C. V Raman – Early Life, Education, Discoveries and Achievements

Born on 7th November 1888 in Tiruchchirappalli, Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman shaped the scientific World in 1928 with his discoveries ranging from light shattering effect came to be known as ‘Raman Effect’ to Optics; with the help of his students and co-workers. His achievements gave India a new platform in the field of Science.


Early Life, Educational achievements and Interests


C.V Raman was the second child in a family of eight children; with his father Chandrasekhara Iyer being a teacher in local high school was the first person in their family to receive ‘English’ education. In 1892, Raman’s Father accepted a post of lecturer in Mathematics and Physics as he with Raman, being 4 years old and the rest of the family moved towards Vishakhapatnam. C.V Raman, therefore, completed his Primary and Secondary studies and two years of college as he joined Presidency College in Madras (1903) for his undergraduate studies. While pursuing his master’s degree at the age of 16, he published a paper related to a routine experiment in the optics where Raman discovered these Unsymmetrical diffraction bands caused when light is reflected very obliquely at the face of the prism.

After finishing his master’s at the age of 18 in 1907, He married Lokasundari who belonged to two different sub-castes as marrying out of the sub-caste was transgressional. Hence their marriage was controversial in this aspect. Later Raman appeared for the competitive examination for the Financial Civil Service and got selected for the service as he secured the first position in his exams. Hence, Raman along with his Wife arrived in Calcutta in later months of 1907 to join as an Assistant Accountant General in the Finance Department. On the other hand, Raman started with his research work on the acoustics of music at The Indian Association for Cultivation of Science with Asutosh Dubey who later became Raman’s most devoted assistant. His achievements astonished Sir Asutosh Mookerjee, the vice-chancellor of the Calcutta University offered Raman a position as Palit Professor of Physics at the University College of Science. Raman then accepted this offer and resigned from the Financial Civil Service.


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Raman was also a man with wide interests, one such interest being geology. He had an immense knowledge of rocks and rock-forming minerals which would often surprise the geologists. He had a museum filled with a collection of different types of granites, all of them polished to expose their structure, color, and constituent minerals. Similarly, he had specimens of Limestone from all over the world, polished to reveal their colors and patterns. He had specimens representing sedimentary rocks, slates, and sandstone; Carrara marble slabs from Italy and Rentichintla limestone from Andhra Pradesh were the specialties of his museum.

Astronomy was also one of his interests which came being when he visited the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena in 1924. Raman often used to talk about the 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar with wonder and amazement that he had a strong desire to install a telescope at Raman Research Institute but never got around it.

He filled the grounds of Raman Research Institute with trees, shrubs, and roses from Bangalore. He would not miss the annual Horticulture event at Lalbagh garden and knew the botanical names for trees and shrubs which were planted in the Institute.


Contribution to science; Discoveries and achievements

Contribution to science; Discoveries and achievements - C V Raman

Raman was a great builder of research centers and institutions in India. He founded the Department of Physics at the University College of Science in Calcutta, Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore and The Raman Research Institute. He also revived the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science. When moved to Bangalore he founded another journal named as ‘Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science’. Hence, Recognizing the necessity towards the awareness of science to the layman and the Government of India; he founded the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1934 and became its founder President and held the office till his death in 1970. He also served as the editor for the Proceedings and set a benchmark for the journals in the future.

Raman gave out his discovery (Raman Effect) under the title of “A New Radiation”. Though this phenomenon was described in the paper of Dr. Ramanathan and Mr. Krishnan as a “Feeble fluorescence”. Still, the impression it left on the mind of people who came across his work was entirely new and distinctive.

The Raman Effect has to do with light and molecules. Where an incoming light is thrown at the molecules which are not static. The atoms in the molecules vibrate constantly about the equilibrium position. Light also vibrates at a certain frequency and when it hits a molecule the frequency of light is decreased or increased, depending upon the energy state of the molecule; the frequency is increased when the molecule gives the energy and it is decreased when the molecule takes away the energy.



Thus, the importance of Raman’s theory is due to revealing the unknown factors of nature. It was regarded that Raman’s experiment was rather simple and had been made available with the equipment’s available in any common laboratory. It speaks well for the development of Science in India that Professor Raman apparently owes little or nothing of his eminence to direct contact with physics in other countries. In 1924 he attended the Toronto meeting of the British Association and afterward carried on his researches for some months at California Institute of Technology. In September 1925, six months after his return from America, Raman made his way to Leningrad and Moscow as a representative of Calcutta University at the bi-centenary of Russian Academy of Sciences.

Raman’s Effect ranked among the best three or four discoveries in experimental physics in the last decade. Hence, for his outstanding work in the field of science, Raman made India proud by bringing in the first Nobel Laureate in Science. He was also knighted by King George in 1929 and was honored with the general presidency of the Indian Science Congress and the fellowship in the Royal Society.

In 1942, He was awarded the Franklin Medal by the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. While the Soviet Union awarded him with Lenin Peace award in 1958. In India, he received the title of ‘Rajasabha Bhushana’
( The Jewel of Kings Court) conferred by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1935.

With all of his achievements, one can conclude the ability and zeal towards Science which Raman carried; that made him capable enough to bring Laurels to the nation and provide a breakthrough in physics. He was known among the renowned scientists of the world like JD Bernal, H. J Bhabha, E.C Bullard, S. Chandrashekar, C. G Darwin, P.A.M. Dirac, J.BS Haldane, Linus Paulding, C.F Powell, Norbert Wiener, and G. Wentzel; to name a few.



Raman Research Institute

Raman did not have any religious associations but also never proclaimed the atheism. He was a self-made man with an in-dominatable will and total absorption in science. His dedication in science was so intense and in tune with Indian Scholarship that it would be justified by describing him as ‘Rishi’. Raman had a small tuft beneath his turban and he used to wear the sacred thread. He wasn’t an orthodox Hindu but did have some conservative views. He was very critical of the post-independence scientific developments in India. He opposed the idea of young men leaving India to build scientific careers and disapproved of companies spending a large amount of money on the equipment for research. When the late Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime minister of India, admonished India’s scientists, to which Raman reacted in a sharp manner and said “The men who matter are those who sit in ivory towers. They are salt of the earth and it is to them the humanity owes its existence and progress”


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During the last years of his life, only rarely a comment could be elicited on him. Towards the very end, he became an institution in himself and loneliness surrounded him; work was the only thing that mattered to him. When he fell ill and supposedly was on his death bed he made a statement to doctors stating that he did not want to survive his illness if he can’t be productive. Less than a couple of months before he died, Raman went up to the first floor of Raman Research Institute to deliver a lecture on the memorial of Gandhi on 2nd of October 1970. It was the last lecture he gave in his life shedding a light on the theory of hearing and illustrating the wide spectrum of his interests. In a few days, he suffered a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. Even though his health showed improvements at first, but within a few weeks, he died. He passed away on November 21st, 1970. People from all walks of life payed homage to this great man.

After the passing of Raman, his son V. Radhakrishnan took over as the directorate of the Raman Research Institute. Years after Raman’s death the institute grew immensely with various research works like activity in crystals, astrophysics making a breakthrough. The growth in the institute’s budget and its success was beyond anything that Raman would’ve imagined.


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