Sunday Monitor

Bhabha & his pioneering works


More than three decades ago, the story of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and his research changed my life. Botany, which was just an academic subject in the school curriculum, suddenly came alive. Plants have life and Bose heard their heartbeat. It was enough to fascinate a primary school student.


A few years later, it was another Indian scientist whose story and works changed my perspective about modern Indian research in the field of Physics. Homi J Bhabha, the most noted nuclear physicist of independent India, became the role model for me, and many of my friends who later pursued Physics or Mathematics as their major at the university level.

Born in an affluent Parsi family in erstwhile Bombay in 1909, Bhabha was not only a great scientist but an artist too. His keen interest in art and music is well-known. The stories of his inclination towards Physics as a student, academic excellence, vast research on cosmic rays and pioneering works in Indian nuclear research programme have always piqued the interest of students both at school and college levels.

Biman Nath’s book, Homi J Bhabha: A Renaissance Man Among Scientists, about the life and works of the great scientific mind, is a fascinating story not only about the physicist but also about India’s growth as a research hub.

The book narrates several anecdotes from Bhabha’s life, both personal and professional, and gives details of his works both in India and abroad. His contributions to modern Indian research, especially in the field of nuclear physics, are immense. Even today, “inquisitive travellers” will find the expanse of his research on cosmic rays in the Nilgiris, where mushroom-like structures capture cosmic rays for in-depth study on the various particles.

Nath also writes about Bhabha’s endeavour in institutionalising scientific research in India post-independence and the role he played in revolutionising nuclear research in the country.

“Bhabha was only 27 years old when he published this important paper (‘The scattering of positrons by electrons with exchange on Dirac’s theory of positrons’),” writes Nath, as he describes Bhabha’s interactions with the world’s best contemporary scientists, including Neil Bohr and Enrico Fermi in the west and CV Raman and Megnad Saha in the east.

Nath, an astrophysicist himself at Raman Research Institute, describes Bhabha’s works in as much details as a layman could understand. The lucid language that he uses to describe the complicated research in the field of modern physics makes the book on the great scientist appealing to all. The book is the first in the series of five books on great personalities. Among them are veteran thespian from Manipur Heisnam Sabitri, Bengali Naxalite leader Charu Majumdar and painter Jamini Roy. It is an inspiring collection and a must possession for every reader, especially students.

Book: Homi J Bhabha: A Renaissance Man Among Scientists; Author: Biman Nath; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 168; Price: Rs 299

~ NM

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