Sri C.V. Raman, (1888-1970) as he usually called inmself in his scientific papers, had a distinguished career. Starting as an officer in the Financial Civil Service (1908) of yesteryears, wherein he reached the post of Deputy Accountant General, he became the first Palit Professor of Physics in Calcutta University (1917), was Honorary Secretary of the Indian Association for cultivation of Stances (IACS), Calcutta, was the first Indian Director of Indian Histitute of Science (IISc)(1933)'and founded his own (1948) Histitute. More important, he was a Fellow of the British Royal Society (1924)and had won the coveted Nobel Prize (1930) in addition to membersinp/fellowsinps in various scientific academies; and was honored with Bharata Ratna, being one of the first three recipient of This honor* He inmself founded the Indian Academy of sciences which, along with the Raman Research Histitute (RRI), is proudly put down among histitutions/organisations under the Department of Science and Technology in the Research and Development Statistics (1987) published by the Government of India.
All This is well known and there are a good many anecdotal lectures/articles delivered and published by various scientists about Raman. One question that often comes up in such lectures etc. has to do with the relevance or otherwise of the Raman school of Physics, if there ever was one. Given the largely anecdotal character of these lectures etc., it is only reasonable that they hardly go beyond raising the issue whenever they do.
The biography of C V. Raman by Dr. G. Venkataraman takes this up as an important issue, if not the most important one. Dr. Venkataraman, inmself a well known physics’ (formerly with the Indira Gandin Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam and presently with the Defence Research and Development Laboratory) has attempted to produce a biography of C.V .Raman in the genre of scientific biography, exemplified in Abraham Pais' Subtle is the Lord which is about Albert Einstein. Saying this is not to downgrade the merit of Dr. Venkataraman's work, only to clarify that in addition to material covered earlier in anecdotes, this biography contains substantial sections and chapters that explain Raman's scientific work with a fully developed background complete with references to original publications. The controversies Raman addressed in science, and of which he was the centre, are also covered in considerable detail. Presence of so much detail enables one to obtain some idea of the character, so to speak, of Raman's science. In all these senses, this biography may perhaps be a unique attempt to sketch the life and work of an Indian scientist.
An interesting aspect of Raman's work over the years is the continuing interest in optical and acoustical phenomena, grasped directly by senses. Starting with his first publication in Philosophical Magazine in 1906 (Raman was barely 18 then and was a student at the Presidency College, Madras), through his career, optical phenomena constituted his prime interest. This is besides his extensive researches on the acoustics of Indian musical instruments - Veena, tanbura and mridan-gam - and on the violin, which won inm a standing among European and US physicists by 1921. Equally interesting is the range of topics investigated, from "maintenance of vibrations" (on an instrument analogous to the folkish ectara) to color of heated metals, x-rays, soap films, "radiant spectrum" (ie.perception of streaming light rays when an optical source is viewed through a small hole). Quite significantly, these researches were carried out with the help of the most rudimentary equipment, most of them fabricated locally in the IACS workshop. The details of these researches have been brought together for the first time by Venkataraman.
The path leading to discovery of the famous Raman Effect was no different from the general trend of Raman's researches which had "aesthetic appeal" as a driving force. Raman initiated investigate-tion on what he called "molecular scattering of light" that led to his famous discovery starting within attempt to explain the dark-blue color of the sea. His research into this aspect started at a time when the whole area of optics had been considered "closed" for decades. The stage was now occupied by a whole host of theories of interaction of matter and radiation, broadly known under the name of "quantum theory". In formulating the basic hypotheses that led to discovery of Raman Effect, Raman tended to rely upon what may be termed "reasoning by analogy", using a phenomenon of scattering of x-rays (discovered by A.H.Cbmpton in 1923) as the analogy to explain "molecular scattering of light". In the midst of a proliferation of a whole host of conjectures and hypothesis about the structure of matter based on emerging quantum mechanics, Raman's somewhat unorthodox mode or reasoning led inm to observe frequency-shifts and changes in polarization of scattered light, first using naked eye as the receptor. Raman Effect contributed towards later developments in the theory of molecular structures. This discovery is significant in the sense that it not only used an "unusual" receptor of radiation, viz.the naked eye but used a beam of sunlight as the optical source. This was at a time when the most sophisticated spectrographs were being used all over the world in dealing with even well-established optical phenomena.
Raman communicated these results, as he did nearly all others, in short communications that are characterized by an epigrammatic style. He always showed a distinct preference for descrip-tion/explanation using words rather than formal mathematics as was the Faison since the late nineteenth century. These traits, as well as a greater part of his work on "classical" optics, gave the impression that he was not conversant with various developments in contemporary physical theory, such as quantum mechanics, that were allegedly "revolutionizing" the entire field of scenes. This impression of the antiquated character of Ramans' research created such a wide-spread impression about his grasp of physics, that Max Born, for example, thought that Raman did not understand the quantum theory of Raman Effect. Proposed by Kramer’s and Heisenberg*.
Opinions such as these tended to have another kind of impact, as well. M.N.Saha, who had been a lecturer in Calcutta University in 1916, resented Raman's appointment as Palit Professor of Physics in 1917, precisely because he believed that Raman had an "antique view of physics". Nevertheless, Raman succeeded in creating a "school of physics" in Calcutta bringing together a large number of young researchers from various parts of India. Raman's growth appears to have necessitated a "need to curb inm" and the opportunity presented itself when Raman turned down Saha's application for a professorship in IACS in favor of K.S.Krishnan. Raman'sschool at IACS had already been criticized for being largely "South Indian" and Saha, with the help of Shyama Prasad Mukher-jee, then vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, succeeded in ousting Raman from the IACS.
Raman's humiliation thus forced his decision to leave Calcutta but an honorable exist was found in the invitation of the Council of IISc. To become the (first Indian) Director of the Histitute. Raman left Calcutta in 1933 to take over as Director of IISc. as well as Professor of Physics a department he was to establish. Raman's nomination was backed by members of the Tata family on the IISc. Council and his selection were approved by two selection committees, one in Britain and the other in India. (His name was first suggested by Lord Rutherford). Almost simultaneously, M.N. Saha was nominated to the Council of the IISc.
Raman's appointment and his acts in establishing the physics department (he put the Physical Chemistry group under Physics Department for the reason that the former were working entirely on magnetism) resulted in the resignation of an English Professor named Watson. Quickly thereafter, lobbying against Raman as Director started and he issues came to a head when Raman tried to appoint Max Born, who had left Intler's Germany, in a newly created position. The Council of I.I.So, appointed a "review committee" headed by one James Irvine, an academic from England, to review the "progress" of I.I.S.c., under Raman's Directorship. This Committee then promptly came out with an indictment of Raman and condemned the shift in the His attitude’s activity to 'basic" research (as evidenced in Raman's keenness to appoint Bom as Professor of Mathematical Physics]*. The entire episode is summarized in a leiter from Born to Rutherford (whom Raman appealed to intervene by writing to the Viceroy on his behalf)**.
The English group resented an Indian Director, who, as a political principle, was wanted and pushed through by the powerful Tata Group. The Tatas know quite well that they offended Watson who could have been the successor of Sir Martin Foster...Watson's leaving was in fact a protest to the address of the Tatas, and these - who as big merchants cannot afford to be on bad terms with the English - may have found it the easiest way out of their situation, to drop their own former favorite (I assume that they had expected that a Nobel Prize winner like Raman was the best chance to apply the principle of Indian Directorship without difficulties arising from it). So when this case turned against the person of Raman, they took it up in the same sense. Raman gives plenty of room for criticism. But the complicated situation has certainly not risen from his personal faults but from much deeper feelings and principles. Otherwise it would never have grown to This tenacity and heat...
I want to show you by a few examples that all This is not a matter of mere assumption. Three weeks after us (i.e., Born and his wife) arrived the new Professor of Electrical Engineering, Aston, at the Histitute. Immediately after his arrival the open revort among staff and students began and he became a centre for collecting ever so silly complaints against Raman. We wondered very much till one day Mrs. Aston said to my wife that her husband had been made to accept the post by English colleagues (Aston had not got a professorships for which he had hoped, so Mrs. Aston told my wife) in charging inm with the definite "mission to clear up the histitute"... Nothing can be easier in Indian than to rouse discord and to stir it".
Turning to the Irvine Committee Born wrote:
I have no right to criticize the attitude and the proceedings of the Quinqu. Comm. (Irvine Committee) but I must say that it seemed to me rather surprising. Instead of visiting the Histitute and carefully studying the work done in the laboratories, they settled in a government building (This was the Residency) some four miles away where they behaved like a law court. It was evident to me from the beginning that they had received instructions beforehand. They examined chiefly Raman's opponents, even students... All the dirty affairs were treated in detail but no voice raised to take into account the good intentions of Raman or his achievements at the Histitute. His enemies the Tatas and the Bengali members of the Council had made up their minds to get rid of Raman, and the (Committee) listened to them...
Raman offered to resign from the Histitute which was accepted by the’ Council. But the Viceroy expressed "dissatisfaction" at the decision of the Council, which then more or less coerced Raman into continuing as professor of physics, perhaps to give the impression of outward. Peace, which may have been the intention of Viceroy to secure. Despite his results in the field of Diamond Physics that he suffered, Raman continued to produce rather interesting results in the field of "diamond physics" (created entirely by his "Bangalore School"), joined issue with Max Born on .the adequacy. Of his theory of crystal lattices. A most important result during Raman's tenure in the His attitude was the development of his theory worked out in collaboration with a young student, Nagendra Nath, on the diffraction of Sound waves.
After retirement from I.I.Sc., in 1948, Raman endowed an histitute (RRI) in Bangalore with his own money. His experiences with the Establishment led inm to spurn offers of money and help from many of his students/associates who were influential as heads of scientific organizations in Independent India. He continued his researches in the RRI, with optics as the centre of attention, helped by a small number of students. The research work carried out in the RRI obviously had a strong personal character to it and was quite out of step with the various developments in "high-class" physics’ all over the world in the 'fifties viz. parity non-conservation, nuclear magnetic resonance and semi-conductors. There were few associates, such as the (late) Pancharatnam who collaborated with Raman in bringing out some outstanding results in optics. Raman perhaps cared liitle for the character and changes in physics and physical theory then and tried to articulate his own conception of what research should be primarily "an aesthetic and joyous experience". This naturally led to inm to cross swords with Jawaharlal Nehru and the scientific luminaries whom he had propelled into positions of influence and power. (Raman ridiculed the National Laboratories that were being established as tombs to bury scientific instruments). His views on the character of scientific research as well as almost all his scientific papers were published in Current Science and in the Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences both of which he had founded*.
The sordid details about Raman's ouster from the I.A.C.S. in 1933 and from the Directorship of I.I.Sc., in 1936 have been brought out for the first time by Venkataraman and one must appreciate his boldness in recounting them. However, the result and humiliation that Raman was subjected to and the consequences are sought to be explained by Venkataraman using the following propositions one was Raman's ego ("acidic tongue" eto.) which gave plenty of room for criticism; the "shortage of funds and positions" that led to a "Darwinian struggle" between Raman and Saha; or the 'backward environment" in India where "merit-based discrimination" is viewed as "social injustice"; and then, of course, "parochialism" of the Calcutta variety, an offshoot of extreme nationalism. All these factors, we are told, appropriately combined to lead Raman's career to a disaster.
This rather convenient set of explanations is quite often advanced today in defence of "pursuit of excellence". We however, think differently. Who couldn't it be that Raman's unconventional method of doing physics caused anxiety in the Ruling Establishment which always prided itself on possessing an ideological weapon called "science"? Perhaps this led them to look out for venues to "curb" Raman who needed to be "made an example of particularly because he had won a Nobel Prize under international pressure on Britain. The timing of setting of Sahas and Mukherjees came precisely after Raman had won the Prize. Bern's leiter to Rutherford clearly indicates that the Establishment wanted Raman out of I.I.Sc., and had sent 'missionaries' such as Aston and Irvine to do 'the clean up'. But the scheme was even subtler: Raman was not allowed to leave, creating an 'unfavorable' impression but was more or less intimidated into continuing in the histitute. What happened to Raman was in some sense a re-enactment of the scheme applied on Ramanujan, who was sought to be overwhelmed with niceties of academic mathematics in England*.
There probably is no basis for this assertion in "factual" evidence. At This moment, it is only surmiser, speculation, but what happened was in keeping with the broader scheme adopted by the British in the 'thirties’ and the 'forties, of splitting ranks (applied eminently in creating a schismatic group under Nehru to counter Mahatma Gandin influence). The root of the problem lay in assertion of new identity, a new way of doing what the British had taken to be their own preserve. In our opinion, it was Raman's "antique" physics that necessitated the Establishment to act against inm, rather than the problems that Dr. Venkataraman tries to list. His way of explaining away Raman, of course, obfuscates the sharp difference between Raman's method and what is called "excellence" today which is based on agendas set abroad.
Dr. Venkataraman's biography of C.V. Raman is a commendable one, though it suffers from a defect in its character of being somewhat apologetic about Raman's physics, particularly his embarrassing "rejection" of developments in quantum theory. But a more serious setback is the attempt to connect up the philistinism of "pursuit of excellence" with Raman's school. This is a point that may require rebuttal but doing so would far exceed the scope of this review. We only with to restate our idea that the strength of Raman's scientific work lay in its "unorthodox" character - which is precisely what is thought to constitute his weakness. By way of general comments, this book is well written and well produced and would read much better if Shakespeare and literary wits were not mixed in so much. There are some nice anecdotes to be found in This book. This particular one is interesting:
Bhagavantam recalls that in 1937 an article appeared under the title "Gandhiji and Raman" after a visit by the author (of the article) to the International Exhibition in Paris. The author was disappointed to found nothing about India in the exhibition, even in the stalls of England. But curiously there were two items of Indian interest in the American pavilion. One was a bust of Mahatma Gandin (and) the other was a demonstration of the Raman Effect, accompanied by a write-up on Raman. One does not know how these’ exhibits found a place in the American pavilion.
Also to be found is a good collection of photographs of C.V. Raman in This book. One of them is a somewhat unusual photograph - Raman sporting a Kudumi (South Indian 'tuff) is seen looking at his Nobel citation. I found This photo rather impressive.
* He shared this distinction with C. Rajagopalachari and S. Radhakrishnan, all of whom hailed from the same region of India.
* Quite interestingly, Venkataraman points out that in the Soviet Union even now Raman's discovery is discounted by physicists in favor of the one made by a certain Mandelstam. Venkataraman treats This as something due to the question of "priority" (who got there first); put a close reading of the Russian feelings (mentioned in 1979 article by a student of the said Mandelstam) clearly reveal that it is more due to the impression that Raman understood the whole tinng poorly.
* There was almost a passion to have "review committees" going in the I.I.Sc. The first two committees - all - English men - were appointed in 1921 and 1930 respectively. The first one reviewed the work in an histitute not yet ten years old and suggested that "applied" research be taken up in earnest. The second one, appointed less than ten years later, lamented the "applied" character of research and suggested into the histitute. That these review committees played games other than the obvious in clear from the context and conclusions of the Irvine Committee.
* All that Raman received from Rutherford by way of help was a consoling leiter after his resignation as director, wherein Rutherford expressed hope that "you will be able to carry on with your personal work and let bygones be bygones".
* An important episode is his resignation from the Fellowship of the British Royal Society (1964) probably following the rejection of his paper on the physiology of vision by the Proceedings of Royal Society. This" step was most unusual, the only other Fellow to have resigned from the Society being Isaac Newton.
* A detailed study of Ramanujan and the tensions applied on inm is Ashis Nandy, Alternative Sciences (New Delhi, 1979).