Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February 4: Satyendra Nath Bose

Satyendra Nath Bose
January 1, 1894 – February 4, 1974

Satyendra Nath Bose, FRS, was an Indian physicist from the state of West Bengal, specializing in mathematical physics. He is best known for his work on quantum mechanics in the early 1920s, providing the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose-Einstein condensate. He is honored as the namesake of the boson.

In his book, The Scientific Edge, the noted physicist Jayant Narlikar observed:
“S.N.Bose’s work on particle statistics (c. 1922), which clarified the behaviour of photons (the particles of light in an enclosure) and opened the door to new ideas on statistics of Microsystems that obey the rules of quantum theory, was one of the top ten achievements of 20th century Indian science and could be considered in the Nobel Prize class.”

In 1924 Bose wrote a paper deriving Planck's quantum radiation law without any reference to classical physics. After initial setbacks to his efforts to publish, he sent the article directly to Albert Einstein in Germany. Einstein, recognizing the importance of the paper, translated it into German himself and submitted it on Bose's behalf to the prestigious Zeitschrift für Physik. As a result of this recognition, Bose was able to leave India for the first time and spent two years in Europe, during which he worked with Louis de Broglie, Marie Curie, and Einstein.

Einstein adopted the idea and extended it to atoms. This led to the prediction of the existence of phenomena which became known as Bose-Einstein condensate, a dense collection of bosons (which are particles with integer spin, named after Bose), which was proven to exist by experiment in 1995.

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