USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Satyendranath Bose collaborated with Einstein, and is for whom a family of subatomic particles known as “Bosons” is named

Born during British colonial rule in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India in 1894, Satyendranath Bose, even as a child, showed promise as a creative mathematical and scientific thinker. As a young student he loved experimenting with different methods to solve mathematical problems and improvising various ways to conduct science experiments.  When he joined the University of Calcutta in 1916 as a researcher studying the theory of relativity, it was an especially exciting period to be in science. The quantum theory had just appeared on the horizon and important results had started pouring in — all heralding an ideal time to cross paths with Albert Einstein.

 Why He’s Important: Satyendranath, a specialist in mathematical physics, was a mover and shaker in the world of quantum mechanics. Working in the 1920s, he laid the foundation for quantum statistics and collaborated with Einstein as an equal partner on groundbreaking research advances. Before his working relationship with Einstein, Satyendranath wrote a short but significant scientific article, “Planck’s Law and the Hypothesis of Light Quanta”, which introduced the quantum statistics of photons (units of light). He sent the article to Einstein after it was initially rejected for publication elsewhere. Einstein was favorably impressed with it and recommended the article for publication to the top physics journal of the day in Germany. The article was well received.  Einstein later adopted ideas of the article, and extended them to atoms — a development that would later lead to two seminal concepts in physics: the Bose-Einstein condensate phenomenon (the transition that certain gases in particle physics undergo when cooled), and Bose-Einstein statistics.

Other Achievements: Satyendranath’s paper also laid the basis for describing the two fundamental classes of sub-atomic particles – bosons (named in honor of his last name — Bose), and fermions, named after the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. One particular  boson — the “Higgs boson” (or “God Particle”) is today the focus of research at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). As testament to the foundations laid by Satyendranath’s early work, the Higgs boson is the standard model of the particle physics theory that is believed to provide clues to the Big Bang, and insight into why matter has mass.

Education:   Satyendranath received his Bachelor’s of Science degree from Presidency College, Calcutta, and his Master’s of Science in Mixed Mathematics from the same college. In addition to physics, he also made inroads into the study of biochemistry, geology, zoology, anthropology, engineering, and literature (Bengali, English).  He also performed research for a year in Paris with Madame Curie. Satyendranath died in India in 1947.

For more exciting stories on role models in science and engineering, visit the USA Science & Engineering website http://www.usasciencefestival.org/

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