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Meghnad Saha-Physicist and Social Reformer

Born on 6th October 1893, Meghnad Saha was an astrophysicist who developed the Saha ionization equation. This equation described the chemical and physical conditions in stars and is used by astronomers to relate the spectral classes of stars to their actual temperature. Saha’s contribution to astrophysics helped him get many respectable positions throughout his life. Moreover, he was elected to the Parliament of India in 1952 as a member.

Early life

Meghnad Saha was born in Bengal in an impoverished family. He was born in a village near Dhaka which is now a part of Bangladesh. Saha always had to prove his worth in everything he did. During his early schooling, he took admission to Dhaka Collegiate School. However, he had to leave that school because of his participation in the Swadeshi Movement. After completing his higher secondary education at Dhaka College, Meghnad Saha joined the Presidency College in Kolkata.

Meghnad Saha met and worked with many renowned personalities during his lifetime. Satyendra Nath Bose, Jnan Ghosh, and Jnanendra Nath Mukherjee were among his classmates.

Saha faced discrimination in many walks of his life. However, he was never disheartened and always believed in his knowledge. After completing his formal education, Meghnad Saha joined Allahabad University as a professor. He served there as a faculty member for almost 15 years. Then he joined the University of Calcutta as a professor and Dean of the Faculty of Science. He loved imparting knowledge, and his passion for spreading knowledge helped him hold the position of Dean of the Faculty of Science until his death in 1956.

Meghnad Saha was not only a professor and physicist. He was an institution builder, social reformer, and thinker. He was deeply connected to India’s freedom movements. During Saha’s college days in the Presidency College, he came in contact with Subhash Chandra Bose and Sailen Ghosh. After associating with the freedom fighters, Saha also played a crucial role in freedom movements.

The Physicist

Meghnad Saha wrote various papers as he loved exploring unexplored topics in physics. His initial papers covered a lot of topics from diverse backgrounds. Some papers written by Meghnad Saha include:

  • Limit of interference in the Fabry-Perot Interferometer
  • A new theorem in elasticity
  • Pressure of light
  • Dynamics of electron
  • New equation of state with Satyendra Nath Bose
  • Mechanical and electro-dynamical properties of electron
  • Radiation pressure and quantum theory
  • The fundamental law of electrical action

Saha’s love for physics can be noted in the fact that he was always updated with the new happenings in the field of physics. To keep himself updated, Meghnad Saha used to read various German journals regularly. Saha used to solve bigger problems and one day he came across Eggert’s paper on high ionization in stars due to high temperatures. He immediately realized the importance of this topic and decided to work on it. As a result, he developed the theory of thermal ionization and arrived at a formula, also known as Saha’s ionization formula.

To verify his theory, Saha went to Germany to work in Nernst’s laboratory. He worked there for a year but had to come back to India. Later, Saha worked on other topics like nuclear physics, spectroscopy, and ionospheric research. To reward his contribution to the field of physics, Saha was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics. However, he did not receive the prize due to various complicated issues.

The Teacher

Meghnad Saha joined Allahabad University as the head of the physics department. To promote research and interest in physics, he built a research school with the help of his colleagues and students. Whenever Saha found that any of his students is capable of doing their own research, he would encourage them to pursue their own line of research.

Institution Builder

Meghnad Saha felt the need for an organization where researchers and scientists can discuss the challenges in their journey. Moreover, the institute also serves as a platform to discuss scientific and national issues. Saha was the driving force behind the establishment of the United Provinces Academy of Sciences which was later renamed the National Academy of Sciences, India.

Meghnad Saha also realized the importance of nuclear physics and initiated an M.Sc course in nuclear physics at the University of Calcutta in 1940.

Social Reformer and Thinker

Meghnad Saha was always interested in solving greater problems. Moreover, he wanted to attract others’ attention to the economic and social problems prevailing in society. To inform educated people about social, economical, and educational problems of national importance, he founded a monthly titled Science and Culture.

Saha greatly contributed to calendar reforms, worked on the pre-independent National Planning Committee and Education Commission. All these works directly or indirectly establish him as a social reformer and thinker.

India lost one of its finest gems on 16th February 1956 because of a cardiac arrest. He was moving to the office of the Planning Commission when he collapsed a few yards away from the main building. India cannot forget Saha's contribution to the field of Physics.

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