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Father of The God Particle

The Ballad of the Lost Visionary, Satyendra Nath Bose

Denise K McTighe

Science & Art Writer

After decades, and many scientific minds and careers dedicated to the quest for it, in 2008, a 27 km long atom smasher at CERN laboratories was built to detect one of the most sought-after entities in the Universe. If found, The Higgs-boson particle would finally prove that the Standard Model of Physics remains the greatest paradigm for the theory of all things. Unveiling that all matter residing in the cosmos is formed from a number of elegant, mathematical fields of pure energy, called the Higgs field. On July 4, 2012, near Geneva, Switzerland that immortal day finally arrived. Emerging out from the ether of the 9-billion-dollar Hadron Collider, out through the human-made chaos of the machine, a star was born. Its discovery had the scientific world in a state of upheaval and astonishment. The element which had remained a metaphysical phenomenon for years, was seen for the very first time. They called it The God Particle. 

In 1913, almost 100 years before this historical event, a young visionary achieved his Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics at the University of Calcutta. This would begin an academic and research career that led to some of the greatest scientific discoveries ever to be made in Physics.


LargeHadron Collider-Cern

Satyendra Nath Bose was born on New Year’s Day in 1894 in Calcutta, India, the oldest child and only boy of seven siblings. From early on, the distinct mind had forged a career that diverged off the standard mode of staunch, academic life. After receiving his Masters in Science from the University of Calcutta, Bose became a research scholar at the University College in the city, where he earned top accolades. There he explored and worked alongside renowned future astrophysicist Meghnad Saha, and the two developed a lifelong partnership in friendship and academia. Although never achieving his PhD, as a natural teacher with remarkable aptitude Bose was posted as lecturer in the Physics department of the University of Calcutta from 1916 to 1921. He was a gifted instructor who believed educating his students was as important as his own research. Bose was extremely dedicated to making the concepts understandable for the hopeful, young minds that collected before him. Eager himself to be able to expand his own personal knowledge and unearth ideas from many sources, Bose taught himself French and German. And, together with his friend and fellow researcher Saha, translated much of Einstein’s special and general relativity into English.

In 1924, Bose was preparing a lecture for his students on Planck’s law of radiation in relation to The Maxwell Boltzmann Distribution at the University of Dacca, where he had relocated to in 1921. Without any reference to classical physics at all, using only his own new terms and descriptions, the professor hoped to increase deeper inquisitiveness and understanding for his students. In what was to be one of his most substantial scientific achievements, in the process of trying to make the difficult science more translatable, Bose had opened the doorway to the world of Quantum Mechanics. Somehow realizing that he was onto something extraordinary Bose wrote a paper called “Planck's Law and the Hypothesis of Light Quanta.” Based on his lectures postulating that photons are indistinguishable from one another, he submitted the article to Philosophical Magazine, where it was rejected. Refusing to give up, he then sent it to Albert Einstein in Germany who was immediately astounded by the magnitude of the work, and submitted it on behalf of Bose to the highly esteemed journal  Zeitschrift für Physik, where at last it reached publication.

Bose had transcended the traditional Boltzmann’s statistics to form a new theory.  His unconventional approach, that deviated from mainstream academia created a new scientific arena teeming with possibility. After this instrumental finding, Bose was invited to Europe where he converged his mind with the likes of Marie Curie, Louis de Broglie and Albert Einstein in their various laboratories.  Einstein was so inspired by the possibilities of the young man’s theory, that he applied it to atoms, and thus the Einstein -Bose condensate was born. And Bosons (a name first coined by Physicist Paul Dirac to honor Bose’s contributions along with fermions, to later be discovered in the 1960’s) became the material that scientists believed constructed the Universe. Proving its components and absolute existence would become the lifelong work and research of many brilliant minds, making careers, creating new understandings and further expanding the gateways into the quantum worlds. This condensate has been, and continues to be instrumental in the creation of very complex systems including the ongoing evolution of the world wide web.


Albert Einstein and Bose

In 1995, researchers at the Joint Institute for Lab Astrophysics (JILA), in Boulder, Colorado, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),discovered the first tangible glimpse of the Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute atomic gases. Often referred to as the fifth state of matter, Bose’s and Einstein’s collaboration many decades before had at last made its entryway into real-world observation.  Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman, from JILA, and Wolfgang Ketterle, of MIT, received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for this seismic finding. Equally to this, lifetimes had also been dedicated to proving once and for all of the existence or non-existence of the elusive Higgs-boson particle. And, in 2013 decades after the principle was theorized, two scientists, Peter Higgs, from the UK, and Francois Englert from Belgium of the CERN laboratories, were awarded the Nobel Prize for finally detecting“The God Particle” that historical day on July 4, 2012 in the massive Large Hadron Collider. And, again, despite also being named after the Higgs-boson, the Indian revolutionary was barely mentioned in the scientific excitement, with only Higgs name appearing in capitalization. Bose’s work has been responsible for the awarding of several Nobel prizes, and although he had been recommended for the nomination many times, he would never achieve this level of international recognition.

Bose was an unconventional, bohemian intellect who would often show up to lecture in very casual clothes, with an open-door policy for his students. It was said he did not crave fame or to be made a spectacle in the public eye, preferring the quiet life of anonymity. A lover of art, music and poetry, he is another great scientist who spent his time conversing with artists and poets in an attempt to expand his experiences and perceptions beyond the laboratory walls. He was particularly close with Nobel prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore dedicated Visva Parichay, an Introduction to the World of Science, the only scientific book he had ever written, to Bose. In 1956, Bose became the Vice-Chancellor of the Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore, where he spent two years teaching and researching at the newly formed university. He returned to Calcutta in 1958 after being elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London where he was appointed as national Professor in 1959. There he remained until his death on February 4, 1974.


Illustration of Bose-Einstein Condensate inside an atom. C. Brands

Satyendra Nath Bose, along with Meghnad Saha, were responsible for establishing modern theoretical physics in India. His work brought quantum mechanics into the scientific realm, and Bosons, which are half the particles in the Universe, carry his name.  And, although there is no other scientist whose is so synonymously connected to Albert Einstein in the scientific literature, his legacy remains a quiet echo that does not reflect the deafening, and profound contributions he made towards human scientific understanding, that still carries on to this day. 

(As long as there is light in the Universe, there will be Bosons, the force that brings matter to life)


Satyendra Nath Bose in the 1930’s.Wikipedia Commons