Satyendranath Bose, the Man Behind the Boson Part 2
The Dhaka University was founded in 1921 and he was invited to join the Physics Department there as a Reader. It was a wrench for him to leave his beloved Kolkata as his grandson has recorded, but he did decide to take up the post and he wrote to his friend Meghnad Saha from there ( Saha hailed from that part of Bengal) “ it has been well over a month since I moved to your part of the country. Work has not yet started. Your Dacca College had quite a few things but due to utter neglect they are in a bad way. Perhaps I need not elaborate. On the table of the sahibs are scattered lots of Nicol prisms, lens and eye-pieces. It would require a lot of research to determine which one belongs to which apparatus. We do suffer from lack of journals here, but the authorities of the new university have promised to place order for some of them along with their back numbers. Talk is going on about having a separate science library.”
However this did not stop him working on Theoretical Physics and it was from here that he sent his latest paper on the existing derivations of Max Planck's formula for the distribution of energy in black body radiations to the Philosophical Magazine once again. This was rejected, but Bose sent this to Einstein writing to him on June 4, 1924. He wrote (in part) “I have ventured to send you the accompanying article for your perusal and opinion. I am anxious to know what you think of it. You will see that I have tried to deduce the coefficient 8p v2/c3 in Plank's Law independent of classical electrodynamics, only assuming that the elementary regions in the phase-space has the content h3. I do not know sufficient German to translate the paper. If you think the paper worth publication I shall be grateful if you arrange for its publication in Zeitschrift für Physic. Though a complete stranger to you, I do not feel any hesitation in making such a request. Because we are all your pupils though profiting only by your teachings through your writings. I do not know whether you still remember that somebody from Calcutta asked your permission to translate your papers on Relativity in English. You acceded to the request. The book has since published. I was the one who translated your paper on Generalised Relativity”.
Einstein not only acknowledged the letter but translated the paper himself and sent it for publication in the August 1924 issue of the Journal Zeitschrift für Physic under the title “Plancksgesetz Lichtquantenhypothese” (Its English title was “Planck’s Law and Light Quantum Hypothesis”) with the following comment of the translator: “Bose’s derivative of Plank’s formula appears to me to be an important step forward. The method used here gives also the quantum theory of an ideal gas, as I shall show elsewhere.” This is how quantum statistics was born and was named the Bose Einstein statistics. Einstein later applied Bose’s method to predict the phenomenon of Bose Einstein condensation. Incidentally this prediction was finally realized in 1995 when Cornal, Ketterle and Wieman achieved the Bose Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms in 1995. They were awarded the Nobel Prize for this in 2001.
This achievement brought him international recognition and paved the way for his visit to Europe in 1924 on a two year sabbatical from Dhaka University. Incidentally this leave was only sanctioned after he showed the authorities Einstein’s letters to him! He arrived in Paris in October 1924 where he spent one year. This was not his original plan, but apparently he fell in with some friends who insisted that he stay on in Paris instead of proceeding to Berlin to meet Einstein as he had initially decided. Here he came in touch with Madame Curie and wanted to join her laboratory. However Madame Curie had earlier taken on an Indian assistant whose lack of French caused a lot of problems. Bose did know French, but somehow this was not communicated to Madame Curie and he did not get this opportunity which he had craved. Perhaps this was good thing as he might have also developed a radiation related malignancy!
He however did meet the famous French Indologist Sylvian Levi , and physicists Langevin and Broglie . He worked for some time with the team of Langevin and Broglie before proceeding to Berlin in October 1925, where he met Einstein at last, though not immediately, as Einstein was then in Leyden. Einstein opened many doors for him, including that of the university library and met the topmost German scientists Fritz Haber, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, Walther Bothe, Michael Polanyi, Max von Laue, Walter Gordon, Paul Eugene Wigner and others. He also visited Gottingen where he met Max Born and Erich Hickel. In a letter written to a friend from there he vividly recalls one incident:
“Everybody (every physicist) seem to be quite excited in Berlin about the way things have been going on with physics. First on the 28th last Heisenberg spoken in the colloquium about his theory, then, in the last colloquium, there was a long lecture on the recent hypothesis of the spinning electron (perhaps you have heard of it).
Everybody is quite bewildered and then there is going to be very soon a discussion of Schrödinger’s paper. Einstein seems quite excited about it.
The other day coming from the colloquium, we found him jumping in the same compartment where we were, and forthwith he began to talk excitedly about the things we have just heard. He has to admit that it seems a tremendous thing, considering the lot of things which these new theories correlate and explain, but he is very much troubled by the unreasonableness of it all.
We were all silent, but he talked almost all of the time, unconscious of the interest and wonder that he is exciting in the minds of the other passengers."
He returned to India in 1926 and applied to the University for a promotion to the post of Professor. He asked Einstein for a recommendation, surprising him, as he felt that Bose’s accomplishments should have spoken for themselves. Incidentally even Einstein’s recommendation was not enough as the post was offered to Debendra Nath Bose, incidentally the nephew of J C Bose. DM refused the post which was then offered to Satyen. Incidentally there is an amusing story regarding the two Boses which came to light only during the 70th birthday celebrations of Satyen Bose in 1964. Dr D M Bose was an invited speaker to the celebrations and he referred to his visit to the Como conference in Italy in 1927. This conference was held from 11-21 September 1027 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Allesandro Volta. S N Bose interrupted his speech to remind him that he had been invited by mistake, the invitation was actually meant for S N Bose, but went to D M instead. Einstein was the unwitting cause of this confusion. When he had Satyen’s paper published in Zeitschrift he credited him as Bose, Dhaka University and he compounded this in his follow up paper where he refers to Bose as D Bose. So when the organisers of the Como conference consulted Einstein’s paper , they naturally mistook D N for S N. Satyen Bose was not to visit Europe again until 1954.