Today is birthday of Sir J C Bose-inventor of millimeter wave, pioneer of wireless transmission in 19th century. He also invented semiconductor receiver ( Lead Sulfide ). Needless to say he was far far ahead of his time. Also unlike Tesla and Edison, he never thought of patenting any of his innovation or thought of making money out of commercialization. For him it was a quest of human mind. However it’s because of his non-commerical attitude, he couldn’t take forward his innovation to it’s fullest glory and recognition.
Tesla had Westinghouse, Edison was backed by Morgan. While our Tagore was begging for Sir JC Bose from King of Tripura so that he can buy a decent galvanometer! And yet he produced such a pioneering work , which was far ahead of his time.
He returned to India after successfully obtaining a Tripos in Natural science from University of Cambridge where Lord Raleigh was among his mentors.
What is extraordinary about his story ?
His determination to continue with scientific research in India when he had neither research grant, nor a lab. His tight teaching schedule allowed him no time! He even didn’t accept any salary for first three years to protest against British discrimination as Indian teachers in Presidency college were paid 40% less than their foreign counterpart.
Yet he succeeded to invent world’s first millimeter wave transmitter and receiver in a 24 square foot make shift laboratory in Presidency college working late through night. He built his equipments from local carpenters. He had no research grant. He would go to local workshop in Howarah, spent his own pocket money and built some of the state of the art instruments locally. No, he had no money to buy even a Galvanometer.
He was very close to discovering semiconductor diode as well since for receiver he was using a lead sulfide (Galena) detector and thus he was aware of behavior of semiconductor. However, since he was cut-off from rest of the radio research in USA and UK, he could not fathom merit of pursuing his work for large scale applications in radio which was becoming very important in military and communication in early 20th century.
Most importantly he set the trend of scientific research and education in India. Following him Calcutta University will excel in research in natural science during 1920-40 when Sir CV Raman, Satyen Bose, Meghnad Saha and SK Mitra would conduct their pioneering research in India. What is extra-ordinary about all of them, despite having no research grant or facility in colonial India, they simply defied all the odds to produce ground breaking innovations.
And what is amazing to me, despite having all kinds of grants and facilities in modern India, post independence scientists could not match their brilliance or achievement in international scale. They have proved, in scientific research inspiration is perhaps the single most factor for pioneering success.
However I can’t be uncritical of Sir JC Bose. He set up a culture in Kolkata that Scientists are modern day saints and it will be demeaning of them if they think of commercialization of their innovation. This is in sharp contrast to USA where making money is a driving factor for innovation. And this didn’t turn out to be good for India. India still imports most of it’s technology even when it’s professors are highly capable of producing them. This is because there is very little connection between Indian research and commercial interest. And JC Bose was a trend setter for this culture.