There had been great scientists in ancient India, but their names and achievements are more or less legendary today. When the British came to India, the reign of science had already begun in the West. The leaders of India at the time — men like Ram Mohan Roy, Dwarakanath Tagore wanted to introduce English education in order that India might produce scientists of her own. Almost a pioneer in this respect was Jagadish Chandra Bose, a true son of India.
J. C. Bose was born in the district of Dacca on November 30, 1858. His father, Bhagaban Chandra, was a Deputy Magistrate who was noted for his independence of character. His influence in his son was deep and abiding. He sent him to Calcutta’s St. Xaviers School. This was a vital step in his career. Here he came under the influence of Father Lafont, a great scientist, who instilled in Jagadish a love of science and a desire for making researches in science. After graduation, Jagadish proceeded to England and entered the University of Cambridge. He completed his scientific studied, specializing in Physics, and took his Natural Science Tripos in 1884.
When Jagadish returned to India, he was offered lectureship in Presidency College, Calcutta, after creating some bitterness. The post was under the Indian Educational Service, specially reserved for Europeans so long. This was the first proof of Jagadish Chandra’s dogged determination of which he gave repeated evidence in his life.
Jagadish was at last placed on the teaching staff of the Presidency College as a Professor of Physics. There he served without a break for thirty years. There he taught his students enchantingly—so clear was his exposition, so fascinating were his demonstrations. In this college he made those pioneer researches, first in Physics and then in plant physiology, which have made his name a household word in India and highly respected all over the scientific world.
Jagadish Bose’s first researches were in Physics, his own subject. Indeed, he was perhaps the first to send electric waves without the medium of wires from one room to another and then to his house about two miles away. His success in wireless telegraphy preceded Marconi (1911). A few years earlier he had devised improvements in the telephone receiver but he declined offers to have them patented. He indignantly refused to commercialise knowledge. It is now known that a despicable conspiracy deprived J. C. Bose from the Nobel Prize. Jagadish Bose’s next discovery was sensational. He demonstrated before the Royal Institute of London (in 1901) that there was no sharp line of demarcation between the living and the non-living, that matter hitherto regarded as inorganic, responds to electrical stimuli in the same way as organic bodies do. Bose sought to prove — the nervous sensitiveness of plant tissues.
This pursuit of one behind the many in Nature was the moving force in J. C. Bose’s life. He discovered in plants a simple structural identity of animals. He showed by means of highly delicate and sensitive instruments made by himself that plants behave in the same manner as animals under similar stimuli. With the help of his own instruments, he made notable discoveries. He explained many phenomena in plant life that used to be inexplicable.
Jagadish retired from his professional work in 1915. He now set about the task of founding an Institute where he could carry on his researches. On November 30, 1917, he founded and dedicated the Bose Institute, as a home of scientific research where scholars from all parts of the world might meet. Here he worked on with a single-minded devotion. He published his papers regularly.
The last years of his life were devoted entirely to his researches. His great ambition was to establish the unity of plant life and animal life. His greatness lay in pressing imagination into the service of science and his discoveries in that realm rank among the highest yet apprehended by the mind of man. It is no wonder that his poetic imagination has found excellent expression in his Bengali literary writing in the book ‘Abyakta’ (Inarticulate). Abyaka is a living testimony to his literary ability. Jagadish Bose died in 1937, bequeathing his entire wealth and property to the service of science and humanity.