Magnificent Obsession

Sitting on my desk is a sumptuous diary for the year 2009, Homi. This is the birth centenary of Homi J Bhabha, founder of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), the moving force behind the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)... And much more. And to celebrate this extraordinary life, all the above institutions have planned a series of events, scientific and cultural, through this year and the next...

The diary is handsome- I have yet to write anything in it!- and is filled with archival photographs that document the birth of many of the institutions that Bhabha founded, along with photographs of Nehru, JRD, world leaders and events, and of some of the paintings that Bhabha collected for the TIFR, by Ara, Hebbar, Husain and others. Produced by the TIFR Archives, this diary is a valuable record of a very important part of post-independence India, the birth of "big science" in the country.

In our Occasional Listings, under Diaries. Rs 300 plus shipping. Write to us.

Bhabha lived- or that is the impression- a charmed existence. Supremely talented, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society at an early age. Educated in Cambridge, where he did a Mechanical Tripos, and then a Mathematics Tripos, he followed his passion, physics, with distinction. Widely known for his theoretical work on relativistic exchange scattering (which is known as Bhabha scattering) and the Bhabha-Heitler theory on the production of electron and positron showers in cosmic rays, Bhabha returned to India in 1939, and the war intervened, so he stayed... Changing the academic landscape of the country in the most fundamental way.

The story of Bhabha is accessibly documented in G Venkataraman's book Bhabha and his Magnificient Obsessions. This is a part of the Vignettes in Physics series published by the Universities Press, Hyderabad. GV knew Bhabha and worked with him, and he describes the man and his achievements (in a simple and chatty manner, characteristic of all the books that GV has written).

"This book is about the remarkable scientist Homi Jehangir Bhabha who, at the age of eighteen, went to Cambridge to study Physics and started his research career there. In 1939, when Bhabha came to India on a short vacation, he was forced to stay on as the Second World War broke out. This was, of course, a blessing for the country as he later steered the country’s scientific destiny. The book records Bhabha’s contributions which were in many dimensions and were not just purely scientific."

In our Biography Section. Rs 150, 222 pages, in paperback. ISBN: 9788173710070