized their disadvantages for studying the light-like properties of those electric waves.

In November 1894 (or in 1895, according to some sources), in a public demonstration in Calcutta, J.C. Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using microwaves in wavelength in millimeter of range. The demonstration was held in the Town Hall of Calcutta, in the presence of Sir William Mackenzie, the Lieutenant Governor, and Bose wrote in a Bengali essay, Adrisya Alok (Invisible Light), “The invisible light can easily pass through brick walls, buildings etc. Therefore, messages can be transmitted by means of it without the mediation of wires.” This was one year after Nikola Tesla made the first public demonstration of radio communication in 1893. In Russia, Popov was performing similar experiments, but had recorded in December 1895 that he was hoping for distant signaling with radio waves.[11]

Bose’s first scientific paper, “On polarisation of electric rays by double-refracting crystals” was communicated to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in May 1895, within a year of Lodge’s paper. His second paper was communicated to the Royal Society of London by Lord Rayleigh in October 1895. The Society agreed to have it published in their Proceedings. In December 1895, the London journal, The Electrician (Vol 36) published Bose’s paper, “On a new electro-polariscope.” At that time, the word "coherer," coined by Lodge, was used in the English-speaking world for Hertzian wave receivers or detectors. The Electrician readily commented on Bose’s coherer (December 1895). The Englishman (January 18, 1896) quoted from The Electrician and commented as follows: ”Should Professor Bose succeed in perfecting and patenting his ‘Coherer,' we may in time see the whole system of coast lighting throughout the navigable world revolutionized by a Bengali scientist working single handed in our Presidency College Laboratory.” Bose planned to “perfect his coherer,” but never thought of patenting it.

By the end of 1895, Bose ranked high among Hertz’s successors.

The 1895 public demonstration by Bose, in Calcutta, was before Marconi's wireless signaling experiment on Salisbury Plain in England in May 1897. Bose went to London on a lecture tour in 1896, and met Marconi, who was conducting wireless experiments for the British post office. In an interview, Bose said he was not interested in commercial telegraphy and others can use his research work. In 1899, Bose announced the development of an "iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector" in a paper presented at the Royal Society, London.

It appears that Bose's demonstration of remote wireless signaling had priority over Marconi. He was the first to use a semiconductor junction to detect radio waves, and he invented various now commonplace microwave components. In 1954, Pearson and Brattain gave priority to Bose for the use of a semi-conducting crystal as a detector of radio waves. Further work at millimeter wavelengths was almost nonexistent for nearly 50 years. J.C. Bose was at least this much ahead of his time. Just one hundred years ago, J.C. Bose described to the Royal Institution in London his research carried out in Calcutta at millimeter wavelengths. He used waveguides, horn antennas, dielectric lenses, various polarizers and even semiconductors at frequencies as high as 60 GHz; much of his original equipment is still in existence, now at the Bose Institute in Kolkata (Calcutta).[12] Some concepts from his original 1897 papers have been incorporated into a new 1.3-mm multi-beam receiver now in use on the NRAO 12 Meter Telescope, Arizona, U.S.

Neville Francis Mott, 1977 Nobel laureate for his own contributions to solid-state electronics, remarked that "J.C. Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time," and, "In fact, he had anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors."

Plant research

Bose's next contribution to science was in plant physiology. He forwarded a theory for the ascent of sap in plants in 1927, his theory contributed to the vital theory of ascent of sap. According to his theory the pumping action of the living cells in the endodermis junction were responsible for the ascent of sap in plants.

He was skeptical about the-then most popular theory in ascent of sap, the tension-cohesion theory of Dixon and Joly, first proposed in 1894. His skepticism on the same turned true when Canny proposed the most successful "CP theory" backed by strong experimental evidence. Canny experimentally demonstrated the sort of pumping in the living cells in the junction of the endodermis, which Bose demonstrated 60 years earlier.

His research in plant stimuli were pioneering, he showed with the help of his newly invented crescograph that plants responded to various stimuli as if they had nervous systems like that of animals. He therefore found a parallel between animal and plant tissues.

His experiments showed that plants grow faster in pleasant music and its growth retards in noise or harsh sound. This was experimentally verified later on. His major contribution in the field of biophysics was the demonstration of the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli (wounds, chemical agents) in plants, which were earlier thought to be of chemical in nature. These claims were experimentally proved by Wildon, et al (Nature, 1992, 360, 62–65). He also studied for the first time action of microwaves in plant tissues and corresponding changes in the cell membrane potential, mechanism of effect of seasons in plants, effect of chemical inhibitor on plant stimuli, effect of temperature etc,. And all studies were pioneering. He claimed that plants can "feel pain, understand affection, etc.," from the analysis of the nature of variation of the cell membrane potential of plants, under different circumstances. According to him, a plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture.

The Boseian Thesis

The Boseian Thesis relates to another aspect of Bose’s research in the field of botany. From the manuscript submitted to the Royal Society (but never published), the thesis stated that “there is no discontinuity between the living and the nonliving.” With such research, Bose began to draw connections between the responsive behavior of living matter, such as muscle, and inanimate matter like metal. However, his thesis was met with great resistance by both physicists and physiologists. After that, Bose completely indulged in plant research, instead of the balance between physics and botany.

Science Fiction

In 1896, Bose wrote Niruddesher Kahini, the first major work in Bangla Science Fiction. Later, he added the story in Obbakto book, as Polatok Tufan. He was the first science fiction writer in the Bengali language.

Bose and patents

Bose was not interested in patenting his inventions. In his Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution, London, he made public his construction of the Coherer. Thus The Electric Engineer expressed "surprise that no secret was at any time made as to its construction, so that it has been open to the entire world to adopt it for practical and possibly moneymaking purposes." Bose declined an offer from a wireless apparatus manufacturer for signing a remunerative agreement. One of Bose's American friends, Sara Chapman Bull, succeeded in persuading him to file a patent application for "detector for electrical disturbances." The application was filed on September 30, 1901, and it was granted on March 29, 1904, (U.S. patent No. 755,840.[13]

Speaking in New Delhi in August 2006, at a seminar titled, Owning the Future: Ideas and Their Role in the Digital Age, the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, Dr V. S. Ramamurthy commented on the attitude of Bose towards patents. He said:

His reluctance to any form of patenting is well known. It was contained in his letter to (Indian Nobel laureate) Rabindranath Tagore dated May 17, 1901, from London. It was not that Sir Jagdish was unaware of patents and its advantages. He was the first Indian to get a U.S. Patent (No: 755840), in 1904. And Sir Jagdish was not alone in his avowed reluctance to patenting. Roentgen, Pierre Curie and many others also chose the path of no patenting on moral grounds.

He further noted that Bose recorded his attitude toward patents in his inaugural lecture at the foundation of the Bose Institute, on November 30, 1917.


Bose’s place in history has now been reevaluated. He is credited with invention of the first wireless detection device and discovery of millimeter-length electromagnetic waves, and he is considered a pioneer in the field of biophysics.

Many of his instruments are still on display and remain largely usable now, over one hundred years later. They include various antennas, polarizers, and waveguides, all of which remain in use in modern forms today.

Commemorating his birth centenary in 1958, the JBNSTS scholarship program was started in West Bengal.

Publications by Bose

  • Nature published about 27 papers.
  • J.C. Bose, Collected Physical Papers. New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co., 1927.
  • Researches into the Irritability of Plants
  • The Ascent of Sap
  • The Nervous Mechanisms of Plants


  • Knighthood, 1916.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, 1920.
  • Member of the Vienna Academy of Science, 1928.
  • President of the 14th session of the Indian Science Congress in 1927.
  • Member of the League of Nations' Committee for Intellectual Cooperation.
  • Founding fellow of the National Institute of Sciences of India (now renamed the Indian National Science Academy).


  1. Santimay Chatterjee and Enakshi Chatterjee, Satyendranath Bose (National Book Trust, 2002, ISBN 8123704925).
  2. Subodh Mahanti, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose, Biographies of Scientists. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  3. Visvapriya Mukherji and Jagdish Chandra Bose, Builders of Modern India (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1994, ISBN 8123000472).
  4. Md Mahbub Murshed, Bose, (Sir) Jagdish Chandra. Retrieved March 12, 2007.
  5. Calcutta web, Jagdish Chandra Bose. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  6. Visvapriya Mukherji, p.11-13.
  7. Sunil Gangopadhyay, Protham Alo (Ananda Publishers Pvt. Ltd, 2002, ISBN 8172153627).
  8. Indian National Science Academy, Jagdish Chandra Bose, Pursuit and Promotion of Science: The Indian Experience (Chapter 2). Retrieved March 12, 2007.
  9. Subodh Chandra Sengupta and Anjali Bose (eds.), Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (1976, ISBN 8185626650).
  10. Visvapriya Mukherji, p. 14-25.
  11. D.T. Emerson, The Work of Jagdish Chandra Bose: 100 Years of MM-wave Research, IEEE. Retrieved March 13, 2007.
  12. Bose Institute, Homepage. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
  13. United States Patent and Trademark Office, [http://patimg1.uspto.gov/.piw?docid=US000755840&SectionNum=1&IDKey=550103618D17&HomeUrl=http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1%2526Sect2=HITOFF%2526d=PALL%2526p=1%2526u=%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsrchnum.htm%2526r=1%2526f=G%2526l=50%2526s1=0755840.PN.%2526OS=PN/0755840%2526RS=PN/0755840 Publication Number: 00755840.] Retrieved March 16, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Canny, M.J. 1995. A New Theory for the Ascent of Sap—Cohesion Supported by Tissue Pressure. Annals of Botany 75:343–357.
  • Canny, M.J. 1998. Canny's compensating pressure theory fails a test. American Journal of Botany 85:897–909.
  • Canny, M.J. 1998. Bioelectricity and the rhythms of sensitive plants—The biophysical research of Jagadis Chandra Bose. Am. Sci. 86: 152–159.
  • Dasgupta, Subrata. 1999. Jagdish Chandra Bose and the Indian Response to Western Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195648749.
  • Davies, E. 1987. Action Potentials as Multifunctional Signals in Plants: A Unifying Hypothesis to Explain Apparently Disparate Wound Responses. Plant Cell Environ. 10:623–631.
  • Davies, E. 1987. Plant responses in wounding. The Biochemistry of Plants, vol. 12. New York: Academic Press.
  • Payne, J.M., and P.R. Jewell. 1995. The Upgrade of the NRAO 8-beam Receiver. Multi-feed Systems for Radio Telescopes, ed. D.T. Emerson and J.M. Payne. San Francisco: ASP Conference Series.
  • Pearson, G.L., and W.H. Brattain. 1955. History of Semiconductor Research. Proc. IRE 43: 1794-1806.
  • Pickard, B. G. 1973. Action potentials in higher plants. Bot. Rev. 39:172–201.
  • Roberts, K. 1992. Potential awareness in plants. Nature. 360:14–15.
  • Wayne, R. 1994. Action Potentials in a Giant Algal Cell: A Comparative Approach to Mechanisms and Evolution of Excitability. Bot. Rev. 60:265–367.
  • Wildon, D.C., et al. 1992. Electrical signaling and systemic proteinase inhibitor induction in the wounded plant. Nature 360: 62–65.

External links

All links retrieved November 6, 2021.


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