38. K.S. Krishnan et al., – students related to the discovery of Raman effect

Above picture : A group of 5 students of Raman. Front row- Left to Right 1) S. Vekateswaran, whose observations on the polarized ‘weak fluorescence’ of glycerine in early 1928 started the last lap of investigations which led to the discovery of the Raman effect. 2) K. S. Krishnan, he was 31 when this photograph was taken. 3) A. S. Ganesan – spectroscopist, later editor Current Science, who worked with Raman. He compiled the first bibliography of the Raman effect which Rutherford submitted to the Nobel Committee when he proposed Raman for the Nobel Prize. Back row. 1) C. Mahadevan, who later became renowned geologist who did his post-graduate work with Raman on X-ray studies of minerals. He was present at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Calcutta during the momentous discovery of the Raman effect and he has left graphic accounts of what happened then. Right S. Bhagavantam, another renowned student of Raman, who worked with him after the discovery of the Raman effect and is well-known for his application of group theory to the Raman effect. Reproduced from Current Science, Vol 75, NO. 11, 10 DECEMBER 1998

Today is National Science Day in India. We celebrate this day in commemoration of the discovery of the Raman effect. I have previously written about the significance of this day.

One of the important aspects of the discovery of the Raman effect is the role played by the then student K.S. Krishnan, who went on to be become a distinguished scientist and the founding Director of National Physics Laboratory, Delhi. There were also a few others who played a part in this discovery too (see picture)

Raman Research Institute has an excellent repository of the collected works of Raman. It also has a lot of content about Raman.

Of the many documents, the one which caught my attention was an interview of K.S. Krishnan by S. Ramaseshan, which was published in Current Science. Below I reproduce a few excerpts from the article:

“I (Ramaseshan) said there was a view that he (Krishnan) years discovered the Raman effect for Raman and this  view had again surfaced. His reply was ‘It is a blatant misrepresentation. The best I can say is that I participated actively in the discovery”

Krishnan goes on to say how it all started with Raman taking the initiative. In fact, Krishan vividly describes the scene :

‘The story starts in the early Febrauary 1928 when Professor (Raman) came to
my room and said “I want to pull out of the theoretical studies in which
you have immersed yourself for the 2 or 3 years. I feel it is not quite healthy
for a scientific man to be out of touch with actual experimentation and experimental facts for any length of time’

Interestingly, Raman and Krishan fell out of each other, and this interview has some snippets of this controversy. The article has some comments by S. Chandrasekhar on the credit of discovery behind Raman effect, in which he attributes Raman and Krishan’s collaborative approach towards the discovery, and mentions about the importance of exchanging ideas between two researchers working on a problem.

Overall, I must mention that the interview and the historical anecdotes in the document are riveting to say the least, and also showcases the complexity and sociology of a scientific discovery.

Science, per se, is objective. But pursuit of science has a human element, which makes it complex and interesting…

So always remember that as we commemorate the effect named after a person, but there are a few more people who have contributed to it. After all, science is a collective human endeavor.

Happy Science Day !

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