History Behind Celebration of National Science Day

In 1986, the Government of India under the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi announced February 28 as National Science Day.
History Behind Celebration of National Science Day
History Behind Celebration of National Science Day
Swagata Borah

‘Raman Effect’, the discovery that physicist CV Raman his Noble prize in 1930. In 1986, the Government of India under the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi announced February 28 as National Science Day. This was to memorialize the discovery of Raman Effect.

But do you know, what is Raman Effect and why is it so important?

Raman scattering produces scattered photons with a different frequency depending on the source and the vibrational and rotational properties of the scattered molecules. Raman spectroscopy works on the principal of Raman Scattering. It is mostly used to study materials by chemist and physicists.

Conducting a deceptively simple experiment, Raman discovered that when a stream of light passes through a liquid, a fraction of light scattered by the liquid is of a different colour. This discovery was immediately recognized as groundbreaking in the scientific community. The subject had over seven hundred papers in the first seven years after its announcement.

What makes CV Raman so inspirational?

Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born in November 7, 1888 to Tamil Brahmin parents in Tamil Nadu, India.

Raman believed that if you ask the right questions “nature will open the doors to her secrets”.

At a time when India was itself under the British rule, Raman’s discovery brought him the Noble Prize. Many awardees have overcome by the enormity of their achievement when accepting the award but Raman said it was all way different for him. While he received his award in Stockholm, Sweden, the tears came rolling his cheeks while he witnessed the British flag that was basking in the glory of his research.

According to most accounts, the impetus for his research on these phenomena came while he was on his way to England on ship in 1921 for a conference, his first voyage outside the country.

Raman’s subsequent work was grounded in earlier findings that light behaved like it consisted of particles instead of as a wave. In 1927, Arthur Holly Compton was awarded the Nobel for demonstrating the light scattering effect in x-rays. Raman was convinced he could show the same in visible light, and he did.

“The new phenomenon exhibits features even more startling than those discovered by Prof Compton with X-rays,” an Associated Press of India report says of his discovery of the Raman effect.

“The Raman effect has opened new routes to our knowledge of the structure of matter and has already given most important results,” the Nobel committee noted in its speech.

India’s most prolific scientist could have ended up remaining a civil servant if he hadn’t been so determined to pursue his passions. In 1907 he joined the Financial Civil Services as the Assistant Accountant General in Calcutta but continued his research work on the side. He would later join Calcutta University when he was offered the Palit Chair for Physics in 1917.

Raman was captivated by the blue colour of the sea. The prevailing theory at the times was that the sea reflected the blue of the sky. He wrote an exploratory piece about the question in the journal Nature called “The Colour of the Sea.”

Raman continued to serve as the first Indian director of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in 1933. He retired 15 years later and established the Raman Research Institute, which he led till the end of his days.

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