He was the first Asian to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physical Science. C V Raman was a man of exceptional intelligence, ethics and principles. He lived a life of dignity and contributed his entire service towards Nation. He was a man who dreamt of seeing India as world leader in Science and research.
With limited resources and accessibility, he achieved something which changed the belief of many scientist in the world. CV Raman had two lives, one as a common financial bureaucratic who was working for the government to earn his livelihood and the other of a mysterious man. This mysterious man would disappear exactly at 5 PM in the evening after office hours and then would return back home at 10 PM in the night. Similarly, he would again disappear by 5 AM in the morning and be back at 9.45 AM to his office. No one ever knew what exactly was going on in Rama’s mind or what was he doing.His strange schedule followed for nearly 10 years from 1907 to 1917.
It was only later it was discovered this young man was working in an organisation founded by Mahendra Lal Sircar, ‘Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science’ (IACS). Raman spent most of his time after office in this lab working on his most interested subject Physics. Raman who was fond of music and string instruments had many doubts about string theory and the sounds that resonate from them. his curiosity made him create certain string instruments similar to the ones used in Carnatic music. Raman was very amused with Violin and its operation. His study and experiments ultimately became a book named On the Mechanical Theory of Vibrations of Musical Instruments of the Violin Family with Experimental Verification of the Results. In his study of Violin, he was able to describe the relation between the frequency response and the quality of the violin. This experiment of his became famous as the Frequency response Curve which is plotted with Frequency in the X-axis and pressure in the Y-axis.
His ideas were related to understanding simple things and trying to establish their relation with humans. He believed that Science was ‘entirely and essentially a human phenomenon’ that cannot be separated. Later, he changed his study from music to optics, and one of the greatest findings in history was about to be unveiled.
Raman later took teaching job as professor in Calcutta. Watching his exceptional work, he was offered the Palit Chair in Physics department which needed massive revamp. He took up the job despite getting 50% less salary and transformed the entire department. But he faced huge hindrance to work in Indian labs as they lacked minimum facilities and many of his experiments needs advanced instruments for analysis. He had once requested a businessman for a spectrophotometer to be bought to his lab for which the businessman had asked what would I get if I get you a Spectrophotometer. Raman had then said, get me spectrophotometer and I will get you Nobel Prize. As said, finally in 1930, CV Raman was awarded the Nobel prize for his work on The Raman effect.
In 1932, IISC, Bangalore was then looking for a new Director and had approached Lord Rutherford for the post. Rutherford had then replied saying “Why approach me, when you have Raman”!
Finally when Raman started his journey in IISC, the departments seemed puppets under the government hands which had bothered Raman big way. His punctuality, his obedience and sincerity at work was something the lethargic lobby did not like. He started a new department of Physics and granted some amount to get the work going. He discovered that lot of funds received from government was being wasted and misused by many people and took stringent action against them. He was humiliated many times and the anti Raman lobby wanted him to step down as Director of the Institute. So, he was made to resign as the Director but retained the post of professor in Physics Department.
It was in 1945’s, three years before Independence, he faced bitter relations with government and especially Nehru. Raman was very much against Nehruvian principles of socialism and Sovit-ism and believed that Science can never be developed in closed rooms taking orders from government and working according to their benefit. He was someone who believed that it was necessary for the scientists and the government in India to reach out to people if Science had to grow and wanted Nehruvian Sovit-Kind politics out of Research Institutes.
Raman resented Nehru’s policy of concentrating research in specialised institutions such as the Atomic Research Establishment at Trombay and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research laboratories, while apportioning a smaller chunk of research funds to universities. He coined the phrase “Nehru-Bhatnagar effect” to describe the mushrooming of CSIR laboratories in the 1950s, predicting they would achieve little despite the massive sums spent.
He wanted the funds to be given generously to all research institutes and grant freedom to scientists. His anger towards the centralized research system was so much that he had called the CSIR, the Taj Mahal built to bury Science. He was one man who had bravely spoken against Nehru’s communist model State and had said that it would be disastrous for a country like India. But Nehru who did not wanted to be in bad terms with CV Raman, due to his popularity awarded him National Professorship and the Bharat Ratna.
Raman very well knew that Nehru had turned all Science Institutes into a place of sinecure scientists who did little by way of innovation or discovery.He held Nehru responsible for the lack of research in most institutes.
He felt Nehru had allowed Indian science to be hijacked by self-serving people who were given control of policy making. … Raman faulted Nehru for not having the knowledge, the intuition, what you will, to find the right people for the advancement of Indian scence. … On one of Nehru’s visits, Raman gave him a tour of the Raman Institute and also a lecture on the need for an endowment of one million rupees so that the research base could expand. But Nehru would not commit himself and said insread ‘Raman why do you worry about the future of your institute?’ Raman shot back, ‘I certainly don’t want this institute to become another government laboratory.’
His hatred for corrupt politicians was so much that once, “Raman had picked up a bust of Nehru that stood on the shelf and hurling to the ground’, breaking it into pieces. He also had smashed with a hammer the Bharat Ratna given to him by Nehru government. (This incident was told by his grandson Sekhar).
Raman knew after his retirement, the government under Nehru would never allow him to continue his research work, so he persuaded the Maharaja of Mysore to donate some land where he can build his own laboratory. To which the Maharaja of Mysore happily donated 10 acres of land to CV Raman and said he was free to build and do what he wishes and encouraged him to train more students. Finally Raman built his own lab, calling it Raman research Institute where he continued his work.
At the time of his retirement, Raman was given some money which he returned back to government saying he never wanted to be obligated to government in any way what so ever. Slowly, the government under Nehru withdrew all his funds and created trouble to CV Raman. He was not allowed to enter the main building and to the department that he himself built. His works were affected with no funds or instruments. He lost many of his students either because they warned against going to Raman or because of fund deficit.
Raman understood that the government was taking revenge against him and hence he put a full stop to all his contacts in IISC and locked the gate of the house. Disgusted by the attitude of politicians in Nehru government, He had specifically mentioned “politicians not allowed” on the gate of his house. He spent his last days with small kids teaching them music and Nature and breadth his last 21st November 1970 in his favourite house given by Maharaja of Mysore. Before his death, he donated all his savings, prize amount and the land to IISC for research.
Raman Research Institute, Bangalore