Pioneering Science

The Indian Journal of Physics, published by the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (now located in Jadavpur) was founded by Sir C V Raman in 1926. Some years later he was to discover the effect that bears his name, then be awarded the Nobel prize in Physics.

Raman started other journals as well- those that are published by the Indian Academy of Science in Bangalore. These are an important vehicle for the transmission of research results, and the vitality of our journals is a testimony to vitality of the science R&D in the country. All journals of the Indian Academy of Sciences can be subscribed through the Scholars site (and many of their publications and proceedings can be purchased from us as well).

A young friend pointed us to a book that we should have known about, a special publication of the Indian Journal of Physics, a collection of Landmark Papers published in the first 75 years of the journal's existence. And what a collection!

Raman's paper on 'A new Radiation' that announces the Raman Effect, Chandrasekhar's 'Thermodynamics of the Compton effect with reference to the interior of the stars’, written when he was an undergraduate, Saha's "The origin of mass in protons and neutrons", Bose on the reflection of electromagnetic waves in the ionosphere. All pioneering papers, all published in this journal.

In 1944, the journal published a remarkable paper entitled, somewhat mundanely, Mass determination of the ionising particles recorded in photographic plates exposed to cosmic rays, by Bibha Choudhuri. It was a rarity for those times. The author was a woman experimental physicist- and was the first to carefully analyse particle tracks left by cosmic rays (the experiments were done in Darjeeling, Sandakphu and Pharijong from 1939 onwards) in photographic plates. She came to the clear conclusion of the existence of a charged particle with a mass about 200-300 times the electron mass. As the editors, D S Ray and J K Bhattacharjee note, this work was "significantly earlier than the work of Powell who won the Nobel Prize in 1950 for his work on mesons." If only...

Reviewing the collection in Current Science, K R Rao says " The compendium deserves to be added to libraries, because it gives at one place some of the important papers published by the pioneering and well-known scientists of India, of the pre-independence era."

We agree. At Rs 500, it is a book that earns its place on our shelf.