C. V. Raman- The man who saw light differently

The first Indian to win a Nobel prize in science and one of the key architects who laid foundations of modern sciences in India. Sir Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman – C V Raman, became not only the first Indian (British India) but the first Asian to win a Nobel prize in Physics for discovery of Raman effect. One more distinction he had was he won the Nobel prize at a relatively young age of 42 years. After first Indian Nobel prize winner in literature, Raman was first of Indian Nobel prize winners in science.

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born at a small town in Tamil Nadu named Tiruchirappalli on 7th Nov.1888 to a physics teacher. Raman had a bright student life. He received his masters in physics in 1907. He studied the diffraction of light and his thesis on the subject was published in 1906.

Raman started his career as Assistant Accountant General in 1907, after passing the civil services exam. He served at this post for 10 years while pursuing research work as part time at the laboratories of Indian Association of Cultivation of Sciences. Out of his passion he finally resigned from the job in 1917 and joined Calcutta University as a professor of Physics.

Scientific Contributions:

Raman worked on diverse research directions but the main area he is known for is optics. He studied sea water using a simple equipment during his voyage to Europe in 1921 at the Mediterranean Sea. He was passionate to understand the reason behind the blue color of sea water. He published “the color of the sea” in Nov. 1921 in Nature as soon as he reached back to India [1].

Second and the most important discovery of Raman in this field was “Raman effect”. He along with his Research associate K.S Krishnan had worked years on the subject. In december 1927, after hearing the news of Compton’s Nobel prize, he said,

Excellent news… very nice indeed. But look here Krishnan. If this is true of X-Rays, it must be true of Light too. I have always thought so. There must be an Optical analogue to Compton Effect. We must pursue it and we are on the right lines. It must and shall be found. The Nobel Prize must be won.“[2]

Though history of the finding leads few years back. This was the marvelous discovery that won Raman a Novel prize in Physics.  Later he contributed a lot of great scientific breakthroughs like spin of photons in 1932[3], and many other works in the field of sounds and optics.


Sir Sir Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman passed away on November 21, 1970 due to heart attack at the age of 82.

*Note: This article is a part of series of Asian Science Letter about history of Science in Asia. After the series of Asian Nobel prize winners, We’ll Introduce great Asian scientists of their times to promote science. Any suggestions or guest blogs are welcome.

[1] Mukherji, Purabi; Mukhopadhyay, Atri (2018), “Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (1888–1970)”, History of the Calcutta School of Physical Sciences, Singapore: Springer Singapore, pp. 21–76, doi:10.1007/978-981-13-0295-4_2, ISBN 978-981-13-0294-7

[2] Ramdas, L. A. (1973). “Dr. C. V. Raman (1888-1970) , Part II”. Journal of Physics Education. 1 (2): 2–18.

[3] Raman, C. V.; Bhagavantam, S. (1932). “Experimental Proof of the Spin of the Photon”Nature129 (3244): 22-23

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The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of Asian Science Letters or its Editors. Information contained in our published works have been obtained by Asian Science Letters from authors believed to be reliable in their field.

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