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Meghnad Saha Biography

Meghnad SahaBiography

Meghnad Saha FRS (6 October 1893 – 16 February 1956) was an Indian astrophysicist best known for his development of the Saha ionization equation, used to describe chemical and physical conditions in stars. Saha was the first scientist to relate a star's spectrum to its temperature, developing thermal ionization equations that have been foundational in the fields of astrophysics and astrochemistry.
Early Life and Education
Meghnad Saha was born in 1893 in Shaoratoli, a village near Dhaka, in the former Bengal Presidency of British India (in present-day Bangladesh). Son of Jagannath Saha, Meghnad belonged to a poor family and struggled to rise in life. During his early schooling he was forced to leave Dhaka Collegiate School because he participated in the Swadeshi movement.
His Indian School Certificate was earned from Dhaka College. He was also a student at the Presidency College, Kolkata; 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.
Saha was fortunate to have brilliant teachers and class fellows. In his student days, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sarada Prasanna Das and Prafulla Chandra Ray were at the pinnacle of their fame. Amongst his class fellows were Satyendra Nath Bose, Jnan Ghosh and J. N. Mukherjee.
Meghnad Saha's best-known work concerned the thermal ionisation of elements, and it led him to formulate what is known as the Saha equation. This equation is one of the basic tools for interpretation of the spectra of stars in astrophysics, and astrophysicists often use the phrase "to Saha correctly," making Saha one of the few scientists whose name is a verb. By studying the spectra of various stars, one can find their temperature and from that, using Saha's equation, determine the ionisation state of the various elements making up the star. This work was soon extended by Ralph H. Fowler and Edward Arthur Milne.
Saha also invented an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays and helped to build several scientific institutions, such as the Physics Department in Allahabad University and the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Calcutta. He founded the journal Science and Culture and was the editor until his death.[13] He was the leading spirit in organizing 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. A lasting memorial to him is the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, founded in 1943 in Kolkata.
To actively participate in planning of education, industrialization, health, and river valley development Saha "decided to offer himself" as a candidate in the constituency of North-West Calcutta in the 1951 Loksabha election. He ran on the ticket of Union of Socialists and Progressives but Saha always maintained his independence. He was pitted against a very powerful and well funded candidate from Congress, Mr. Prabhu Dayal Himatsingka. Saha won the contest by more than 16% margin. Saha actively participated in the parliament in the areas of Education, Refugee and Rehabilitation, Atomic Energy, Multipurpose River Projects and Flood Control and long term planning. Saha was the chief architect of river planning in India and prepared the original plan for the Damodar Valley Project.
Saha and the missed Physics Nobel Prize
Saha was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1930 by Debendra Mohan Bose and Sisir Kumar Mitra. The Nobel Committee evaluated Saha's work. It was seen as a useful application, but not a "discovery." Thus he was not awarded the Prize. Saha was nominated again for the Prize in 1937 and 1940 by Arthur Compton; and in 1939, 1951 and 1955 by Mitra. The Committee held to its previous decision.
Tributes to Saha
"Meghnad Saha's ionization equation (c. 1920), which opened the door to stellar astrophysics was one of the top ten achievements of 20th century Indian science [and] could be considered in the Nobel Prize class." — Jayant Narlikar
"The impetus given to astrophysics by Saha's work can scarcely be overestimated, as nearly all later progress in this field has been influenced by it and much of the subsequent work has the character of refinements of Saha’s ideas." — Svein Rosseland
"He (Saha) was extremely simple, almost austere, in his habits and personal needs. Outwardly, he sometimes gave an impression of being remote, matter of fact, and even harsh, but once the outer shell was broken, one invariably found in him a person of extreme warmth, deep humanity, sympathy and understanding; and though almost altogether unmindful of his own personal comforts, he was extremely solicitous in the case of others. It was not in his nature to placate others. He was a man of undaunted spirit, resolute determination, untiring energy and dedication."
Saha died on 16 February 1956 of a 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, when being taking to a hospital, at 10:15 a.m. (IST). Saha, it was reported, had been suffering from hypertension for ten months prior to his death.[10] His remains were cremated at the Keoratola crematorium in Kolkata the following day.

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