Jagadis Chandra Bose (1858-1937)

by Dr Professor Martin Johnson

Image courtesy of Bose Institute, CalcuttaPioneer of electro-magnetic waves and widely regarded as the first modern Indian scientist, Jagadis Chandra Bose was a far-sighted visionary and gifted experimentalist. In 1895 in Calcutta, he publicly demonstrated wireless transmission of electromagnetic waves for the first time anywhere in the world, using the waves to ring a distant bell to thereby explode some gunpowder. The Daily Chronicle of England noted in 1896 that "The inventor (J.C. Bose) has transmitted signals to a distance of nearly a mile and herein lies the first and obvious and exceedingly valuable application of this new theoretical marvel." Bose was also the first to use a semi-conducting crystal as a detector of radio waves. According to Neville Mott "J.C. Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time" and that he had "anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors." Bose was invited by Lord Rayleigh to present his experiments at the Royal Institution in January 1897, attended by Marconi's business partner who importuned him to take out a patent and share his proceeds with him. Bose refused on the grounds that scientific discoveries must inure to the benefit of the public. Marconi's wireless transmission on Salisbury plain did not occur until May 1897. Bose also crossed from physics into biology, challenging widespread notions that these realms were different - among the fields he is regarded to have anticipated is cybernetics, through his model of memory as an information storage device. His boundless curiosity led him to study the electrical response of plants and the phenomenon of photosynthesis. Freethinking pioneer and icon, Bose was born and educated in rural Bengal and later Calcutta and achieved both a knight hood and international distinction. He was admitted to read Natural Sciences at Christ’s in 1882, took his BA in 1884 and MA in 1896.