Jagdish Chandra Bose – Unsung Hero of Radio Communication

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, generally known as J.C. Bose, occupies a unique position in the history of modern Indian science. He was an eminent Indian scientist who proved by experimentation that both animals and plants share much in common. He demonstrated that plants are also sensitive to heat, cold, light, noise and various other external stimuli. Bose contrived a very sophisticated instrument called Crescograph which could record and observe the minute responses because of external stimulants. It was capable of magnifying the motion of plant tissues to about 10,000 times of their actual size, which found many similarities between plants and other living organisms.

Early Life & Career:

Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on 30 November, 1858 at Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh. His father Bhagabanchandra Bose was a Deputy Magistrate. He was raised in a home committed to pure Indian traditions and culture. He got his elementary education from a vernacular school, because his father thought that Bose should learn his own mother tongue, Bengali, before studying a foreign language like English. In 1869, Jagadish Chandra Bose was sent to Calcutta to learn English and was educated at St.Xavier’s School and College.

He was a brilliant student. In 1879, he passed B.A. in physical sciences. Bose went to England in 1880,. He studied medicine at London University, England, for a year but gave it up because of his own ill health. Within a year he moved to Cambridge to take up a scholarship to study Natural Science at Christ’s College Cambridge.

In 1885, he returned from abroad with a B.Sc. degree and Natural Science Tripos (a special course of study at Cambridge). After his return Jagadish Chandra Bose, was offered a lectureship at Presidency College, Calcutta on a salary half that of his English colleagues. He accepted the job but refused to draw his salary in protest. After three years the college ultimately conceded his demand and Jagdish Chandra Bose was paid full salary from the date he joined the college. As a teacher Jagdish Chandra Bose was very popular and engaged the interest of his students by making extensive use of scientific demonstrations.


In 1894, Jagadish Chandra Bose decided to devote himself to pure research. He converted a small enclosure adjoining a bathroom into a laboratory in the Presidency College. He carried out experiments involving refraction, diffraction and polarization. It would not be wrong to call him as the inventor of wireless telegraphy.

Radio Research

In November 1894 (or 1895) public demonstration at Town Hall of Kolkata, Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using millimetre range wavelength microwaves.

Bose planned to perfect his coherer but never thought of patenting it.

In May 1897, two years after Bose’s public demonstration in Kolkata, Marconi conducted his wireless signalling experiment on Salisbury Plain. Bose went to London on a lecture tour in 1896 and met Marconi, who was conducting wireless experiments for the British post office. In an interview, Bose expressed disinterest in commercial telegraphy and suggested others use his research work. In 1899, Bose announced the development of a “iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector” in a paper presented at the Royal Society, London.

In 1895, a year before Guglielmo Marconi patented this invention, he had demonstrated its functioning in public. Jagdish Chandra Bose later switched from physics to the study of metals and then plants. He fabricated a highly sensitive “coherer”, the device that detects radio waves. He found that the sensitivity of the coherer decreased when it was used continuously for a long period and it regained its sensitivity when he gave the device some rest. He thus concluded that metals have feelings and memory.

Plant Research

On May 10, 1901, the central hall of the Royal Society in London. Bose showed experimentally plants too have a life. He invented an instrument to record the pulse of plants and connected it to a plant. Bose chose a plant whose mots was cautiously dipped up to its stem in a vessel holding the bromide solution, a poison. The plant’s pulse beat, which the instrument recorded as a steady to-and-fro movement like the pendulum of a clock, began to grow unsteady. Soon, the spot vibrated violently and then came to a sudden stop. The plant had died because of poison.

Using the Crescograph, he further researched the response of the plants to fertilizers, light rays and wireless waves. The instrument received widespread acclaim, particularly from the Path Congress of Science in 1900. Many physiologists also supported his findings later on, using more advanced instruments.

Electrical response in metals

J.C. Bose was the first physicist who began an examination of inorganic matter (metals and certain rocks) in the same way as a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. He subjected metals to various kinds of stimulus mechanical, thermal, chemical, and electrical. He next subjected plants and animal tissues to various kinds of stimulus and also found that they also give an electric response. He found that they are all(metals and living tissues) benumbed by cold, intoxicated by alcohol, wearied by excessive work, stupified by anaesthetics, excited by electric currents, stung by physical blows and killed by poison- they all exhibit essentially the same phenomena of fatigue and depression, together with possibilities of recovery and of exaltation, yet also that of permanent irresponsiveness which is associated with death- they all are responsive or irresponsive under the same conditions and in the same manner.

Later Life and Death:

Bose wrote two illustrious books; ‘Response in the Living and Non-living (1902) and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants (1926). He also extensively researched the behavior of radio waves. Mostly known as a plant physiologist, he was actually a physicist. He was elected the Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920 for his amazing contributions and achievements.

In 1917 he founded Bose Research Institute and became director of the same institute in Calcutta and remained at the post until his death on November 23, 1937.

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