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            Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose during a lecture in 1926
Below: JC Bose demonstrating an instrument to his research fellows at Bose Institute, Calcutta
science and that of the oriental schools of spirituality that have advocated the unity of reality among all entities, with the unity being defined as being fun- damentally ‘existence, consciousness and completeness’. Even as I would like to note that attempts to spiritualise sci- ence can undermine scientific integrity as they subvert critical approaches both to one’s scientific conclusions as well as underlying philosophical assump- tions, Bose’s proclivity to be strongly dedicated to empirical probes of real- ity instead of metaphysical musings or recherché ruminations, even when ad- dressing subjects that bordered on the extramundane, is commendable.
Jagadis Bose’s fascinating journey began with the curiosity of a child, whose amazement at the way in which nature and universe functioned, evolved and behaved spurred him to try to learn its hidden secrets. Bose recounted, in the Bikram-
pur Conference in 1915, “I
listened spellbound to their
stories of birds, animals and
aquatic creatures. Perhaps
these stories created in my
mind a keen interest in in- vestigating the workings
of Nature.” Going from
training at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge
to becoming a behemoth
in modern science, Bose’s
journey has been oft delved-upon, al- beit partially. For his pioneering work in quasi-optic millimeter wave research, Institute of Electrical and Electronics En- gineers (IEEE) has called Jagadish Bose the ‘Father of Radio Science’. What we often skip over is his work on studying responses of plants and metal to external stimuli and his hypothesis of there being an underlying ‘sentience’ within them.
Bose faced a lot of discrimination, being given a small fraction of the sal- ary his English colleagues at Presidency College, Calcutta, received, his pro- posed paper publications in journals being blocked and there being an ab- sence of facilities for his research. He channelised the anger within to move towards what effectively became a chal-
lenge to the Western conceptualisation of science itself. It was at this time that three people played a major role in spur- ring Bose on, even in the face of such dire circumstances: Swami Vivekanan- da, Sister Nivedita and Rabindranath Tagore.
Bose first met Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita in Paris in 1899. From then onwards, till her death in 1911, Sister Nivedita graciously organ- ised the resources Bose required for his research. Sister Nivedita was fascinated by the theme of his ideas, in which she saw a Vedantic angle, in the idea of ‘one- ness of all existence’. When Sister Nived- ita saw the discrimination Bose faced in publishing his research in western academic journals, she encouraged him to publish them as books. She helped him write four books — Living and Non-Living, Plant Response, Compara-
tive Electro-Physiology and Irritability of Plants, besides also revising his papers pub- lished in the journal Philo- sophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
Bose extended his work on plants to human nerves and electric response as well, stating that the action cur- rent in the nerve is from the relatively more excited to the relatively less excited, with excitability being associated
with the state of the neural point under purview. His mode of obtaining elec- trical response is applicable to all liv- ing tissues, and he posited that electric response can be regarded as a measure of physiological activity. He performed experiments on biological systems, from Geranium to Eucharis lily, using the method of negative variation, study- ing diphasic variation and also employ- ing the block method which he himself devised. He was particularly interested in the effect of single stimulus as well as superposition of stimuli. He focused on the ‘Staircase effect’, and tried to study the emergence of fatigue, its dependence on interval between stimuli and correla- tion with stimulation frequency. Bose contrived a very sophisticated instru-
 When Sister Nivedita saw the discrimination Bose faced in publishing his research in western academic journals, she encouraged him to publish them as books.
        Images Courtesy: Bose Institute

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