The name Jagdish Chandra Bose isn’t one many learn about in science classes. However, the Indian physicist, polymath, botanist, biophysicist and sci-fi writer pioneered several fields. Born Nov. 30, 1858, Bose lived during the British Empire’s rule of India. He died in 1937, a decade before India’s release from the empire in 1947.
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Five Things You Must Know About Bose
1.He became interested in nature while learning his mother tongue of Bengali.
Bose’s father wanted him to learn his mother tongue before learning English. He studied at a vernacular school in Munshiganj from an early age. There, he encountered Bengali stories about the intricacies of nature, something that influenced his interests.
“I listened spellbound to stories of birds, animals and aquatic creatures. Perhaps these stories created in my mind a keen interest in investigating the workings of Nature,” Bose said at a conference at Bikrampur in 1915.
2. He figured out that plants feel pain.
Bose presenting his botanical research [Image courtesy of Public Domain/Wikipedia]
Despite every other facet of his studies, his passion truly remained with botany. His most notable contribution, the crestograph, allowed scientist to collect data on how stimuli affected plant life. It paved the way for agroscientists to understand crops. It also forced the public to recognize their plants had ‘feelings.’ Bose noted that plants “feel pain and understand affection” just as well as humans.
3. He couldn’t access laboratories due to his race.
Bose, seated middle of first row, with contemporaries in University of Calcutta [Image courtesy of Public Domain/Wikipedia]
Bose left Bangladesh at the age of 18 to study natural sciences at Christ’s College in Cambridge. He later returned to India and joined the University of Calcutta in the physics department. Despite working there, Bose consistently got denied access to labs due to his race. He refused to let discrimination deter him and worked from a 24 square foot room in downtown Calcutta.
4. He pioneered radio science.
No, this Bose isn’t the one connected with the sound equipment company. However, he became a significant scientist with modern radio and sonic technology. During his years of research, he helped bring remote wireless signaling into reality. He also invented an early version of wireless telecom.
Bose’s receiver [Image courtesy of Public Domain/Wikipedia]
What’s most notable is that Bose didn’t commercialize his inventions. He made his inventions well-known so that other engineers could further develop his research decades after he died. To preserve his legacy, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers named Bose a “father of radio science” in 1997.
5. He’s the father of Bengali science fiction.
In 1896, Bose wrote Niruddesher Kahini (The Story of the Missing One). This initial story grew into a collection of works in 1921, with the title of Palatak Tuphan (Runaway Cyclone). It became known as one of the first works of Bengali science fiction. If you want to read more about this foray into sci-fi, check out this article from Strange Horizons‘ Anil Menon.