Life of Jagadishchandra Bose, Great Scientist

The Parents

Jagadishchandra Bose was born on the 30th of November 1858 in Faridpur in Dacca District. Faridpur was a part of India until 1947; now it is in Bangla Desh. His mother Abala Bose was a tenderhearted and affectionate woman. His father Bhagawanchandra Bose was a man of excellent qualities.

Early Education

As long back as a hundred year ago, Bhagawanchandra Bose started schools in which children were taught in Bengali. Jagadishchandra also received his early education in this school. Jagadish mixed with the poor boys freely and played with them; so he gained first hand knowledge of the sufferings of poor people.

There was another interesting person in his early life. This was a servant who used to take Jagadishchandra to school every day. He had been a dacoit in the past. Bhagawanchandra Bose as a judge had sent him to prison. After some time the dacoit came out of prison. But how was he to live? Bhagawanchandra Bose was a very good-natured man. So he employed him as a servant. The dacoit used to tell little Jagadishchandra. events of his past life the robberies he had committed and his cruel deeds. His adventures made a lasting impression on the boy.

Young Bose was all curiosity. He wanted to know about everything that happened around him. What is, a glow-warm? Is it fire or spark? Why does the wind blow? Why does the water flow? He was always ready with a string of questions. His father would answer as many questions as he could. But he never tried to impress upon his son that he knew everything. If he could not answer a question, he would frankly tell his son so. Thus Jagadish chandra’s parents took great interest not only in his studies but also in everything that shaped his character.

In Calcutta

Jagadishchandra began a new chapter in his life at the age of nine. He had to leave his hometown. He went to the big city of Calcutta for further education. He was admitted to Saint Xavier School there.

While he was studying at Saint Xavier’s, Jagadishchandra was staying in a boarding house. He had no friends and was lonely here. But he was a born scientist. Even as a boy he had many hobbles which showed his scientific interest. He used to breed frogs and fishes in a pond nearby. He would pull out a germinating plant and observe its root system. He had also a number of pets like rabbits, squirrels and non-poisonous snakes. Even in Calcutta he continued these hobbies to get over his solitude. He grew flower-bearing plants and had animals and birds as pets. He did well in his studies and was in the forefront. The teachers liked him for his intelligence. Jagadishchandra passed the School Final Examination in the First Class.

He joined the B.A. class in the college. In those days, science subjects formed a part of this course. He was most interested in Biology (the science of life). But Father Lafont, a famous Professor of Physics, inspired in Bose a great interest in the science of Physics and Bose became his favourite student. Even so, Bose was always interested in any branch of science. Botany, the science of plants, still attracted him much.

In London

By nineteen, Jagadishchandra was a Bachelor of Arts. He wanted to go to England for higher studies. Finally, his good mother allowed him to go. She had saved some money. She also wanted to sell her jewels to meet the expenses of her son’s voyage. Bhagawan chandra Bose prevented her and he managed to find the money on his own.

At last Jagadish was on his way to England. The year was 1880. Twenty- two-year-old Jagadishchandra Bose stepped into the ship; he was stepping into a new phase of life which laid the foundations of a brilliant future.

In London he first studied medicine. But he repeatedly fell ill. So he had to discontinue the course. He then studied Natural Science in Christ Church College, Cambridge. It was necessary to learn Latin in order to study Natural Science; Jagadish had already learnt it. He passed the Tripos Examination with distinction. In addition to the Cambridge Tripos Examination, he passed the Bachelor of Science Examination of London University also.

The Young Scientist  His Own Smith, Too

Jagadishchandra Bose was back in India. He joined the staff of the Presidency College, Calcutta. There was a peculiar practice in that college. The Indian teachers in the college were paid one third of what the British teachers were paid! So Jagadishchandra Bose refused his salary but worked for three years. This did not continue for long. His deep knowledge zest for work and cultured behavior won over those in charge of the college. They saw to it that he was given the full salary of the post and not one-third.

Teaching the same lessons year in and year out was very tedious to Bose. His was an alert mind, always on the look out for new ideas. He wanted to do research, to widen his knowledge and discover new things.

A laboratory is necessary for research. Many scientific instruments are required. Jagadishchandra Bose had no laboratory and he did not have the instruments. But he was not disheartened. For eight or ten years he spent as little out of his salary as possible, lived a very strict life, saved money and bought a laboratory!

Generally Marconi’s name is associated with the invention of wireless. (This made possible the use of the radio.) Jagadish chandra Bose had also conducted independent research in the same field. Marconi was able to announce the result of his work and show how wireless telegraphy worked, earlier than Jagadishchandra Bose. So he is called ‘the father of the radio’. In the year 1896 Bose wrote a research article on electro-magnetic waves. This impressed the Royal Society of England (which is famous all over the world). He was honoured with the Degree of Doctor of Science.

Bose became famous in the world of science. In India and in other countries there was a strong belief that only Westerners could achieve anything worthwhile in science. Bose proved this wrong concept. He showed that there were geniuses elsewhere too. He visited England again, this time to explain his discoveries to the scientists of the West.

Bose needed scientific equipment. But the instruments he needed were not available. But this did not hamper his work. Early in his life he had learnt to make his equipment with his own hands. The scientific instruments he took to England were those he himself had made.


After he lectured at the Royal Society, scientific associations in many other countries invited Jagadishchandra Bose. He visited France, Germany, America and Japan besides England. He lectured at several places and explained his discoveries.

When electricity passes through a man, animal or plant, we say there is a ‘shock’. When it is passed through a living being the being gets excited, ‘irritated’. Bose developed an instrument that would show such a reaction of the organism on a graph. When electricity was passed through zinc, a non-living substance, a similar graph was obtained. So he came to the conclusion that living and non-living things were very similar in certain reactions.

In Paris he gave a lecture on this similarity between the living and the non-living world. Have you heard of ‘radar`? This is a very wonderful scientific device. Sailors on the sea use it; it is also used to get information about aeroplanes coming towards a place. So you see how useful it is during a war. If the aeroplanes of the enemy try to attack a city, the radar shows their movement. J.C. Bose worked out some details of very great importance; these are being used in the working of the radar. When Jagadish chandra Bose again visited England, Cambridge University honoured him as a Professor.

Generally, when a man invents something new he declares that nobody can make use of it without his permission. If anybody desires to, make use of it, he will have to pay him money, Why? Because the inventor has worked hard and he has used his time and brains for his invention. It is not right to make use of his work without paying him. An inventor can make lakhs of rupees by just one or two inventions. Bose had invented many instruments. They have since been used by many industries. When he was offered money for these he did not accept it. He was very generous and noble; he felt that knowledge was not any one’s personal property. He permitted any one the use of the fruits of his work.

 When an outside stimulus is applied to the muscles of a man or a non-living thing (says a mineral), they respond to it. Bose wondered whether this could happen in a plant also. To test this he brought a leaf, a carrot and a turnip from the garden. He applied the stimulus, i.e., and electricity. It was confirmed that plants also respond in a similar way. Jagadishchandra Bose explained this at a meeting of the Royal Society.


When anything new is discovered, there will always be people who question it. The results of Bose’s work, too, were not accepted by all. There were people who challenged them and even said that there was not much truth in them. Bose gave a lecture at the Linnean Society next year to a gathering of scientists. He explained with suitable experiments how plants respond to stimuli. Even those who had challenged him could not find fault with his experiments or conclusions.

There is an interesting story about a demonstration that Bose gave in England. On that day he wanted to show some new things that he had found out. He had come to the conclusion that plants can feel pain like animals; that when we pinch them they suffer; and that they die in a few minutes after they are poisoned. Bose wanted to show experiments to prove these conclusions. A number of scientists and other leading men and women had gathered to hear him. Bose started the experiments by injecting poison into a plant. The plant should have shown signs of death in a few minutes. On the contrary, nothing happened. The learned audience started laughing. Even at this adverse moment Bose showed admirable calmness. He thought quickly. The poison that he injected into the plant did not kill it. So, he supposed that it would not hurt him also. With full confidence he got ready to inject the poison into himself. At that instant a man got up and confessed that instead of poison he had put similar colored water. Now, Bose conducted the experiment again with real poison, whereupon the plant withered and died as expected.

Jagadishchandra Bose continued his work and made new discoveries. He found that plants shrink a little during the night. He found out why plants always grow towards light even if they have to bend. He also found out the reason why some plants grow straight and some do not. He explained that this was due to the ‘pulsation’ in plants. This pulsation quickens by heat and slows down by cold in plants.

Jagadishchandra Bose did remarkable work, – and scientists outside India had honoured him. Yet there were people who opposed him. As a result even the Royal Society delayed publishing his valuable work in its publications, But nothing could make him give up his work. He was sure that years of research had led him to the truth. So he did not feel that it was very necessary to depend on scientific journals only. He wrote books and published them on his own.

The Questioning Boy – The Great Scientist

Nature had always been a source of attraction right from his early age to Bose. There are flowers on plants; flowers give fruits; the leaves fall off; seeds germinate into new plants – we see all these around us.

But Bose was interested in these happenings, which to many people seem quite ordinary. He asked others questions; he asked himself, too: ‘How do these things happen?’ Not always could he satisfy his curiosity. But it was his way to try to find answers to any questions arising in his mind.

Scientist And Man Of Letters

Jagadishchandra Bose was famous as a scientist. He brought laurels to his motherland. But his interests were many-sided. He was especially interested in literature and fine arts. The great poet Rabindranath Tagore and Jagadish chandra Bose were very good friends. The first time Tagore visited Bose, he was not at home. Tagore left a bunch of champak flowers. This was the beginning of their friendship.

Tagore invited Bose to stay with him for some time. Bose agreed to do so on one condition. The condition was that Tagore should narrate a story to him every day. This is how a number of Tagore’s stories  came to be written. Have you read the story ‘The Cabuliwallah’? It is very fine story; it narrates how a deep and strange friendship grew up between a rough pathan and a tine Bengali girl. This has been translated into several languages and is well known in a number of countries. Tagore wrote this story when Bose was staying with him.

Jagadishchandra Bose died in November 1937. To the very end he was busy with research. Wealth and power never attracted Jagadishchandra Bose. He toiled for science like a saint, selflessly. This great scientist is a great example to all.

Story of Dr.P.C.Ray, Pionner in manufacture of medicines in India

Prafulla Chandra was born on 2nd August 1861 in Raruli-Katipara, a village in the District of Khulna (now in Bangla Desh). His father – Harish Chandra Ray – a landlord with liberal views, belonged to a wealthy cultured family.


Interruptions in Education

Prafulla Chandra’s early education started in his father’s village school. But he often stayed away from school. His teacher, while making a search for the truant in almost every house in the village, would find the culprit resting comfortably on the branch of a tree, hidden under its leaves!

In 1870 Harish Chandra moved his family to Calcutta so that his sons could have higher education. Here, Prafulla Chandra was admitted to the Hare School. He took a great interest in books and read a vast number of them. But a severe attack of dysentery forced him to leave the school. The disease was slowly overcome, but it permanently injured his health; he became a life-long sufferer from chronic indigestion and sleeplessness. In his later days he sometimes thought of this as a blessing in disguise. For the rest of his life he was very strict about his food; and he had regular exercises.

Prafulla was now free from the tyranny of the dreary school routine; so he found time to satisfy his passion for the study of English and Bengali literatures. When barely ten years old, he learnt Latin and Greek (Languages of ancient Europe). He also studied the histories of Ehgland, Rome and Spain.

Two years later, Prafulla chandra resumed his studies and in 1874 joined the Albert School. He liked the attitude of the teachers of this school and their method of teaching. The teachers in their turn were very much impressed by his knowledge of English literature and other subjects. They were hopeful of his brilliant success in the
examinations. But Prafulla Chandra suddenly left for his village, without sitting for the examinations. He still had a secret desire to return to the Hare School. But if he sat for the examinations. He was sure to win prizes. Then it would be unfair to leave the Albert School. So he left that school before the examinations.

Prafulla Chandra, however, returned to Calcutta in 1876 and resumed his studies at the Albert School. His affectionate teachers made him agree not to leave the school to go back to the Hare School. This time Prafulla Chandra worked hard and got the first place in the examinations. He won a number of prizes. In 1879 he passed the Entrance Examination and joined the Metropolitan Institute (now called Vidyasagar College).

Harish Chandra’s financial position was bad. It grew worse and worse. He was forced to sell the ancestral property, to pay his creditors. To save money, he shifted his family back to Raruli. The sons lived in rooms in Calcutta

The Gilchrist Prize

While pursuing his studies in the Metropolitan Institute, Prafulla Chandra used to attend lectures by Alexander Pedlar on Chemistry, in the Presidency College. Pedlar was an inspiring teacher and a skilful experimentalist. His lectures influenced Prafulla Chandra to take up Chemistry for his higher studies in B.A.

The London University used to conduct competitive examinations in those days for the ‘Gilchrist Prize Scholarship’. The successful candidate could go abroad for higher studies.

What a chance-if only he could get the scholarship!

Prafulla Chandra started preparing for the examination secretly. He was born in a very rich family, but now all the wealth had disappeared. This was only chance to go abroad. His knowledge of languages was very helpful in this, since one of the requirements was knowledge of Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and French or German. But he had to compete with thousands of others.

Only his brother and a cousin knew about this at first. By and by the secret was leaked out by a classmate, who stood high in the University examinations, He taunted Prafulla Chandra saying “Oh, this very intelligent man’s name will soon appear in the special edition of the London University Calendar!”

A few months after the examinations the results were published in the ‘Stateman’.Prafulla Chandra and a Parsee of Bombay by name Bahadurji had won the scholarship. The Principal was overjoyed and showered praises on Prafulla Chandra.

Prafulla Chandra now decided to go abroad. His father readily gave his consent, but Prafulla Chandra was worried about his mother’s feelings.. He consoled his mother saying, “When I return from England, I will get a high position. My first duty will be to repay the debts and to repair our ancestral home.”


In England

In 1882 Prafulla Chandra left for Britain. The long journey on the seas was quite tiresome. Because of seasickness he could not eat enough food and felt very weak.

After a voyage, which lasted thirty-three days, he reached London. The Indian students there helped him in several ways. They equipped him with sufficient woolen clothes to endure the bitter cold of Edinburgh, to which place he had to go.

Edinburgh was four hundred miles from London. Prafulla Chandra joined the B.Sc. Class in the University there. He was very much influenced by the Professor of Chemistry, Mr. Crum Brown, at the University. Chemistry became his first love.

Prafulla Chandra took the B.Sc. degree in 1885. After this he did research in Chemistry for the D.Sc. degree of the University. In 1887 he was awarded this degree on the basis of a thesis on the results of his original work. He was only 27 years old at the time


The Professor – Scientist

In 1888 Prafulla Chandra returned to India. He had obtained letters of introduction from his Principal and Professors. It was his hope that with their aid he would be able to get a good position in the education department. But in those days all the high places in this department were reserved for Englishmen. Though Prafulla Chandra had a Doctorate in Science, it became difficult for him to receive recognition in his own country. For about a year he spent his time working with his famous friend Jagadish Chandra Bose in his laboratory.

In 1889 Prafulla Chandra was appointed as Assistant Professor of 4 Chemistry in the Presidency College at Calcutta. His salary was only Rs.250 a month. But he was quite satisfied with his work. He started teaching very enthusiastically. He soon earned a great reputation as a successful and inspiring teacher.

Prafulla Chandra was never tired of saying that the progress of India could be achieved only by industrialization.

He advocated the use of the mother – tongue as the medium of instruction in schools. For this, he began to write science texts-books in Bengali.

Why Should Our Patients Depend On Other Countries?

Eighty-five years ago Prafulla Chandra came to realize that the progress of India was linked with industrialization. Without this there could be no salvation. Even drugs for Indian patients had to come from foreign countries at that time. This put money into the pockets of the merchants of those countries. This had to be stopped. Drugs had to be manufactured in India. Prafulla Chandra wanted a beginning to be made at once. But who was to do it?

Prafulla Chandra was not rich. The family estates had been sold to pay his father’s debts. Prafulla Chandra’s salary was also meager. Still he ventured upon this pioneering attempt. He prepared some chemicals at home. His work grew so fast that a separate company had to be formed.

But he needed capital – a capital of only eight hundred rupees. But it became difficult to raise even this small amount.

In spite of all these difficulties he founded ‘The Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works’. In 1894 his father died. This was a great blow to Prafulla Chandra. The father was still in debts and thousands of rupees were needed. Only a small part of the property remained. Even this was sold, so that the debts could be repaid.

Prafulla Chandra bravely continued to run the new factory. At first it was difficult to sell the chemicals made there. They could not compete with the imported materials. But some friends, chiefly Dr. Amulya Charan Bose, supported his venture. Dr. Bose was a leading medical practitioner and he enlisted the support of many other doctors. Bengal Chemical became a famous factory. But Dr. Bose died suddenly in 1898 owing to an attack of Plague. His brother-in-law Satish Chandra Sinha, who was an enthusiastic chemist in the firm, died of accidental poisoning in the- laboratory. Thus one blow followed another and Prafulla Chandra was very unhappy. The entire responsibility of the factory fell on his shoulders. Still he faced everything with courage.

This achievement itself was admirable, but. Prafulla Chandra’s contribution to Indian industry was even greater. Directly or indirectly he helped to start many other factories. Textile mills, soap factories, sugar factories, chemical industries, ceramic factories and publishing houses were set up at the time with his active co-operation. He was the driving force behind the industrialization of the country, which began at that time.


Scientist – Author

During all these years, he was also actively engaged in research in his laboratory at Presidency College. His publications on Mercurous Nitrite and its derivatives brought him recognition from all over the world. He guided many students in their research in his laboratory. Even famous scientific journals abroad began to publish their scientific papers..


A ‘Doctor of Floods’

In 1901 Prafulla Chandra met Mahatma Gandhi for the first time in the house of a mutual friend, Gopala Krishna Gokhale. Gandhiji had just then returned from South Africa. Prafulla Chandra developed great reverence for Gandhiji at this very first meeting. Gandhiji’s simplicity, patriotism and devotion to duty appealed to him very much. He learnt that it was easy to talk about truth but that it is far nobler to practice it in one’s life. Gandhiji also had great regard for Prafulla Chandra. He knew how hard he worked to help the poor and the needy. When floods caused great suffering and destruction, Prafulla Chandra worked very hard to bring relief to the victims. This made Gandhiji call him a ‘Doctor of Floods’!

For The Sake Of Science

Prafulla Chandra said on one occasion that when the people of Europe did not know how to make clothes, and were still wearing animal skins and wandering in forests, Indian scientists were manufacturing wonderful chemicals. This is something we should be proud of.

But Prafulla Chandra also knew that it is not enough to be proud of our past. We should follow the example of our ancestors and seek knowledge and progress in science.

Prafulla Chandra did not rest content with giving such advice. He worked hard to practice it. In 1916 he retired from the Presidency College. Sir Asuthosh Mukherjee, the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, appointed him as professor of Chemistry at the University Science College. Here Prafulla Chandra trained many talented students and with them made famous discoveries.

Prafulla Chandra worked in this college for twenty years. He remained a bachelor all his life. All these twenty years he lived in a simple room on the first floor of the college. Some of his students who were poor and could not live anywhere else shared his room. In 1936, when he was 75 years old, he retired from the Professorship.

In 1921 when Prafulla Chandra reached 60 years he donated, in advance, all his salary for the rest of his service in the University to the development of the Department of Chemistry and to the creation of two research fellowships. The value of this endowment was about two lake rupees

In recognition of Prafulla Chandra’s great work he was elected President of Indian Science Congress and Indian Chemical Society more than once. Many Indian and Western Universities conferred honorary doctorates on him.