Monthly Archives: November 2016

Polymath Plant Scientist

Prologue
TODAY, NOVEMBER 30, MARKS THE BIRTH ANNIVERSARY of a scientific colossus, Jagadish Chandra Bose. I first became aware of him and his lasting legacy during my early business career in Calcutta – renamed Kolkata after India’s Independence: On a free afternoon, I visited the Botanic Garden across the Hooghly River and spent a goodly couple of hours exploring the flora there, during which time I came across the landmark Great Banyan Tree, an enormous tree (Ficus benghalensis) that is reckoned to be the largest of its kind in the world – at 1083 feet in circumference! I learned that the extensive dense ‘green’ area along the river bank had been renamed in 2009 in his honor: By all counts he was probably the most famous scientist among a cluster of Indians, that seemed to emerge in the waning years of the British Raj.

great-banyan-tree

Bose was the first person to prove that plants have the ability to feel pain and affection. He was a polymath whose research contributed extensively to the fields of botany, physics, archaeology and radio science.

jagadish_chandra_bose_1926Indeed, Bose is considered to be the first modern scientist of India for the recognition he received from the Royal Institution, London, where the most prominent British scientists of those days gathered and discussed their latest discoveries and inventions. He is credited to have laid the foundations of experimental science in India and was a pioneer in the area of microwave optics technology. He designed a galena receiver which was among the earliest examples of a lead sulphide photo conducting device.

<—–Jagadish Chandra Bose
lecturing on the “nervous system” of plants at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1926

From a young age he displayed a keen interest in science and set his eyes on becoming a doctor. But he could not pursue a career in medicine due to some reasons and therefore shifted his focus to research. A very determined and hardworking person, he immersed himself deeply into research and made his findings public for the benefit of scientific development. Along with being a scientist, he was also a talented writer who set the precedence for Bengali science fiction writing.

Childhood & Early Life
Jagadish was the son of Bhagawan Chandra Bose, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj who worked as an assistant commissioner. His father wanted him to learn his native Bengali thoroughly and be familiar with his own culture before learning English. Thus young Jagadish was sent to a vernacular school where he had classmates from various religions and communities. Bonding with different people without any discrimination deeply impacted the boy.

In 1869, he enrolled at the Hare School before moving on to St. Xavier’s College in 1875 where he became acquainted with the Jesuit Father Eugene Lafont who instilled in him a deep interest in natural sciences.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Calcutta in 1879 he wanted to go to England to study for the Indian Civil Service. However, he changed his plans and decided to study medicine. This plan too did not suit him and once again he had to consider another option.

Finally, he decided to study Natural Science and secured admission in Christ’s College, Cambridge. He completed his Natural Science Tripos from the college and pursued a B.Sc. from the University of London earning his degree in 1884.

Bose had the privilege of being taught by illustrious teachers like Francis Darwin, James Dewar and Michael Foster at Cambridge.

Career
On his return to India in 1885 he was appointed as an officiating professor of physics in Presidency College on the request of Lord Ripon to the Director of Public Instruction.

In his first job, Bose became a victim of racism as his salary was fixed at a much lower level than that of the British professors. As a protest Bose refused to accept the salary and taught at the college for three years without payment.

After some time the Director of Public Instruction and the Principal of the Presidency College made him permanent and paid him his full salary for the previous three years. Such was the character of J. C. Bose!

There were many other issues in the college as well. The college did not have a proper laboratory and was not conducive to pursuing original research. Bose actually funded his research with his own money.

Starting from 1894 he experimented on the Hertzion waves in India and created the shortest radio-waves of 5mm. He conducted the first communication experiments in 1895, thus becoming the pioneer in multimedia communication.

He presented his first scientific paper, ‘On the polarization of Electric Rays by Double Reflecting Crystals’ before the Asiatic Society of Bengal in May 1895. His papers were later published by the Royal Society of London in 1896.

In 1896 he met Marconi who was also working on wireless signaling equipment and in 1899 he developed the “iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector” which he presented at the Royal Society.

He was also a pioneer in the field of biophysics and was the first one to suggest that plants too can feel pain and understand affection.

He was also a writer and in 1986 authored Niruddesher Kahini, which was the first major work in Bengali science fiction. This tale of weather control features the riddance of a cyclone using a little bottle of hair oil. That story was later translated into English.

Major Works
A polymath, Bose left an indelible mark in several fields of study. He invented the crescograph for measuring the growth in plants using a series of clockwork gears. He is also credited with the invention of the first wireless detection device, an invention he never tried to get patented himself.

Awards & Achievements
He was made Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1903 and Companion of the Order of the Star of India (CSI) in 1912 in recognition of his contributions to science.

Personal Life
He married Abala, the daughter of the renowned Brahmo reformer Durga Mohan Das, in 1887. She was a renowned feminist in her own right and fully supported her husband throughout his busy scientific career.

He died in 1937 at the age of 78.

References: Wikipedia and my Diary.

Dear Readers,
You number over 60,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.

It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

 

The March King – in November!

[Why not? But this ain’t a seasonal comment!]

CONSIDER THAT NOVEMBER THE SIXTH MARKS THE BIRTH ANNIVERSARY of America’s beloved March King, who above all composed some of the best loved – and most patriotic – of pieces known the world over what the USA stands for. And I thought that as an Indian-American I would post for all to see (and hear!) what truly brings us together before we head to our nearest polling booths on November 8 to cast our sacred votes as citizens.

john-philip-sousa

John Philip Sousa
November 6, 1854 – March 6, 1932

Let’s begin at the beginning of John Philip Sousa’s life and his indelible, unforgettable martial music in the ears and minds of Americans across this great land:

John Philip Sousa was born on November 6, 1854. He was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known primarily for American military and patriotic music. Because of his mastery of march composition, he was, and is known forever as “The March King.”

Among his best-known marches are “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (National March of the United States of America), “Semper Fidelis” (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), “The Liberty Bell”, “The Thunderer” and “The Washington Post.” (You may click on the red hotlinks to access the YouTube videos uploaded for your pleasure – you won’t be disappointed, I guarantee!)

Maestro Sousa’s father was of Portuguese and Spanish descent, his mother of Hessian ancestry. Sousa began his career playing violin and studying music theory and composition under John Esputa and George Felix Benkert. His father enlisted him in the United States Band as an apprentice in 1868. After departing the band in 1875, Sousa learned to conduct. From 1880 until his death, he focused exclusively on conducting and the writing of music. He eventually rejoined the Marine Band and served there for 12 years as director. On leaving the Marine Band, Sousa organized his own band. He toured Europe and Australia and developed the sousaphone, a large brass instrument similar to the helicon and tuba. At the outbreak of World War I, Sousa was commissioned as a lieutenant commander and led the Naval Reserve Band in Illinois. Following his tenure, he returned to conduct the Sousa Band until his death in 1932. In the 1920s he was promoted to lieutenant commander in the naval reserve, but never saw active service again.

Afterword: My late older brother, the highly decorated Lt. Gen. Misbah Mayadas of the Indian Army, was enamored throughout his storied career by Sousa’s marches, particularly Semper Fidelis, which happened to be his own motto that he instilled into the troops he led over several decades in the mid-1990’s. So, in a sense, I owe him a debt of gratitude for instilling in me the importance of a strong and committed military in any democracy that hopes to prevail over any threat from a bellicose country.

References: Wikipedia.

Dear Readers,
You number over 60,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.

It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

Not To Reason Why

antonio_vivaldi‘TIS THE SEASON NOT TO REASON WHY! Just consider that had Antonio Vivaldi (1675-1741) been alive today, his famous composition, The Four Seasons, could have portrayed – musically speaking – a single week this month of November in Northeast America. [You may click on the red hotlink to listen to the whole opus at your leisure: it is performed here by the Budapest Strings under the baton of its conductor Bela Banfalvi.]

After all, in the poetic realm, wasn’t it Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) who, well before Vivaldi’s arrival on this planet, mused:

edmund-spenser

“I was promised on a time
To have reason for my rhyme;
From that time unto this season,
I received nor rhyme nor reason.”

Published three centuries ago c. 1716, Vivaldi’s Op. 8 comprising of four concertos, collectively entitled The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagione), was one of the earliest successful efforts at literal program music, with each of the four works resembling a tone poem:

  • Spring (La Primavera), in E major, begins ebulliently in the full orchestra, and soon launches into several descriptive passages: trills in three solo violins simulate the song of birds; running figures of sixteenths in violins suggest the murmur of playing fountains. The concluding part is a pastoral dance.
  • Summer (L’Estate), in B flat, recreates the voices of the cuckoo, turtle dove, and goldfinch.
  • Autumn (L’Autunno), in F major, begins with a picture of merrymaking farmers at harvest time. A slow section provides a complete change of pace with t a description of their peaceful slumber.
  • Winter (L’Inverno), in F minor, is even more realistic. Staccato passages imitate the chattering of teeth in the cold, while running figures in strings remind us of the shiver brought on by the chilling snows. The gentle slow section tells of the peace of sitting by the fireside while the vigorous finale recalls that winter can also bring joy.

References: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; Wikipedia.

Dear Readers,
You number over 60,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.

 

It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!