In 1921, while on a voyage to England Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was amazed by the spectacular blue of the Mediterranean sea. Seven years of research led to the Raman Effect, an explanation of the molecular diffraction of light that won him the Nobel Prize in Physics In 1930-the first non-white and first Aslan to be thus honoured.
Always a nationalist, Raman strove to win a place for India in the international arena by mentoring scores of students, many of whom became renowned scientists; he also organized conferences for the promotion of scientific inquiry and founded significant journals. After a long spell at the Indian Association for the Cultivation; of Science and at Calcutta University, and fruitful tenure at the Indian Institute of Science as the first Indian director, he set up the Raman Research institute in 1948, where his legacy survives to this day.
Raman was famous not only for his sharp intellect, but also for his personal charm, abundant vitality and sense of humour. This comprehensive biography details for the first time Raman’s growth as an individual, taking us through his childhood years, his relationships and his travels. Drawing on interviews, anecdotes, family history and other secondary sources, C. V. Raman gives new insights into one of the greatest minds India has produced.
Uma Parameswaran was born in Chennai, and educated in Jabalpur and Nagpur, where her father was a professor of physics. In 1966, she emigrated to Canada with her husband. She earned her PhD from Michigan State University in 1972 and recently retired as professor of English from the University of Winnipeg. She has published extensively in the field of postcolonial literatures and is the author of several works of fiction, poetry and drama, including the award –winning collection What Was Always Hers and recent novel, A Cycle of the Moon.
The scientific life of C. V. Raman has been documented in various ways. All of has scientific papers were presented in a series of six volumes in time for Raman’s birth centenary-that was also the Diamond Jubilee year of the Raman effect-in 1988 and much of the works by Raman and about him were digitized and made available at the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore. His science is great and well documented but perhaps his personal vision, idiosyncrasies and struggles would be even more fascinating for the average reader. Alas, most of those who knew him personally have also died by now. This volume is an attempt to record his life and to trace the influences and events that made him the interesting man and scientist that he was.
I am indebted to several individuals and books in the writing of this biography. For incidents related to Raman’s early life, I acknowledge the data included in a family history written by his elder brother, C. Subrahmanya Ayyar (1885-1960). Written in 1946,it records family genealogy and main events. Throughout the book, I have generally followed a style of reconstructing the events with conversations and narrations while adhering to facts.
I acknowledge, too, the work dine by Sivaraj Ramaseshan in preserving the scientific works of Raman and for freely sharing personal and professional experiences of his relationship with Raman, through narrated anecdotes and published articles. He has done more than any other single person to perpetuate Raman’s legacy.
There are tree excellent biographies of Raman’s scientific life: journey into Light, written by G. Venkataraman (1988), Professor C.V. Raman: Scientific Work at Calcutta by S. N. Sen (1988) and Nobel Laureate C. V. Raman’s Work on Light Scattering: historical Contributions to a Scientific Biography by Rajinder Singh (2004). Rajinder Singh’s volume is a very useful compilation of records of Raman’s scientific life, complete with direct references to reports of organizations ranging from the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Calcutta to the Nobel archives in Stockholm, letters to and from Raman, Raman’s contacts and correspondence with scientists within India and from Europe and the United States and an host of details about Raman’s working life. Another book on Raman’s scientific life is Raman and His Effect (1980) by G. H. Keswani.
One can glean the person behind the scientist from memoirs and biographical sketches written by his students and associates- P. Krishnamurti (1938), S. Bhagavantam (1971), P.R. Pisharoty (1982), A. Jayaraman (1989).
I had the pleasant experience of the wonders of cyberspace when I found that nearly every individual I contacted by e-mail promptly responded with the information I sought from them.
In particular, I would like to specially acknowledge:
the late Lokasundari Raman, who shared many stories about her life and times with me during the 1970s when I started writing a biography of her early life and times;
the late Sivaraj Ramaseshan, for valuable information about Raman, given to me during our informal meetings;
Rajinder Singh, whose book, and especially e-mails about sources, have been extremely useful; Raman Research Institute fore providing me open access to digitized material and library resources;
Mr G. Madhavan for photographs from the Indian Academy of Sciences;
Dr Y.M. Patill, librarian, Raman Research Institute; and
Mr Manjunatha for copying photographs from the archives of the Raman Research Institute.
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