What is the story behind National Science Day

India celebrates February 28 as ‘National Science Day’.

February 28, 2020 05:45 pm | Updated February 28, 2021 12:42 pm IST

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, popularly known as C.V. Raman, was born in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu in 1888. He was no ordinary boy. He finished his matriculation at the age of 11 and at the age of 15, he earned his BA degree as well, all the while being a class topper and receiving medals for English and Physics. He always had a curious mind about the world around him and how it worked.

In 1921, as a professor at the University of Calcutta he was sent as a delegate to the International Universities Congress in London. His journey back home however, is what changed his future.

Setting sail

On his 15-day return trip back home, while aboard the SS Narkunda, his restless and probing mind became fascinated with the deep blue colour of the Mediterranean sea. He asked himself, “A glass of water does not have any colour of its own. But the same water in the deep sea appears a brilliant blue. Why is this so?” He found from his readings that the previous theory was that the sea looked blue because it reflected the colour of the sky.

He was unconvinced by this theory so he began carrying out basic experiments on board the ship using the simple instruments he had with him. Through this he found that the sea looked blue for pretty much the same reason the sky looks blue — the water was causing blue light to scatter more than other colours in the light. Excited by this realisation, Raman wrote to Nature, a science journal, as soon as he arrived in India.

In the years that followed, Raman became engrossed with the ‘scattering question’. He began conducting many experiments to observe how light behaved while it passed through different types of substances. This was not an easy task, since India was still under the British rule and it had its limitations. His hard work eventually led him to the the discovery of what is now known as the Raman Effect, also known as the Raman scattering on February 28, 1928. He was knighted in 1929, and in 1930, and became the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize for Physics.

The Raman Effect over the years has been used in many fields such as chemistry, biology, medicine. The police too use a device known as the Raman Scanner adopting this principle to find out if people are carrying any illegal substances.

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