The non-Nobel for Satyen Bose

Photo: The Hindu
Satyen Bose

Last week, as the Nobel Prizes were announced and Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the highly coveted physics prize, dust was kicked up in India – just as it was in July and then in September 2012 – about how Satyendra Nath Bose had been ‘ignored’. S.N. Bose, in the 1920s, was responsible for formulating the Bose-Einstein statistics with Albert Einstein. These statistics described the physical laws that governed the class of particles that have come to be known, in honour of Bose’s work, as bosons.

The matter of ignoring S.N. Bose, on the other hand, was profoundly baseless, but a sensation realised only by a few in the country. Just because Bose had worked with bosons, many Indians, among them many academicians, felt he ought to have been remembered for his contribution. Only, they conveniently chose to forget, his contribution to the Nobel Prize for physics 2013 was tenuous and, at best, of historical value. I blogged about this for The Copernican science blog on The Hindu, and then wrote an OpEd along the same lines.

From the response I received, however, it seems as if the message is still lost on those who continue to believe Bose is now the poster-scientist for all Indian scientists whose contributions have been ignored by award-committees worldwide. Do we so strongly feel that post-colonial sting of entitlement?