One of the most prominent Indian scientists in history, C.V. Raman was the first Indian person to win the Nobel Prize in science for his illustrious 1930 discovery, now commonly known as the “Raman Effect”. It is immensely surprising that Raman used equipment worth merely Rs.200 to make this discovery. The Raman Effect is now examined with the help of equipment worth almost millions of rupees.
Early Life:Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu on 7th November 1888 to a physics teacher. Raman was a very sharp student. After doing his matriculation at 12, he was supposed to go abroad for higher studies, but after medical examination, a British surgeon suggested against it. Raman instead attended Presidency College, Madras. After completing his graduation in 1904, and M.Sc. in Physics in 1907, Raman put through various significant researches in the field of physics. He studied the diffraction of light and his thesis on the subject was published in 1906.
Raman was made the Deputy Accountant General in Calcutta in 1907, after a successful Civil Service competitive examination. Very much occupied due to his job, he spent his spare time in the evenings conducting scientific research at the laboratory of the Indian Association for Cultivation of Sciences. On certain occasions, he even spent entire nights there. Such was his passion that in 1917, he resigned from the position to become the Professor of Physics at Calcutta University.
Contributions and Achievements:On a sea voyage to Europe in 1921, Raman curiously noticed the blue color of the glaciers and the Mediterranean. He was passionate to discover the reason for the blue color. Once Raman returned to India, he performed many experiments regarding the scattering of light from water and transparent blocks of ice. According to the results, he established the scientific explanation for the blue color of sea-water and sky.
There is a captivating event that served as the inspiration for the discovery of the Raman Effect. Raman was busy doing some work on a December evening in 1927, when his student, K.S. Krishnan (who later became the Director of the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi), gave him the news that Professor Compton had won the Nobel Prize on scattering of X-rays. This led Raman to have some thoughts. He commented that if the Compton Effect is applicable for X-rays, it must also be true for light. He carried out some experiments to establish his opinion.
Raman employed monochromatic light from a mercury arc which penetrated transparent materials and was allowed to fall on a spectrograph to record its spectrum. During this, Raman detected some new lines in the spectrum which were later called ‘Raman Lines’. After a few months, Raman put forward his discovery of ‘Raman Effect’ in a meeting of scientists at Bangalore on March 16, 1928, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.
The ‘Raman Effect’ is considered very significant in analyzing the molecular structure of chemical compounds. After a decade of its discovery, the structure of about 2000 compounds had been studied. Thanks to the invention of the laser, the ‘Raman Effect’ has proved to be a very useful tool for scientists.
Some of Raman’s other interests were the physiology of human vision, the optics of colloids and the electrical and magnetic anisotropy.