C V Raman: The first Indian to win Nobel Prize in Science

One of the most prominent Indian scientists in history, C.V. Raman was the first Indian person to win the Nobel Prize in science in 1930 for his illustrious discovery, now commonly known as the “Raman Effect”.

Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was an Indian physicist born in the former Madras Province in India on 7 November 1888. He was a brilliant student from the beginning and was inquisitive about ever-thing. He passed his matriculation when he was twelve years old. He entered Presidency College, Madras, in 1902, and in 1904 passed his B.A. examination, winning the first place and the gold medal in physics; in 1907 he gained his M.A. degree, obtaining the highest distinctions.

Raman wanted to compete for the I.C.S. examination. But to write that examination, one had to go to London. As he was poor and could not afford it, he took the Indian Financial Service examination, conducted in India. He was selected and posted to Rangoon. Burma (Myanmar) which was then a part of British India.

Niels Bohr and Raman at IISc, Bangalore.
Niels Bohr and Raman at IISc, Bangalore.

In 1917, Raman resigned from his government service after he was appointed the first Palit Professor of Physics at the University of Calcutta. At the same time, he continued doing research at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Calcutta, where he became the Honorary Secretary. When he was working as a Professor he got an invitation from England to attend a science conference.

As the ship was sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, Raman got a doubt, as to why the waters of the sea are appearing blue. This doubt initiated his research on light. He found out by experiment that the sea looks blue because of the ‘Scattering Effect of the Sunlight’. This discovery was later labelled “the Raman Effect”. A question that was puzzling to so many other scientists was easily solved by Sir Raman.

He discovered “the Raman Effect” on February 28, 1928 , which is observed as ‘National Science Day’ in India. Sir Raman received the Nobel Prize for Physics for the year 1930.  Excerpt of C V Raman on receiving noble prize:

raman2“When the Nobel award was announced I saw it as a personal triumph, an achievement for me and my collaborators — a recognition for a very remarkable discovery, for reaching the goal I had pursued for 7 years. But when I sat in that crowded hall and I saw the sea of western faces surrounding me, and I, the only Indian, in my turban and closed coat, it dawned on me that I was really representing my people and my country. I felt truly humble when I received the Prize from King Gustav; it was a moment of great emotion but I could restrain myself. Then I turned round and saw the British Union Jack under which I had been sitting and it was then that I realized that my poor country, India, did not even have a flag of her own – and it was this that triggered off my complete breakdown.” – C. V. Raman  

Sir Raman was not only a good teacher but also a humorist. He was also a musician. All along he was asking his students to concentrate, as nothing could be achieved in science without concentration. Before two years of retirement he started the Raman Research Institute to continue his research. The great scientist breathed his last on November 21, 1970.