Legacy of Western Scientists
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 28 Jun 2021
Nicholas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein, C V Raman (of India), Stephen Hawking are some well known scientists who have made immeasurable contributions to various fields of science, mainly Physics and Astronomy. Some unusual topics they have worked on include: Big Bang Theory, Black Holes, Speed of Light, Special Relativity, Energy-Mass relationships E = mc2.
Isaac Newton is one of the greatest scientists that the world has produced. He was a good mathematician especially in the area of calculus. He developed three laws of motion from which he was able to understand various properties – a motion that goes on and on, a motion that can be slowed down or stopped or sped up. It is said that he wondered why an apple falls down on the ground and not otherwise. From this he developed the idea of force of gravity that pulls objects downwards. The gravitational force is common in the universe including in the moon where, however, the force is about one sixth since the moon weighs much less than the Earth.
Newton also worked on the nature of light and showed that white light consists of several colours from violet to red that are visible to mankind. There are other colours which people cannot see with their eyes.
Born in 1643 in England, he studied in Trinity College. His place of birth is well preserved and the British government takes pride in his outstanding scientific contributions. Newton was knighted and thereby became Sir Isaac. He is reputed to have said that he stood on the shoulders of scientific giants such as Galileo for his outstanding achievements.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist and astronomer born in Pisa in 1564. With a telescope he studied the motions of the Earth, the moon and several planets including Jupiter. Nicholas Copernicus born in Poland in 1473 is well known for establishing that it is the earth that moves around the Sun and not otherwise. This is known as the heliocentric theory.
Johannesburg Kepler (born 1571) a German scientist became well known for understanding the motion of planets and our moon. There are several other German scientists — Max Planck, Erwin Scroedinger, Werner Heisenberg and others whose researches led to distinct advancement in their respective areas of research and even experimental techniques. Neil’s Bohr was a Danish physicist who clarified the structure of atoms and won a Nobel in 1922. He also came to the Physics Department of Delhi University and I had the good fortune of listening to his lecture.
Both Madame Curie and Albert Einstein are well known for their brilliant researches. Marie Curie was born in Warsaw Poland in 1867 but worked with her husband Pierre in Paris on radioactive elements and discovered newer ones that did not naturally occur on Earth: Polonium, Curium, Indium, etc. She was the first scientist who got two Nobel Prizes — in Physics in 1903 (along with her husband Pierre and Henri Bequerel) and independently in Chemistry (1911). Her daughter Irene and husband Joliot Curie independently won another Nobel later.
Incidentally, there were outstanding Indian scholars who worked independently and earlier than the western scientists on the motion of planets around the Sun and the moon around the Earth. Without having special scientific instruments like telescopes, they were able to discuss these motions along with their common features. They were also able to accurately explain and predict the occurrence of lunar and solar eclipses. The laboratory — if one may call it such was known as JantarMantar located in Delhi and Jaipur. The latter is still in good shape.
Albert Einstein (born 1879) is another outstanding scientist, philosopher and humanist who was a German Jew and along with millions of other Jews had to face the onslaught of Holocaust by Hitler. Einstein sought safety in USA in Princeton University. He is the discoverer of special theory of relativity. He was the first person to have integrated the concept of time with the three dimensional space and came up with the equation E = mc2 that reflects the relation of energy of a mass m of a particle multiplied by the square of velocity c. He got a Nobel in Physics in 1921 for his researches that ultimately led to quantum physics and the principles of atomic bomb.
However, Einstein was against the production of the atomic bomb that was first developed in USA. He died in 1955 in the country of his adoption at the age of 76. He was terribly shocked by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945 killing many people and bringing untold havoc.
Although Einstein never physically met Mahatma Gandhi, he had great admiration for Gandhi’s principle of Nonviolence and his Satyagraha movements against the British rulers. He was shocked by the tragic assassination of Gandhi in 1948. Expressing his admiration for Gandhi, Einstein stated that,
“Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a man in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth …”
There are other outstanding scientists including the Indian physicist C V Raman who worked on the scattering of light and got a Nobel for his work in 1930. In fact this phenomenon that Raman discovered is called the Raman Effect. The list is a long one but the wheelchair bound Stephen Hawking, who wrote the book Brief History of Time, is a classic case of an unusual scientist who some people acclaim as another Newton. He has written about the Big Bang Theory and has also clarified the concept of Black Holes that do not allow light to escape from them.
Time, whether considered by Einstein or Hawkins, is an important aspect of life. So one must end here rather than the Editor of TMS saying STOP.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Astronomy, Mathematics, Nobel Prizes, Physics, Quantum Physics, Science
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Jun 2021.
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