Historians of science have often wondered how physicists in colonial India were able to contribute so significantly to the emerging quantum mechanics in Western Europe during the 1920s. This book addresses this question by focussing on a group of bhadrolok physicists in the period before Indian independence. The term bhadralok refers to the then emerging group of native intelligentsia, who were identified by academic pursuits and manners and effectively transcended the existing class and caste barriers of the colonial society. The work and social interactions of three scientists is explored in detail: Satyendranath Bose, who is best known for his work with Albert Einstein on the quantum statistics of identical particles; C.V. Raman, who received the Nobel Prize (1930) for his work on the quantum dispersion of light that helped bring about quantum mechanics; and Meghnad Saha, a noted quantum astrophysicist who later helped to establish the institutions of Indian physics and worked to persuade Gandhi and Nehru regarding practical science policies. Exploring the forms of life of this social group allows a better understanding of the specific character of Indian modernity that, as exemplified by the work of bhadralok physicists, combined modern science with indigenous knowledge into an original program of scientific research.
Table of contents:
1. Introduction 2. Writing a history of modern science in South Asia 3. Satyendranath Bose and the concept of light quantum 4. Visvajaneenata Cosmopolitanism and Indian science 5. C.V. Raman and colonial physics: Acoustics and the Quantum 6. Indian nationalism and Meghnad Saha: Applying the light quanta 7. Bhadralok physics
Somaditya Banerjee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Idaho, USA