One of the greatest Indian physicists and the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, CV Raman died on 21 November 1970 due to a heart disease in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), India.
On his death anniversary, here are highlights of his early life, career and achievements. And interesting details of a voyage across the Mediterranean Sea that led to the discovery that he would be always be remembered for.
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman or simply, CV Raman was born on 7 November 1888 in the Madras Presidency (present day Tamil Nadu). Raman was the second of eight children.
Under the guidance of his father who was a lecturer in mathematics and physics, he was exposed to an academic environment at an early age.
Later, teenager Raman settled in Madras (now Chennai) for higher studies and completed his graduation at Presidency College in Physics. He obtained his Master’s degree, three years later.
As suggested by his father, Raman appeared for the Financial Civil Service (FCS) examination and topped the examination. He went to Calcutta to join the Indian Finance Department as Assistant Accountant General.
CV Raman: Physicist At Heart
Even after joining the Indian Finance Department, Raman’s passion for science and research did not die. During his free time and at night, he carried out research at the Indian Association for Cultivation of Sciences (IACS).
The findings of his research got published in international journals like ‘Nature’, ‘The Philosophical Magazine’, and ‘Physics Review’.
In 1917, he joined the University of Calcutta as the first Palit Professor of Physics. Two years later, he was appointed as the Honorary Secretary of the IACS till 1933. He later moved to the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore.
From Part-Time To Full-Time Science
During his voyage to Oxford in 1921, CV Raman began doubting Rayleigh’s theory of the sky’s colour while observing the blue colour of the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the Rayleigh scattering phenomenon, if the Earth had no atmosphere, only a white sun and a black sky would be visible. Vision is possible only because the sunlight is scattered in all directions by the atmosphere. Out of which, blue light is scattered most and hence, the sky looks blue.
While returning to India, Raman used a prism, a miniature spectroscope and a diffraction grating to conclude that the sea scatters light. Consequently, Rayleigh’s theory of sea colour being a reflection of the sky’s colour was discarded.
The Raman Effect And The Nobel Prize
After proving that sea scatters light, Raman continued his research into the light scattering phenomenon.
During the late 1920s, he experimented on the scattering of light by observing the behaviour of monochromatic light which penetrated transparent materials and fell on a spectrograph.
This led to the discovery on 28 February 1928 of what came to be known as ‘Raman Effect’. Raman Effect is the inelastic scattering of a photon by molecules which are excited to higher vibrational or rotational energy levels. In other words, he found that diffused light contains rays of other wavelengths
He won the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the Raman Effect”, becoming the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences.
India celebrates 28 February as the National Science Day to mark the discovery of the Raman Effect. CV Raman was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 1954 in recognition of his invaluable contributions to the field of science.
Obsession With Musical Instruments
For Raman, science and art went together. While researching at IACS, he tried to study the physics behind Indian classical musical instrument tabla and unique sounds of mridangam through experiments in 1919. Later, he went deeper in music to explore the Indian musical drums and ektara.
Raman found out that the heavy wooden shell and syahi gave the mridangam the sustained tone. He also observed that exactly 16 equalizers were used in the drums to maintain the integrity of the structure and its tone variations. He also explained the form of the bridge in the tanpura and veena.
Apart from this, CV Raman also wrote many papers about the working of the violin.