CV RAMAN: A Creative Mind Par Excellence

ByHT Correspondent
Jul 08, 2019 01:54 PM IST

The first Asian to win the Nobel prize for Physics in 1930, he was responsible for the groundbreaking discovery of the Raman Effect wherein when light traverses a transparent material, some of the deflected rays change their wavelength.

Born on November 7, 1888 in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, Raman was a topper throughout his academic stint. Brilliant even as a child, he became deeply interested in research. During a voyage to Europe in 1921, noticing the blue colour of glaciers and the Mediterranean Sea, he decided to unravel why water, which was colourless, appeared blue to the eyes.

As a child, Raman was extremely enthusiastic in science and during his vacations, he would demonstrate experiments to his younger siblings.(Illustration: Mohit Suneja)
As a child, Raman was extremely enthusiastic in science and during his vacations, he would demonstrate experiments to his younger siblings.(Illustration: Mohit Suneja)

His quest for an answer to the mystery was successful. He was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 1954 for contributions in science.


When Raman was four years old, he moved to Visakhapatnam where his father, Chandrasekaran Ramanathan Iyer, who was initially a school teacher, became a lecturer in mathematics and physics at a college in the city. His mother was Parvathi Ammal.

The second of eight children, he studied at St. Aloysius Anglo- Indian High School. By the age of 13, he had passed both his matriculation (Class 10) and his FA examination (Class 12) with scholarship. He completed bachelor’s degree from Presidency College, Madras (present-day Chennai) in 1904, where he won medals in physics and English.

He was extremely enthusiastic in science and during his vacations would demonstrate experiments to younger siblings. In 1907, aged 19, he graduated with a master’s degree in physics from the same college with highest distinction.


Raman began his career as a civil servant in the Indian Finance Department in Calcutta (now Kolkata). In 1917, the University of Calcutta offered him the Palit Chair of Physics. Although it meant a substantial cut in pay, he accepted it as the prospect of devoting all of his time to science meant more to him.

In 1919, he was made the honorary secretary of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, a post he held till 1933. In the same year, he became the first Indian director of Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore. In 1948, he retired from IIS and established the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore where he served as director until his death.

Other achievements

He was Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (1924), and Knighted for discovery of Raman Effect (1929). His other accolades include Franklin Medal (1941) and Lenin Peace Prize (1957). In 1998, the American Chemical Society and Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science recognised his discovery as an International Historic Chemical Landmark

Personal details

He married Lokasundari Ammal in 1907. The couple had two sons: Radhakrishnan, who became a renowned astrophysicist, and Chandrasekhar. Throughout life, Raman had put together a personal collection of stones, and materials with interesting light-scattering properties, which he obtained during his travels across the world.

These are on display at his research institute in Bangalore. At the end of October 1970, he collapsed in his laboratory and passed away on November 21, aged 82.

Interesting Facts:

1. Raman Effect states that when a beam of light traverses a transparent chemical compound, a small fraction of light emerges in directions other than that of the incoming beam. Most of the scattered light has unchanged wavelength, but a tiny part has changed wavelengths. Its presence is a result of Raman Effect, named so as he first published observations in 1928. National Science Day is celebrated on February 28 annually to commemorate his work.

2. Raman spectroscopy is used to provide a structural fingerprint to identify molecules. Its use dwindled in 1940s, but the advent of laser in 1960s resulted in simplified instruments, reviving their use for analysis.

3. When CV Raman was 18, he was mistaken for a physics professor by British physicist Lord Rayleigh, who wrote a letter addressed to ‘Professor Raman’, after reading Raman’s paper on the behaviour of light.

4. He was the paternal uncle of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, winner of Nobel prize in 1983 for his discovery of the Chandrasekhar limit and his work on the nuclear reactions necessary for stellar evolution.


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