How a sea voyage helped Sir CV Raman to place the Raman Effect in the world

Raman once said, the outstanding investigators “are claimed as nationals by one or another of many different countries. Yet in the truest sense, they belong to the whole world.”

Sir Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman was born in 1888 in Tiruchirappalli in Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu). Dr Raman was the second child in a family of eight children in Tiruchirappalli, where his father Chandrasekhara Iyer was a teacher in a local high school.  

When Dr Raman was four years old his father accepted a post of lecturer in Mathematics, physics and physical geography in the coastal town of Vishakhapatnam and then moved there. Raman spent the next 10 years of his life in Vishakhapatnam going through primary and secondary schools and two years of college over there.  


In January 1903 he won a scholarship and joined the Presidency College for his graduation. Raman passed the B. A degree in 1904, at the age of 15, winning first place and gold medals in English and Physics. In 1907 he went ahead and took his Master’s at the age of 18. One of his professors said, “The best student I have had in thirty years”. During his Master’s he published a paper in the Philosophical Magazine (London) in November 1906, titled, Unsymmetrical diffraction bands due to a rectangular aperture observed when light is reflected very obliquely at the face of a prism. 

He was 18 years old when he entered into Financial Civil Services securing first place in the entrance examination and then along with his wife went to Calcutta as an Assistant Accountant General for his deputation.  On the other hand, his work on physical science continued and soon he started producing research papers at The Indian Association for Cultivation of Science. 

Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee offered him the Sir Taraknath Palit Professorship of Physics at the University of Calcutta where he remained for 15 years. In 1921, he had travelled to Europe to attend the Congress of Universities of the British Empire at Oxford. During his journey, he sent two papers to the journal Nature positing that the colour of the sea was due to a light scattering by the water molecules a phenomenon he called molecular diffraction. 

He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1924. In 1925 he observed the frequency that shifted through the scattered light in more than 50 liquids which he called modified scattering. By 1926 he established the Indian Journal of Physics and acted as its first editor and posted his research in the journal which was later called the Raman effect. After his publication he sent in 1928 he sent reprints to scientists in the United States, France, Weimar Republic (now Germany) and the Soviet Union. In this way, he was given credit for the discovery.

By the next year, he was called by the Faraday Society of London to attend an event recognising his contribution in the field of physics. That same year he was given knighthood by the British government in India. In 1930, Sir C. V. Raman received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his ‘discovery of scattering of light’.

With his affiliation with Calcutta University, he later became a professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore where he worked for 15 years.  

Post-independence, the legendary physicist established the Raman Institute in 1948 of which he also became the director of the institute.  Sir Raman was among the first four recipients of India’s highest civilian award ‘Bharat Ratna’ when it was started in 1954. A year later he received a letter from the Deputy Security of the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development asking him to submit a report of his subjects and the work done by him. 

This irked Sir Raman and he picked up a hammer and a chisel and break his Bharat Ratna medallion into pieces and wrapped these in the deputy secretary’s letter and sent it to the then Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. 

Post-retirement he continued his work and was wanted to build an institute where he wanted to encourage and train more students. To this Maharaja of Mysore came to his rescue and donated some of his land where he built his laboratory calling it Raman Research Institute located in Bangalore. Before his death, he donated all his savings, donations, prize amount to which he got when he was a national professor for India and land to Indian Institute for Science (IISc) for research purposes.

Sir C. V. Raman had a cardiac arrest and collapsed in his laboratory. He died on November 21, 1970, at the age of 82 in Bangalore. 

Every year on 28th February we observed to commemorate his contribution to the field of physics. This day is celebrated as National Science Day.