Sunday, 14 February 2016

S. Chandrashekhar on Patriotism

Oh, I knew him [CV Raman] moderately well, but not really as well as one would think. His role essentially was to bring my attention to science. Of course, you see, the general sentiment in India at that time was quite curious. I mean, of course, it was the time when Nehru and Gandhi and others were active in politics; and like all young men, I was also very involved in that. And it was also a time when India was very proud of its men. For example, I knew about (Srinivasa) Ramanujan and his life, and that he became the first Indian to become a Fellow of the Royal Society (in 1918).  
It was all very much in the air, and of course, we were - i.e., all young students - all very proud of men like Nehru and Gandhi. It was a part of the patriotism of those times to try and see what Indians could accomplish with respect to the external world. Accomplishment in science was one way of expressing what Indians could do, you see. And I would say that this motive was present. Patriotism is a word which is not a very popular one to use these days; but Patriotism, as it was understood in India in the twenties, was one in which it was a part of everyone's wish to show that Indians could be accomplished, in a way which the outside world can recognize. To accomplish in science, to show what one could do in science, was a part of my feeling. And certainly that was one of the early motives that I had. But of course, motives in science change as you grow older. I mean, that attitude towards science is not present in me at the present time, but it was present in those days. [Bold italics mine].

S Chandrashekhar became a naturalised US citizen, and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his work on the Chandrashekhar Limit. One of NASA's four Great Observatories [the Chandra X Ray Observatory] is named after him.

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