by Thomas Hawk
None can possibly question the remarkable Indian contributions of the pre-independence era through the seminal researches of home-grown stalwarts, like S. Ramanujan, J.C. Bose, C.V. Raman, Meghnad Saha, and S. Chandrasekhar. And their contributions to the development of modern physics are very well documented. This book, accordingly, presents a cross-section of Indian contributions to physical theory since independence the contributions that have had a distinct global impact. It is an attempt to put in perspective the collective work of the second and third generations of post-independence India, albeit in the area of physical science, viewed from a global perspective. The volume editor, Asoke Mitra concedes that the post-independence Indian contributions are a miniscule fraction of the total global efforts, but nevertheless visible.
Putting together a range of essays: each authored by a leading expert, the volume covers diverse areas of physics in an inter-linked, but non-technical, fashion. Organized in eleven classified parts, the essays reflect the uneven levels of development in different areas of physics: from abstract theoretical topics like quantum field theory (QFT) to areas nearer experiment like condensed matter physics (CMP). They also include some special topics, like molecular biology, liquid crystals, and chemistry of materials from laboratories created by a few Indian pioneers (G.N. Ramachandran, S. Chandrasekhar, and C.N.R. Rao respectively), whose global impact has been decisive.
An effort has been made here to highlight the creation of state-of-the-art techniques for experimental infrastructure in independent India, leading to the build-up of three vital public sector enterprises: atomic energy, space technology, and defence research. In particular, the contributions of giants like Homi Bhabha, Raja Ramanna, Vikram Sarabhai, and Satish Dhawan are examined. The discussions in the volume round off very topically with a focus on the major developments in reactor physics and space and atmospheric sciences, which have given India its rightful place on the world map.
Asoke N. Mitra retired from the University of Delhi as INSA-Einstein Professor in 1994. Currently, he is an editorial fellow of PHISPC (Project History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture).
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