While India was famous for being a hub of knowledge in ancient times, we often overlook the contributions of Indians in the field of science in recent history. We tend to idolise European and American scientists, while completely forgetting about the many scientists in our country itself that have helped change the face of science over the last few decades. There is certainly a lack of knowledge when it comes to Indian scientists, and as Indians, we should all take the time to educate ourselves about these scientific geniuses our own country has produced. With that, we’d like you to read our list of 15 Famous Indian Scientists who made enormous contributions to the progress of science.
Now, onto the list of the most famous Indian scientists:
1. Vikram Sarabhai
A physicist and astronomer, Vikram Sarabhai is recognised as the Father of the Indian Space Program. He founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in 1947, with a focus on researching cosmic rays and properties of the upper atmosphere. PRL is now known for its contribution to the research of space sciences in India. Sarabhai helped set up various institutes, including but not limited to the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. He began a project to launch the first Indian satellite, and consequently, Aryabhata was launched in 1975. Vikram Sarabhai is the founder of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
2. Jagdish Chandra Bose
Jagdish Chandra Bose was a biologist who pioneered experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. He was best known for his contributions to plant science and his investigation of radio and microwave optics. Not only was he one of the most famous Indian scientists of all time, he was also quite the skilled writer and was known as the Father of Bengali science fiction. He founded the Bose Institute, a premier research institute in Calcutta. He conducted a research to study plant response to stimuli, and consequently proved there were similarities between plant and animal tissues. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers has named him one of the fathers of radio science.
3. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
An Indian born British-American structural biologist, Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan was born in Tamil Nadu. He did most of his schooling in Vadodara, and received his bachelor’s degree from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Venkatraman won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for studies of the structure and function of the Ribosome.” He received the second-highest civilian award in India, Padma Vibhushan, in 2010. He is also known for his past work on histone and chromatin structure. He served as the president of the Royal Society from 2015-2020.
4. Kalpana Chawla
The first woman of Indian origin to go to space, Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-American astronaut who flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 and 2003. Tragically though, the second flight proved to be a disaster, and upon its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, Columbia disintegrated. Kalpana, along with the rest of the six crew members, died in the mishap. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. In her honour, a series of Indian meteorological satellites, MetSat, was renamed Kalpana.
5. Srinivasa Ramanujan
Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who was active during British Rule in India. Even though he never received a formal education in pure mathematics, Ramanujan made notable contributions to mathematical analysis, infinite series, number theory, and continued fractions. When he became pen pals with British mathematician G.H. Hardy, the latter was blown away by Ramanujan’s extraordinary talent. During his lifetime, Ramanujan became famous for his Ramanujan-Sato series, The Ramanujan Conjecture, and Taxicab numbers. Unfortunately, Srinivasa lived a very short life, and died at the age of 32 in 1920. Ramanujan is now remembered as one of the brightest minds India has ever seen, and one of the most famous Indian scientists.
An Indian civil engineer and statesman, Visvesvaraya was also the 19th Diwan of Mysore. He was the chief engineer of Krishna Sagara Dam in Mysore, and the floor protection system of Hyderabad city. He was consequently awarded the Bharat Ratna for his contributions to the public good. He was also knighted by George V. His birthday on 15th September is celebrated as the Engineer’s day in India, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. He was known as the Father of Modern Mysore State.
7. CV Raman
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was an Indian physicist who is known to have discovered that when light crosses a transparent material, some of the deflected light has its amplitude and wavelength changed. This kind of scattering had not been observed before, and thus, this phenomenon came to be known as the Raman effect. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930, becoming the first person of Asian origin to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field. He founded the Indian Journal of Physics in 1926. He became the first Indian director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore where he founded the Indian Academy of Sciences. He was the first to receive Bharat Ratna along with C. Rajgopalachari and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.
8. Meghnad Saha
Best known for developing the Saha Ionization Equation, Meghnad Saha was an Indian astrophysicist. His work has helped astronomers to correctly determine the temperatures of spectral classes of stars. He was also elected to the parliament in 1952. He was responsible for organising various scientific societies, including the Indian Physical Society and the Indian Institute of Science. He also prepared the original plan for Damodar Valley Project.
9. Satyendranath Bose
A mathematician and physicist, Satyendranath Bose specialised in theoretical physics. Bose famously collaborated with Albert Einstein in developing the Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of Bose-Einstein condensate. The particles that obey Bose-Einstein statistics were named Boson after Bose. He was also a member of the Royal Society, and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.
10. Salim Ali
Also referred to as the Birdman of India, Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali was an ornithologist who was the first one to conduct systematic bird surveys across India. He is credited with popularizing ornithology in India. He was an important figure behind the Bombay Natural History Society. He is known to have used his influence on the government to create the Keoladeo National Park, and stop the Silent Valley National park from being destructed. The government of India awarded him both the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
11. S. Chandrasekhar
S. Chandrasekhara was an Indian-American astrophysicist who received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1983 along with William A. Fowler. His work has helped develop many theoretical models concerning the later evolutionary stages of massive stars and black holes. He has contributed through his work to a wide variety of subjects including white dwarfs, stellar structures, stellar dynamics, quantum theory, the radiative transfer among others. He proved that the mass of a white dwarf could not exceed 1.44 times the mass of the sun, which is now called the Chandrasekhar limit. He is now remembered as one of the most famous Indian scientists to have changed the course of science.
12. APJ Abdul Kalam
Perhaps one of the very few political figures in India who is unanimously liked by everyone despite their ideology, before APJ Abdul Kalam became our president, he was the Missile Man of India. APJ Abdul Kalam was an aerospace scientist who worked at the DRDO and then ISRO. He played an important role in the testing of Pokhran II in 1998. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1997.
13. Homi Jehangir Bhabha
Famously known as the Father of the Indian nuclear programme, Homi Jehangir Bhabha was the founding director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, then known as the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay. He was also the founding director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. These two institutes were pivotal in the development of Indian nuclear weapons. Bhabha was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan and was also twice nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics.
14. Kamala Sohonie
A biochemist by profession, Kamala Sohonie was the first Indian woman to receive a doctorate in a scientific discipline. Her work focused on the effects of vitamins and the nutritional values of various plant products. CV Raman refused her admission to the Indian Institute of Science because she was a woman, and only allowed her to enter after she held a “Satyagraha” outside his office. Even when she was allowed to enroll, she was made to follow a set of rules made separately for her. However, when she completed her MSc, CV Raman was so impressed by her work that he let women enroll to his institute the next year.
15. Asima Chatterjee
Asima Chatterjee was an Indian organic chemist who is best remembered for her work in developing anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in science from an Indian University. She also wrote an exhaustive book on the medicinal properties of plants found in the Indian Subcontinent.
Did you learn something new from our list of famous Indian scientists? Comment below to let us know!