Meghnad Saha

Born: October 6, 1893
Died: February 16, 1956
Achievements: Made outstanding contribution to the field of Astrophysics. He put forward an "ionization formula" which explained the presence of the spectral lines.

Meghnad Saha was an outstanding Indian scientist. He made remarkable contribution to the field of Astrophysics.

Meghnad Saha was born on October 6, 1893 in Sheoratali, a village in the District of Dacca, now in Bangladesh. He was the fifth child of his parents, Sri Jagannath Saha and Smt. Bhubaneshwari Devi. His father was a grocer in the village. Meghnad Saha had his early schooling in the primary school of the village. As his family could hardly able to make both ends meet, Meghnad Saha managed to pursue his schooling only due to the generosity of a local medical practitioner, Ananta Kumar Das, who provided him with boarding and lodging in his house.

In 1905, British Government took the decision of partition of Bengal. There was great political unrest in Bengal as popular opinion was against the partition. Sir Bampfylde Fuller was governor of East Bengal at that time. One day he came to visit the Collegiate school. Meghnad Saha along with other students boycotted his visit. As a result he was suspended from the school and his scholarship was terminated. He took admission in the Kishorilal Jubili School and passed the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University in 1909, standing first among the student from East Bengal obtaining the highest marks in languages (English, Bengali and Sanskrit combined) and in Mathematics. In 1911, he ranked third in the ISc exam while the first position went to another great scientist Satyendranath Bose.

Meghnad Saha took admission in Presidency College Calcutta. In 1913 he graduated from Presidency College with Mathematics major and got the second rank in the University of Calcutta while the first one was taken by S.N. Bose. In 1915, both S.N.Bose and Meghnad Saha ranked first in M.Sc. exam, Meghnad Saha in Applied Mathematics and S.N. Bose in Pure Mathematics.

While studying in Presidency College, Meghnad got involved with Anushilan Samiti to take part in freedom fighting movement. He also came in contact with nationalists like Subhash Chandra Bose and Rajendra Prasad.

In 1917, Meghnad Saha joined as lecturer at the newly opened University College of Science in Calcutta. He taught Quantum Physics. Along with S.N. Bose, he translated the papers published in German by Einstein and Minkowski on relativity into English versions. In 1919, American Astrophysical Journal published - "On Selective Radiation Pressure and it's application" - a research paper by Meghnad Saha. He put forward an "ionization formula" which explained the presence of the spectral lines. The formula proved to be a breakthrough in astrophysics. He went abroad and stayed for two years. He spent time in research at Imperial College, London and at a research laboratory in Germany. In 1927, Meghnad Saha was elected as a fellow of London's Royal Society.

Meghnad Saha moved to Allahabad and in 1932 Uttar Pradesh Academy of Science was established. He returned to Science College, Calcutta in 1938. During this time Saha got interested in Nuclear Physics. In 1947, he established Institute of Nuclear Physics which later was named after him as Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics. He took the first effort to include Nuclear Physics in the curriculum of higher studies of science. Having seen cyclotrons used for research in nuclear physics abroad, he ordered one to be installed in the institute. In 1950, India had its first cyclotron in operation.

In 1952 he stood as an independent candidate for Parliament and was elected by a wide margin. He died on February 16, 1956 due to a heart attack.