You might know about Dr. CV Raman but did you know that another unsung scientist, his student, played a significant role in this historic discovery? But how many of us know him? Today we are sharing the story of Sukumar Chandra Sirkar, who was born in 1898, and was an important part of Sir C.V. Raman’s team during the discovery of the Raman Effect in 1928 at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) in Kolkata.
He worked on light scattering, eventually contributing to the groundbreaking discovery that won Raman the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Sirkar was the first person, whom Raman asked to evaluate the first ever ‘Raman spectrum’ of benzene. Raman came to him with glass plates containing benzene and mercury lamp spectra and asked him to measure the wavelength of new lines with an Adam Hilger comparator. However, he faced difficulties due to the absence of a standard iron spectrum for comparison.
Despite these challenges, Raman urgently announced the discovery in Bangalore on March 16, 1928, and quickly shared the news with renowned physicists like Neils Bohr, understanding the global significance of his findings.
After the discovery, Sirkar focused on studying the strength of Raman lines in the Raman spectra. His research gained international recognition, leading the University of Calcutta to honor him with a D.Sc degree.
He held various positions, including Reader in Physics at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) in Kolkata, Lecturer in Physics at the University of Calcutta, and later Professor and Head at the Department of Optics in IACS.
By 1942, he had published 50 research papers, but he didn’t have a permanent job until 1945 when he became a lecturer at Science College.
Sirkar’s research covered diverse areas, including the Raman effect, X-rays and crystal structure, Kerr’s effect, electric moments of molecules, and cosmic rays. He conducted significant experiments on the ultraviolet absorption spectra of different molecules in various phases.
He was actively involved with the Editorial Board of Science & Culture and served as a member of the Indian Physical Society, even becoming its President for a period.
Sirkar was among those scientists who didn’t necessarily make big discoveries but helped grow science in India by teaching many students.
Recognizing his contributions, Sirkar received the Griffith Memorial Prize in 1934 and the Sir Asutosh Mookerjee Gold Medal from the Indian Physical Society in 1935.
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