Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chandra vs Chandra

  • Today, the astrophysicist, Subramaniam Chandrasekhar (Chandra) seems an almost distant and iconic figure. He is the stuff of legend, and unfortunately his family and friends have stuffed it further. He almost sounds like a theorem-formal, elegant and unapproachable.

  • Chandra was generous. The astronomer Arthur Eddington’s opposition to his ideas virtually destroyed his career. It took several decades of research to vindicate him. I remember asking him with my political impetuousness, was Eddington a racist? Chandra looked shocked at the idea. Eddington was still the great Eddington. He might have forced him into virtual exile but Chandra immaculately correct, treated it as a difference of two scholars.

  • Chandra was a nationalist but I think he had a little sense of politics beyond that. He read controversies in an almost antiseptic way which was revealing. Asked about Satyam Bose, Chandra claimed he was brilliant. But then added, “when Einstein snubbed him, he retreated.” Bose had one flash of insight and he then added, “it takes two to make a genius”. He felt a sense of wonder and sadness about that early generation of scientists.

(From Remembering Chandra by Shiv Visvanathan)

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