Love For Waves & Sounds, Raman As Professor & Teacher

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Love For Waves & Sounds, Raman As Professor & Teacher

Love For Waves & Sounds

At the Association, Raman worked on a large number of problems. He would get interested in everything he observed, and indeed, a very keen observer he was. He would then go into the roots and attempt to understand the mechanism which governed the observed phenomena. This is the very method of science, and it is extra-ordinary, even in the context of several giants of science this century has seen, that there would be very few scientists who have indulged in such a variety of research problems.

Thus, Raman followed up the recitations he heard his father play on the violin by his papers on the bowed string, the struck string, the maintenance of vibrations, on resonance, the sounds of splashes, and on music from heated metals! This, by no means, is a complete list of his research interests even in the field of sound and music alone! He discovered the overtones in the sounds of the mridangam and the tabla, thoroughly analyzed them, and showed how the richness of these percussion instruments is so much superior to the normal stretched membrane of the western drums. Raman, during that period, published a beautiful paper on the acoustical knowledge of the ancient Hindus, and had already become an international expert on sound and musical instruments.

Raman was fascinated by waves and sounds and always carried in his mind the memory of reading Helmholtz’s book on ‘The Sensations of Tone’ in his school days. He got a chance to study and experiment in the I ACS, he chose to study musical instruments first. He used an idea found in Helmholtz’s book, he explained the working of the Ektara, which is a simple instrument made of a resonant box and a string stretched to lie across the cavity.

Starting from his understanding of this simple object, he developed many ideas that he called ‘remarkable resonances’. During this time, he took up the violin for study and developed a way of characterizing the quality the instrument. It was the first time a scientific understanding was established, and it is employed even today. Raman’s studies on the violin were extensive and published as a book entitled ‘On the Mechanical Theory of Musical Instruments of the Violin Family with Experimental Results: Part I”.

Raman had excellent organizational capacity, and had a great vision for the future of science in India. He started a Bulletin of the Indian Association in which original results of the research done would be published. This Bulletin grew, in 1917, into a full science journal, known as the Indian Journal of Physics.

Becoming Palit Professor

In 1917, Professor Ashutosh Mukherjee, who was the Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University at that time, requested C.V. Raman to come out of his job at the Accounts Department and accept the prestigious Tarakanath Palit Professorship of Physics at the University of Calcutta. There was a hitch in Raman’s appointment, however, since there was a regulation which required that a candidate for the Palit professorship must be trained in a foreign country. The self-respecting Raman refused to comply, and the distinguished Vice Chancellor happily changed the rules to appoint Raman.

While he was Palit Professor at the Calcutta University, in 1919, Professor Raman became the Honorary Secretary of the Indian Association for Cultivation of Sciences and thus had two laboratories to work with. In 1921, Raman went to Oxford as a delegate at the Universities’ Congress. One nagging phenomenon keeps surfacing as we reflect on virtually any aspect of Raman’s life. This is his extra-ordinary observational capacity, and his keenness, enthusiasm, and total competence to understand his observations. During this visit to Europe, he visited the Saint Paul’s Cathedral whose whispering gallery is famous the world over.

Raman’s excitement at the whispering gallery went well beyond that of anybody who ever visited that Cathedral, for Raman did a few small experiments and analyzed the results. His findings were far from trivial, and were published in two research articles in two of the foremost science journals, one in ‘Nature’ and the other in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’.

Raman As Professor & Teacher

In 1917, at the age of 29, Raman became the Palit Professor. He continued research along with the new assignment.

Raman was very deeply interested in musical instruments such as the Veena, the Violin, the Mridangam and the Tabala. He began to work on them. Around 1918, he explained the complex vibrations of the strings of musical instruments. He later found out the characteristic tones emitted by the Mridangam, the Tabla etc.

Amritlal Sircar, who was devoting all his time to the welfare of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, passed away in 1919. Professor Raman then became its Honarary Secretary. Two laboratories – those of the College and of the Association – were under him; and this gave a new stimulus to his researches. Both his body and his mind could do all the work that had to be done. Many students came to him from different parts of the country for post-graduate studies and research. 1ACS and the University Science College Laboratory – became the active research centers of India. Research workers like Meghnad Saha and S.K. Mitra, who became famous later, worked at these centres.

That was a time when Raman was completely immersed in experiments and research. According to the terms of the Palit Chair, he could have remained free from teaching work, doing research only. But Raman had great pleasure in teaching. Students were inspired by his lectures. They were eager to listen to him. He would not stick to one particular textbook. His lectures brought the fragrance of fresh research. They reflected Raman’s great curiosity about the secrets of nature. Usually, the lecture was an hour duration. Forgetting the time in the discussion of the subject, Professor Raman would sometimes lecture for two or three hours. Any doubt or question from a student would stimulate new scientific ideas.

Professor Raman was not only a great investigator but also a great teacher in the true sense of the word. His ideas and personality attracted many young research students and he held their loyalty and affection by extending a never-failing friendship to them. He not only taught methods of scientific research to his students but by his own example made them realize the necessity of endurance, steadiness, and hard work in the pursuit of knowledge.

Absorbed in experiments, it was not unusual for him to forget food and sleep. Sometimes working late at night, he would sleep in the laboratory on one of the tables.

In the mornings too, most of his time was spent in the laboratory. He worked in informal clothes. At 9.30 a.m. he would rush home. After a shave and a bath, he would dress up and send for a taxi.

He would finish his breakfast in two or three minutes and get into the taxi. Racing over a distance of four miles, he would reach the class on time. He never wasted time.