A monograph traces the life and times of the father of India’s nuclear power project Homi Jehangir Bhabha, his rich scientific heritage and his vision in addition to talking about his passionate interest in art and architecture and his love for classical music.
In “Homi J Bhabha: A Renaissance Man Among Scientists”, astrophysicist Biman Nath describes how Bhabha’s rare combination of caliber and confidence made him the icon he was.
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The monograph, published by Niyogi Books as part of its “Pioneers of Modern India” series, also highlights Bhabha’s close friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru while immersing himself in his rocky working relationship with famed astrophysicist Meghnad Saha.
Nath begins by telling the story of Bhabha’s family and the influences that shaped her childhood.
“Interestingly, Bhabha’s fascination with fundamental physics and, in particular, the special theory of relativity and its effect on time, dates back to his childhood. It is said that he had studied the theory of relativity at the age of sixteen,” he wrote.
Young Bhabha’s house was the center of The business meetings of the Parsi community and it provided him with the unique opportunity to see figures involved in the Indian nationalist movement, including Mahatma Gandhi, up close.
Bhabha’s life and contribution to science, along with that of Vikram Sarabhai considered the ‘father of India’s space program’, was dramatized in the recently released SonyLIV series ‘Rocket Boys’.
In his book, Nath tries to establish how Bhabha’s upbringing in the best institutions in India and abroad, in a way, secured the path he would take.
A Fellow of the Royal Society, his work on Compton scattering and the R process, as well as his advances in nuclear physics, have made him a force to be reckoned with in the global scientific community. He gained international recognition when he obtained a correct expression for the probability of positron scattering by electrons, now known as Bhabha scattering.
Bhabha also served as chairman of the United Nations Conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy in Geneva in 1955 and president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics from 1960 to 1963.
According to Nath, what sets Bhabha apart is his ambition, foresight and entrepreneurial spirit which has been instrumental in the development of modern science in India.
He understood very early on the need for the newly independent India to achieve autonomy in the field of scientific research. To this end, he worked tirelessly, laying the foundations for nuclear research in India by founding the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET), later renamed Bhabha Atomic Research Center ( BARC) in his honor. .
A multifaceted genius, Bhabha’s lifelong interest in classical music, art and architectureand painting provided him with solace as well as an outlet for his creative spirit.
In fact, Bhabha was particularly interested in the history of art and architecture in India.
In his own words, “Art, music, poetry and everything I do has one purpose – to heighten the intensity of my consciousness and my life.”
Nath calls Bhabha one of the last Renaissance men the world has witnessed.
“Bhabha was driven by an inner aesthetic that encompassed his visions, ranging from his mathematical theories of particles, to the architectural design of his institutions, to the mood of scientific research in India that he knew,” he writes.
According to Nath, the first day cover of the postage stamp issued in honor of Bhabha by the government summarized his personality.
“The cover showed him quietly meditating on Trombay, where he built his nuclear city, and next to him was an artist’s palette, and below him was the ‘Ode to Joy’ theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” he says.
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