The man who started interface between science and society
   Date :22-Aug-2021

loud thinking_1 &nbs
By Vijay Phanshikar :
HE WAS one of the most unsung scientists of India of all time. His work as a scientist attracted as many as seven nominations for Nobel Prize, but did not get that coveted honour. Unmindful of that, Dr. Meghnad Saha continued to work tirelessly not just in his chosen field of expertise -- Physics -- but also expanded his versatile genius to fields of larger societal interests. In that sense, he came to be known as one rare visionary who promoted a successful interface between science and society. The vast range of his interests and the fine work he did in each has made Dr. Meghnad Saha an eternally shining star of Indian science firmament, leaving the country forever in his debt. Of course, India has been fortunate to have had many scientists who participated in the wider cause of nation-building, and Dr. Meghnad Saha was one leader among them all.
He participated in India’s process of general planning and agriculture development. He was a Member of Parliament as well and pushed his ideas successfully in Education, Refugee and Rehabilitation, Atomic Energy, Multipurpose River Projects and Flood Control and long term planning. A biographer described Meghnad Saha as person who was “... never unduly critical, yet forthright, incisive, thorough in pointing out lapses that the treasury bench was constantly on the defensive. ...”. He was considered the father of the entire ideation of the iconic Damodar Valley Development Project. So dedicated was he to the larger social cause that he launched a journal named ‘Science and Culture’ in 1935 and was its editor until his death. Born in 1893 in Shaoratoli village near Dhaka, to Jagannath Saha who was a grocer and Bhubneshwari Devi, Meghnad was forced to leave schooling because he participated in the Swadeshi movement.He also worked as a professor at Allahabad University from 1923 to 1938, and thereafter a professor and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Calcutta until his death in 1956.
He became Fellow of the Royal Society in 1927. He was president of the 21st session of the Indian Science Congress in 1934. He was the leading spirit in organising several scientific societies, such as the National Academy of Science (1930), the Indian Physical Society (1934), Indian Institute of Science (1935). He was the Director at Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science during 1953–1956. The Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, founded in 1943 in Kolkata, is named after him. In the field of physical research, Dr. Saha earned world renown for the study of the thermal ionisation that came to be known as the famed Saha Equation -- helping modern science to interpret the spectra of stars in astrophysics to find their temperature and to determine the ionisation state of the various elements making up the star. This pioneering work led to a successful determination of the nature of the stellar spectrum. Meghnad Saha also invented an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays.
This remarkable man with a multi-faceted personality passed away in 1956 due to cardiac arrest in New Delhi. He was on his way to the office of the Planning Commission in Rashtrapati Bhavan when he collapsed a few yards away from there. He died on the way to hospital. Unfortunately, his story also is not told in our schools and colleges as well as in homes. His work as a scientist brought him several honours such as Sir C.V. Raman Award for Research in Physical Science, Jagdish Chandra Bose Award for Research in Life Sciences plus many others. But he remained unfazed by those. As a young man whose work started revolutionising global research in astro-physics, Meghnad Saha got countless invitations to join prestigious institutions around the world. But his mission was India. There he stayed put ... all his life.