Celebrating India’s Nobel laureate Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman

The Raman effect named after Nobel laureate Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman is the change in the wavelength of light that occurs when a light beam is deflected by molecules. It is used to analyze different types of material.

Venkata Raman born on November 7, 1888, was the first person of colour and the first Asian to receive the award after he discovered the light scattering effect, a key characterisation in material science today.

Raman’s proficiency in physics had reflected in his studies earlier on. He graduated with a BA from the Presidency College at the University of Madras in 1904 at the age of 16 winning gold medals in Physics and English He also wrote a scientific paper on “Unsymmetrical diffraction-bands due to a rectangular aperture” at the age of 18, that was published in the British journal Philosophical Magazine in 1906. However, due to health issues, Raman was restricted and had to let go of the chance to pursue his research in England.

Raman took up a job as an accountant in Calcutta and developed contacts that aided him to continue his research in his spare time.

Some of his early work centred around music and acoustics which laid a path for him to later uncover some mechanism behind light-based phenomena.

Raman’s discovery that that “molecular diffraction determines the observed luminosity and in great measure also its colour” after admiring the deep blue of the Mediterranean, was followed by his discovery of the Raman effect in February 1928.

After his discovery, Raman was confident that he would be awarded the prestigious prize but it wasn’t before 1930 that he was honoured with the award. Disappointed twice in the year 1928 and 1929, Raman was confident enough to book two flight tickets to attend the ceremony of 1930 along with his wife, four months before the award was announced.

The award was indeed followed by controversies that he was awarded the honour alone despite contributions from his research associates and a long upheld argument with the German physicist Max Born over the vibration spectrum of a diamond where he was let down.

National Science Day is celebrated on 28 February each year in India to mark the discovery of Raman scattering.