Year-long celebrations to mark Chandra birth centenary

Scientists across the country have drawn up plans to remember this celebrated 'son of India' by holding talks, symposia and science popularisation initiatives for a year beginning October 19, the birth anniversary of the laureate.

Born on October 19, 1910, Chandrasekhar is regarded among the foremost astrophysicists of the 20th century as one of the first scientists to combine the study of physics with that of astronomy.

Chandra, as he was popularly known, proved that there was an upper limit to the mass of a white dwarf (a dying star). This discovery, known as the Chandrasekhar limit, is basic to much of modern astrophysics, as it shows that stars much more massive than the Sun must either explode or form black holes.

A group of scientists, under the aegis of Centre for Advancement of Public Understanding of Science & Technology (CAPUST), have planned public lectures, exhibitions and seminars to celebrate Chandra's centenary.

The group has proposed setting up of a "Chandra Centre for Science and the Arts" which would focus on communicating science to the public at large. "The Centre would encourage interaction and dialogue between natural and social scientists, artists, musicians and men and women of letters, besides ordinary citizens," Sanjay Kumar, a scientist associated with CAPUST said.

Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics and Chennai-based Institute of Mathematical Sciences have already announced two international symposia in December and January to mark the event.

The Nehru Planetarium in Mumbai has also organised a special programme to mark the birth centenary which would see leading astrophysicist S M Chitre speak on 'Chandrasekhar and His Limiting Mass' on Tuesday.

Trained as a physicist at Presidency College, in then Madras and at the University of Cambridge, in England Chandrasekhar immigrated in 1937 to the United States, where he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago till his death in 1995.

It is commonly not known that Chandrasekhar actively considered returning to India in early 1980s and a part of the new building at Raman Research Institute was redesigned for his convenience at Bangalore.

However, the scientist is understood to have abandoned the plans after being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1983 as he felt it would be ungracious and ungrateful if he left the US at that juncture.

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