Skip to main content

Full text of "The life and work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose"

See other formats



















With 117 Illustrations. 8vo. 1902. 

trations. 8vo. 1906. 

Illustrations. 8vo. 1907. 

With 190 Illustrations. 8vo. 1913. 

92 Illustrations. 8vo. 1918. 

128 Illustrations. 8vo. 1919. 







M.A., D.Sc., LL.D., F.R.S., C.I.E., C.S.I. 













I AM asked whether the title of this book means especially 
a pioneer in science, who happens to be an Indian, or a 
pioneer of science in and for India. The answer is Both. 
For on one hand Bose is the first Indian of modern times who 
has done distinguished work in science, and his life-story 
is thus at once of interest to his scientific contemporaries 
in other countries and of encouragement and impulse to 
his countrymen. But it will also be seen, in the general 
world of science, independent of race, nationality and 
language, which looks only to positive results, that 
here is much of pioneering work, and this upon levels 
rarely attained, with intercrossing tracks still commonly 
held and treated as distinct in physics, in physiology, 
both vegetable and animal, and even in psychology. 
Pioneering too in all these fields, not in virtue of 
mere variety of interests, of mental versatility, and of 
inventive faculty of the rarest kind, though all these are 
present, but also as guided, inspired, even impassioned, by 
an endowment more than usually deep and strong of that 
_faith in cosmic order and unity which is the fundamental 
concept of each and all the sciences. So it has come 
to pass that we have in this single and long solitary worker 
' a mind working in long sweeps and attracted alike by 
gulfs which separate, and by borderlands which unite/ and 
successful to a high and rare degree in such high intel- 
lectual adventures. Hence his contributions are from their 
very outset towards the unification of whole groups of 
phenomena hitherto explored separately. But here is not 


simply a physicist of fine experimental skill, and of full 
subtlety, but also a naturalist of the keenest interest in life- 
processes and life-movements, and these among the most per- 
plexing and intricate. His special and characteristic lines 
of pioneering have thereby arisen. With this dual outlook 
and equipment, as physicist he brings to the physio- 
logist his intellectual and experimental resources with 
fruitful results to knowledge, and henceforth with trans- 
formation of laboratories of physiology and their standards 
of observation and research by the refinement of his new 
methods and appliances. Rarer still, he has not only 
divined in matter, as sometimes did physicists before him, 
' the promise and potency of life/ but has experimentally 
demonstrated, as in seeming inert metals, not only a strangely 
life-like passivity to environment, but a yet more life-like 
reactivity to it as well. 

Here, then, is offered some account of pioneerings in 
discovery, and of the type and personality of the pioneer 
also. In science we need more and more of both, in the 
East no doubt, but in the West likewise. Hence the present 
outline of main scientific results and biographic sketch 

And though alike in scientific summary and in biog- 
raphy the less the writer obtrudes himself the better, 
a few words of personal explanation are permissible, even 
customary in any preface. Though primarily of biological 
interests and trainings, I felt in student days the wonder 
and call of the physical sciences, and realised something of 
their bearings on physiology. As for some forty years a 
teacher and investigator in botany and more of physiological 
and evolutionary interests than of traditional ones, I have 
constantly felt my limitations in vegetable physiology in 
general, and with regard to plant-movements in particular ; 
and thus to some extent realised the interest of Bose's 
work when I first met him nearly twenty years ago, and 
when later I read a volume he sent me. But in the press 
of .other work and without actual acquaintance with his 


new and strange devices and apparatus, the impression 
gradually faded. And only in the last two or three years, 
in Calcutta and at Darjeeling, have I gradually come to 
know more and more of Bose and of his researches, of 
his Institute, and of its aims. 

All the sciences and all their scientific men are 
social products, and must be studied as such in the 
sociological way. This book, though originally planned 
in its simplest and most direct aspect and purpose 
as an exposition of a life-work is thus something of a 
sociological study also ; and as such, one of its purposes 
that of incentive to encouragement and emancipation 
of the student, of science in general, and in India in par- 
ticular may be more clear. For here is, at any rate, no 
conventional rhapsody on a ' genius/ but an endeavour 
to see what may be the conditions favourable to life and 
conducive to full mental stature and productivity ; and 
what the adverse conditions which may arrest, yet may 
also provoke to, their surmounting. And it is this latter 
which I wished to make specially clear from the study of 
Bose's life, so that others also may be encouraged to face 
their difficulties, and to overcome them as far as may be, 
towards something greater than merely individual end. 

Enough then of preface. Any dedication should be 
to those in memory or still with us, who as we shall find 
have best helped the hero of this tale upon his life's 
adventure. Nor should we forget his old teachers, his 
friends and fellow-workers in science, nor yet his assistants 
and pupils, by whom his work has also henceforth in- 
creasingly to be continued ; nor that active youth of the 
Indian Universities to whom it is so largely addressed. 

P. G. 








TION 61 





IX. PLANT RESPONSE. ...... 120 





LATION ........ 172 


XV. THE SLEEP OF PLANTS . . . . .193 








SIR J. C. BOSE . . . . . - . . Frontispiece 

From a photograph by F. A.' Swaine. 
DR. J. C. BOSE'S PARENTS \ . - . . ; . , Facing p. '24 

INSTITUTION (1896) . . . . ,, 58 

LADY BOSE . .' . . . . . ,. ii& 

PROFESSOR j. C. BOSE (1907) . . . ,', ,/ 119 
THE MAGNETIC CRESCOGRAPH (FiG. 18) . . . ,,. . 158 



THE 'PRAYING' PALM (FiG. 24) . . . . ,, 198 
THE BOSE INSTITUTE . . . . . . ., 242 







METAL (PLATINUM) ...... 94 


PLANT, AND METAL . . . . 95 



OF METAL ........ 96 










TO THE PLANT ....... 142 













LATION ........ 179 





OF MIMOSA ........ 203 






' THE boy is father of the man.' Hence the writers of 
biographies have always sought to learn and tell all they 
could of the early environment of their subjects ; for these 
formative influences, and the response of childhood and 
youth to them, are often seen to throw lights on characters 
as brought out in later years, and so on their achievements. 
Thus Auguste Comte as yet the most comprehensive and 
appreciative of biographers, since most clearly setting before 
himself and his successors the appreciation of the main 
contributors to civilisation was wont to quote two lines 
of de Vigny's : ' What is a great life ? It is a thought of 
youth wrought out in ripening years/ And as psychology 
progresses, we are learning more and more fully not only 
how fundamental is ancestral and parental influence, how 
influential are early conditions, but also how significant are 
childish feelings and fancies, dreamings and doings ; how 
important too are the boy's thoughts and endeavours ; and 
how deeply determinative those of the adolescent, as he 
looks onwards towards his life, and makes his choices among 
its oft-dividing ways. 

Vikrampur is a large area west of Dacca, the capital 
of Eastern Bengal. It is a region of fair fertility, but even 


* now outside that ctf-jute^ultivation, so that its old character 
may still be seen. The Mahommedan population is con- 
siderable ; but for Hindus it is interesting as rich in tradi- 
tional culture, even in sacred associations ; and of course 
fifty years ago it was much more so. Vikrampur is in- 
cluded in the Dacca district ; and the village of Rarikhal in 
Vikrampur is the family home of the Boses, this being about 
35 miles west of Dacca city. Jagadis Chunder Bose was 
born on November 30, 1858, and his early childhood was 
mainly spent at Faridpur, which is the centre of the next 
district, 35 miles farther west again. These distances are 
as the crow flies ; to get from one place to another the 
communication was by river and thus circuitous. 

Vikrampur has from very ancient times been famous 
as a seat of learning. From surrounding districts, even 
from distant provinces of India, youths were wont to come 
to the ' Tols ' Sanskrit schools kept by Brahmins of the 
old type and learning : in fact we may think of Vikrampur 
as till lately a University centre of the type of bygone ages. 
Of this a good deal was surviving fifty years ago, and some- 
thing lingers to this day. Tradition is extant of there being 
a Man Mandir or astronomical observatory where transit 
of stars and planets were observed. Why this localisation ? 
As so commonly throughout India, definite historic records 
are lacking, though oral traditions of saints and sages used 
to be rife. Moreover the evidence of surrounding monu- 
ments, and yet more numerous ruins, proves Vikrampur to 
have been a peculiarly rich and active centre of Buddhist 
culture : hence it is but natural that the Hindu revival which 
followed this should have been active here, and so strike 
deep and firm roots in its turn. 

These ancient cultures, then, have their influence in 
producing a population interested in education, affected 
by ideas and ideals : hence it is not solely for Bose's in- 
dividual sake that a new and ambitious school is at present 
being founded in his ancestral village to bear his name, 
but also as an expression of the old cultural interest, here 


as elsewhere feeling its way towards readjustment to the 
times. Mahommedans here, too, as nearly always tinged 
by their Hindu surroundings, are moving along with them. 

But East Bengal people are by no means all a gentle 
peasant folk, responsive to religion and education. The 
great rivers introduce strong elements of movement and 
enterprise, of fishery and transport ; in various ways stimu- 
lating, adventurous, unsettling, even to the peasant villages. 
The contrast, the mingling and the clashing of peasant 
and fisher populations, so deeply formative throughout 
the history of Mediterranean and Western Europe, have 
long been here in evidence, though of course on the 
smaller scale of a river system as compared with seas and 
coasts, and thus operative on the small scale instead of the 
great. Peasant prosperity was advanced by easy transports, 
and vigour and wellbeing improved by fish diet. The 
villagers were also relieved of their more restive young 
spirits by the call of the rivers, with their long perspectives 
promising freer and more adventurous careers. 

But beside the elements of sport and luck which give 
charm to the fisher life, and the more ambitious lure of gain, 
even comparative fortune, through transports and commerce, 
these rivers have an old and evil reputation for dacoity ; 
for such robberies they notably facilitate, since their 
numberless creeks and adjacent jungles afford sally-ports 
and refuges by turns. Here then we have the conditions at 
once for agricultural and riverine villages in prosperity, but 
also for a vigorous lawless class, who find these villages 
worth robbing. Yet the robbers never became strong 
enough to dominate their district : for even apart from the 
vigilance and repression of governments, the water-thief 
and pirate cannot venture far from his boat. Thus his 
depredations were but sufficient only to produce watchful- 
ness in the villages, with frequent and ready defence and 
resistance, attack and pursuit, in turn. In short, such 
villagers tend to be roused beyond the plodding life of the 
peasant, which is too readily acceptant of life's ills ; and 


they develop more or less of that type of people described 
by an old traveller as ' difficult and dangerous to deal with ; 
for when you attack them they defend themselves/ Modern 
government, with its magistracy and police, has long abated 
this defensive necessity ; yet its best instruments for main- 
taining security are obviously the picked local men who 
in earlier times were such village defenders ; while the best 
of local magistrates is the man who would have been their 
leader, at once by natural and acquired qualities. 

Here then in this Faridpur district we see, though in 
too scanty outline, other main factors, besides those of 
Vikrampur, in the child Jagadis' early surroundings and 
upbringing. These factors were operative in eliciting that 
note of strenuous and persistent courage in facing dangers 
and adversities, and of untiring combativeness against every 
difficulty, which we shall find throughout his youthful and 
maturing years. 

For Bose's father Bhagaban Chunder Bose, Deputy 
Magistrate of Faridpur was the active defender, not only 
of the townlet, but of the scores of villages around as well. 
The modern magistrate is mainly settled between his court- 
house and his home ; but here in those days a man was 
needed, picked not only for judicial capacity, intelligence 
and local knowledge, but for active initiative and courage, 
and thus prepared at any moment to assume command of 
his own police and his people as well, and be ready even 
to raid the raiders. Of this readiness various stories might 
be told. As a single example, hearing of a gang of 
dacoits in his neighbourhood, Mr. Bose mounted an elephant 
and, with the very few police available, rode straight into 
the very heart of the dacoits' camp. Taken by surprise, 
they broke and scattered ; the ready magistrate dropped 
down, captured the leader with his own hands, and took 
him back for trial. 

Such vigour of action, with total freedom from those 
elements ~of ~!acit compromise between police and crime 
which had sometimes existed before (and are said even now 


not to be unknown in India), could not but exasperate 
the dacoits ; and their fiercer spirits repeatedly organised 
attempts at revenge. One group, whom he had tried and 
sentenced, turned on him as they were being led away with 
the threat that ' when we get out, we will make the red 
horse fly/ Three or four years later they kept their word. 
One midnight the thatch of Mr. Bose's bungalow was set 
on fire from three or four corners, and the outhouses also 
were ablaze. Suddenly aroused from sleep by the crackling 
and smoke, the household could but rush out into the com- 
pound, without time to remove anything. The immediate 
neighbours, who as it happened were mostly Mahommedans, 
hastened to the rescue. One of them saw in the burning 
house a small figure, which in the smoke and firelight he 
mistook ; he ran back to Mr. Bose, saying, ' You would not 
like us to touch your idol, but I think it can be saved/ 
' Idol ! I have no idol, let me see ! ' and here was the 
little daughter (afterwards Mrs. M. M. Bose), then aged only 
three, who in the scattered confusion of the family had not 
been missed, but was sitting on her bed, fascinated rather 
than terrified by the scene. The father rushed in, and 
carried the child out ; and a moment after the roof fell in. 
Everything was lost ; when the strong-box was extricated 
from the ruins, ornaments and money, gold, silver and 
copper were fused into a mass ; and the horses and cows 
in the outhouses had perished. But one neighbour lent 
a part of his house, others lent clothing and cooking- 
vessels, and so the family encamped as best it could 
for a month or more, until a fresh house this time 
prudently of substantial construction was secured. The 
burned house had been Mr. Bose's own, so this severe 
loss was a beginning of the many misfortunes of his 
later career. 

A year or two later, when the boy Jagadis was five or six, 
he recalls from a ' Mela ' or popular fair, a wrestling match 
among the policemen, mostly big stalwart fellows from 
the North-Western Provinces, who practised much among 


themselves. A fine performance, though it was said after- 
wards not without previous arrangement of who was to 
win. A peasant onlooker remarked that if he were allowed 
to take part he would wrestle the champion. So Mr. Bose 
took him at his word, and started the pair. Sure enough 
the peasant made good his boast ; but the policeman, 
indignant at his defeat, suddenly threw his legs round his 
victor's neck before he could rise. The peasant was plainly 
choking ; the spectators shouted for fair play ; but the 
angry man would not let go, not even for Mr. Bose's orders ; 
so he had to strike him sharply on the feet till he relaxed, 
leaving his unlucky victor half-strangled. The fellow was 
revengeful as well as angry ; and at a quiet corner of the 
road he lay in wait for Mr. Bose, as he would come to the 
Jatra, the old form of Indian drama, to be played that 
evening. He missed his intended victim ; so outside the 
big tent where the play was held, he egged on his fellow- 
policemen, who were also feeling humiliated before the 
peasants, to annoy and hinder them as they came to the 
performance, and keep them out of the tent, even with 
blows. Mr. Bose, hearing a scuffle, came up ; and seeing 
the policemen were bullying, and without cause, demanded 
their sticks from them, and took up an armful. The ex- 
champion refused : Bose pulled the bamboo from his hands, 
and a sword fell out. With his criminal intent thus publicly 
exposed, the man fell down at Mr. Bose's feet, and confessed 
his intention to murder him. Then and there he was for- 
given : ' Get up ; go back to your duty/ He was a decent 
man ever afterwards. 

Another story of the same type of mercy follow- 
ing justice, instead of superseding it is of a notorious 
dacoit to whom he had given a long sentence. After his 
years of jail were served, he came to Mr. Bose and said, 
' What am I to do ? I can get no honest employment : I 
have no chance as a released convict.' Said Mr. Bose, ' I 
will take you into my service : this little boy has to begin 
school ; carry him there, and bring him back every day/ 


So this young Jagadis, mounted on the dacoit's side, had 
a glorious half-hour or more each way, his infant mind 
being fed with all the stories of his new guardian's adventures 
one for each of the spear-thrusts and arrow-wounds from 
the old fights of his wild days, which had covered his breast 
and arms with scars. Tales of the assembling dacoits and 
of their attacks on a village, with suddenly lighted torches 
and loud war-cries, to scare the people and take them un- 
awares. Yet tales also of the courage of the defenders, now 
of their defeat and robbery, or again of their successful 
resistance ; tales of his own narrow escapes and of the 
death of companions, or their capture, and finally of his 
own : all these tales and more were vividly told again and 
again to the wondering child. So here at first-hand was 
that romantic arousal to the dangers and adventures of life, 
for which most youngsters have to depend on books alone, 
as of Red Indians for modern Western boys, or of highway- 
men or pirates in their grandfathers' time. After a year of 
this companionship, young Jagadis was given a pony ; and 
this became a part of the charge of the dacoit, who was always 
as honest and faithful a servant as could be. Once indeed 
he had a special opportunity of proving himself true to his 
salt. On one of the family's visits to the old family home 
at Vikrampur, on Mr. Bose's annual vacation-leave, a long 
boat journey, a suspicious-looking boat, with many rowers, 
dashed out of a creek, and made after them : plainly dacoits, 
from whom there seemed r no escape. But now our tamed 
dacoit rose to the occasion : he jumped up on the boat roof 
and, standing erect to be recognised, gave a long and peculiar 
call. It was at once understood and accepted, for the 
pursuers straightway turned round and disappeared. This 
man remained with the family for four or five years in all, 
until Mr. Bose's promotion to Burdwan, when he returned 
to his native village, armed with the respectable record 
of a magistrate's old servant, behind which no one need 
inquire. Are criminals often thus kindly and wisely 
treated ? If not, have not the world's magistratures, 


nowadays so regularised and formalised in their procedure, 
something to learn from such old-fashioned predecessors 
of whom there have always been a few, but too few in every 

The innate gentleness of this vigorous magistrate be- 
comes increasingly manifested throughout our too scanty 
records of a career which plainly in itself might have made 
a volume. For despite unusually active duties, he found 
time alike for advancing material interests and cultural ones ; 
and these both separately and together. Thus year by year 
he organised one of the Melas which were even then 
beginning to fall into desuetude, but which he effectively 
revived. He encouraged their old elements of religious 
festivals, public holiday, and fair, with dramatic and athletic 
performances ; and he was wont to organise along with them 
an exhibition of local manufactures and agricultural pro- 
ducts much, in fact, as if in European villages we could 
revive the old ' Holy Fair ' with its sports and miracle 
plays, arranging along with them an exhibition of home 
industries and an agricultural and horticultural show. 

One of his son's vivid recollections is of the joys of a 
Mela to which his father had brought an excellent troupe 
of Jatra players, whose performance was as great and amazing 
a j oy to the Bose children as to the people. This appreciation 
is evidenced not only by an enduring memory of the vivid 
scenes, the breathless and crowded audience, but by a quaint 
and pleasing recollection of the English chief magistrate 
who was in the audience, and who not only emptied his 
pocket of the substantial handful of rupees he had brought 
for the players after their performance, but stirred and 
shaken altogether out of usual official decorum and reserve 
bade them wait while he ran hastily back to his house for 
more ; and with many added compliments, sent the delighted 
players on their homeward way. 

In 1869 (when Jagadis was ten years old) his father 
became Assistant-Commissioner of Burdwan, where he 
remained four or five years, till 1874. Here the duties were 


more of the ordinary kind ; but a new emergency soon arose 
to call out his powers. Burdwan had long enjoyed a 
peculiarly good reputation for health ; so much so indeed 
as to be a frequent holiday centre for Calcutta people, who 
described it as a veritable sanatorium on their return. 
Malaria had been almost unknown ; but suddenly in 1870 
there was an outbreak, which is still remembered as among 
the severest in the recent tragic records of Bengal. 
Thousands perished, leaving a multitude of orphans. 
The Assistant-Commissioner, after energetic work during 
the epidemic, took their case actively in hand not only 
giving, collecting, and administering relief, but establishing 
industries, whereby the boys might be trained to self- 
supporting usefulness. No building was available, so he gave 
up a great part of his own large house and compound ; and 
there he opened workshops in carpentry, in metal turning, 
in general metal-work, and even a foundry. From this 
there survives a big and noble brass vessel still in daily use 
in the Bose household in Calcutta an heirloom which will 
long survive to show the quality of the foundry's products. 
Here too the little Jagadis begged from his mother some 
old brass vessels, and persuaded the foundryman to 
cast them into quite a good-sized brass cannon, which 
was fired off in season and out of season accordingly, and 
is still looked back to with an affection even exceeding that 
for the scientific toys of his later life, more elaborate but 
less noisy and formidable. 

In 1875 Mr. Bose became Executive Officer in charge of 
the Cutwa Sub-division, and here he came to the severest 
emergency of his career the terrible famine of 1880. 
Though now past his prime, he faced this, disaster with fuller 
energy than ever, organising relief throughout his district. 
TBuTafter the famine was ended, the nervous wear and tear, 
as well as the physical strain of such work, told heavily 
on him. With heroic asceticism, he could not bear to eat 
well while the people starved ; and so went out day by day 
to the starving villagers, with long rides out and home, and 


painful overwork between, with only a few handfuls of 
powdered wheat, taken with water as chance allowed. With 
broken health apparently a slight stroke of paralysis he 
was thus compelled to take two years of medical leave, which 
he spent mainly in Calcutta, where his son was by this time 
at College. Here too his busy brain could not rest. He 
had always seen the need of promoting Indian agriculture 
and industry : and as for such a man thought is inseparable 
from action, he more and more invested in active enter 
prise the considerable savings of his career, supplemented 
as these were from home property and by family inheritance. 
He acquired land in the Terai and set about clearing and 
stock farming ; but despite the excellence of some of the 
produce, it lay too far from markets, and the land was 
unhealthy as well. The enterprise therefore ended with loss. 
Tea-planting was also then beginning : he saw its possibilities 
and argued If Scotsmen can face such enterprises and such 
climate, why should not Indians do the same ? So he 
acquired a couple of thousand acres in Assam. Large expen- 
diture was needed for clearing and planting, and this again 
in unhealthy conditions ; additional capital had to be 
borrowed at high interest, far more than the slowly begin- 
ning returns of tea could meet : thus anxieties, losses, dis- 
appointments, year after year. At length, though unhappily 
not in his time, this pioneering has prospered, and the 
plantation has for a good many years been increasingly 
successful ; first in the hands of an Indian manager, and 
now of sons of his daughters, effective in their turn. 

The final disaster was that of a weaving company in 
Bombay which Mr. Bose had been persuaded by high 
and patriotic promises, anticipating those of the later 
Swadeshi movement, to support with his remaining capital. 
With this the directors then absconded, leaving no trace. 

Still the sufferer was not embittered by his disasters ; 
and at the expiry of his long sick leave he resumed his 
official duties, this time at Pabna, where he worked on for 
four or five years longer, till the age of retirement. We 


may now return to earlier and happier years, and to the 
father's virile initiation and guidance of his son's education. 

A father so exceptionally active in public duties and 
these beyond ordinary routine and with external interests 
as well, in these days generally leaves the care of his 
children's education to others. But not so in the Bose 
household, where the father all along was felt not only as 
authority, but as guide and friend. Philosopher too for 
the child Jagadis, to whom the father, discerning nascent 
powers, wisely gave all the time he could spare, especially 
during those earliest years of a child's development and 
awakening, perhaps the most marvellous of all the many 
wonders of mental evolution, and correspondingly im- 
portant for the educator. Tired after his long day, 
the father used to lie down beside the child after the 
evening meal, to encourage and patiently answer the 
flood of questions which the eager little observer had been 
gathering for him throughout the day, and which he had 
to go through before he could be induced to settle down to 
sleep. ' I saw so-and-so to-day : why was that ? ' was a 
standard type of question, and always patiently answered 
when possible ; yet often perhaps most important and 
educative of all for the future investigator with a candid 
confession of ignorance, and never any of the evasion, or 
pretence of knowledge beyond a child's, which is so common 
a discouragement to children from parents less frank and 
wise. ' I don't know, my son : we cannot tell ; we know 
so little about nature ! ' was thus a frequent reply : but 
instead of lowering the child's respect, as foolish parents 
and teachers fear, this only aroused further wonder, and 
kept curiosity and observation alive. In such ways it is 
that the questioning child later becomes the scientific man : 
and what scientific man worth the name in history is more 
than such a child of larger growth ? The ' advancement of 
Science ' is no such easy matter as founders of its schools 
and departments suppose. It requires a corresponding 


supply of men of science ; these again are not the mere 
products of specialist training. Scientific training can only 
be of real service to the few survivors amidst the too common 
home and family indifference to knowledge. That is only 
advanced by those who, when children, were encouraged 
to observe and question, and were not silenced and dulled 
for life, like their elders before them, with * Don't ask silly 
questions ! ' or evaded with ' I have no time ! ' 

A quaint memory of this intensity of questioning of the 
father survives that of the good grandmother pretending 
to frighten the little Jagadis with a big stick 'and really 
a little angry : ' Boy, why don't you let my son sleep ? 
Don't you know he is tired out ? You will be the death 
of him ! ' 

Here is a flash of child-insight. ' Father, before coming 
in I saw a bush on fire ! I went to it, and saw it was all 
full of flies flies all on fire ! What was this ? What did 
it mean ? Why did they do this ? ' Then the candid 
answer, which even naturalists had not then got beyond. 
* I cannot tell : we know too little ! ' ' Father, is not beauty 
enough ? ' So the writer has seen his own little boy too 
fascinated by some outdoor sight to come in to food ; and 
then, when at last reluctantly brought in, and asked, ' What 
kept you why did you not come ? ' reply, ' Beauty is 
better than hunger ! ' (meaning of course the satisfaction 
of it). Such incidents show that the philosophy of beauty 
of which so many thinkers have had glimpses, as well as 
the poets and artists their fuller vision is natural to child- 
hood ; so Croce or Baldwin, as main exponents of this 
philosophy to-day in the West and in America, are plainly 
also children who have kept this early and natural vision 
of the world. 

Here is another quaint reminiscence of child and grand- 
mother. A devout soul, often in prayer, she was wont daily 
to model in clay, to concentrate her devotions, an image of 
Shiva : and this, after worship and offering of flowers, was 
thrown back to the earth an evidence, we may note in 


passing, that ' idolatry ' is not so idolatrous as we are often 
told, but may be purely symbolic. This well-kneaded clay 
was valued by the children for their less spiritual efforts ; 
and the little Jagadis was wont to wait patiently until 
worship was over, and he could claim the image, no longer 
sacred, for modelling of playthings. But one day the de- 
votions were unusually long-continued, and the child could 
restrain himself no longer and so ran off with the image, 
while in use. The grandmother's shock was great when 
she realised the sacrilege ; and though the offender was 
gently dealt with, Brahmins and poor folks were fed, and 
other expiatory rites performed. 

As said before, the Bose family lands were at Rarikhal, 
a Vikrampur village 35 miles east from Faridpur, so that 
the old home was visited at most hardly once a year ; 
and the main environment for the children's years 
was that of the Faridpur official residence a fairly 
spacious dwelling, with good-sized compound and garden, 
beside the main road and separated only by this and a 
large meadow from a branch of the Padma river : one not 
of great size, as the main East Bengal rivers go, but strong 
and turbulent in flood-time. 

The roadside stream too then ran strong, and especially 
where narrowed by the little bridge leading to the house : 
so there the child would watch the river ' Water moving ! 
Moving water ! 'with an intensity, a strong fascina- 
tion still vividly remembered by the ageing man. Here 
plainly was one of those deep and elemental child-experi- 
ences of matter and motion which were needed to make 
the physicist later ; to whom ' kinetic energy/ ' wave- 
motion/ and the like, were never the mere book-terms 
of the crammed student, but expressed and defined real 
imagery from early experience. Thus the man's scientific 
and speculative thoughts find ready store of early and vivid 
images to attach themselves to images at once concrete 
and beautiful, fascinating and mysterious. And does not 
the electrician's mental conception owe such clearness" as 


it, has been acquiring for the last century not a little to 
the imageries of water in movement, as from ' current ' 
onwards ? 

Besides such subconscious preparation of the future 
physicist, the boy had from the first a strong interest in 
animal life, which might well have made him a zoologist. 
The fish and fish-trap of the little home-bridge over the 
road-stream, the water-snake he captured, to the alarm of 
his elder sister, are to this day vivid memories. So too' 
are the varied insects, so often beautiful or strange, in 
which India abounds. But above all the kindly creatures, 
which could be made pets of, attracted him ; and this taste 
was wisely encouraged from the first. 

From his fifth year he was given a pony, and soon 
learned to stick on indeed so well and pluckily that at the 
Faridpur races some of the spectators in fun said to the 
child, ' Go on ; you are to race too ! ' Taking them at 
their word, the child stirred on his pony, which rose fully 
to the occasion, and carried him for his first gallop round 
the course after the big horses. The rough saddle-girths, 
which he had to grip with his short legs, and with all his 
might he had no stirrups scratched and tore his skin 
so deeply that it still bears the marks ; but he felt the joy 
of the race, stuck to his purpose, finished the round, and 
came in duly last, to receive hearty praise, as of victory. 
He said nothing of his wounds, till the blood betrayed 
them, and he was sent home for repairs. Thus early in 
childhood does the man's character appear. Again, just 
before beginning school, little Jagadis had seen a man 
brought in mauled by a tiger, and watched the village 
surgery of his wounds. Some days after, being reproved 
by his mother, he made off into the sugar-cane plantation, 
where the tiger had seized his victim, there to offer himself 
up in his turn and thus make mother repent her hard 
words ! But deep among the rustling canes, his courage, 
failed him ; and he returned with wailings, which soon 
brought him maternal consolation and renewed peace. 


But in these modern days of earlier and earlier schooling 
even then beginning, a boy's home freedom soon ends ; 
and even with his fifth year Jagadis was sent to school. 
There were two schools in Faridpur : one vernacular, 
established by Mr. Bose for the children of the people ; 
the other the Government school with its instruction in 
English ; and to this practically all destined for a more 
advanced education were sent from their earliest years. 
But here Mr. Bose, defying the local public opinion and 
the shocked remonstrances of his friends, and even of his 
own clerks, whose sons were at the English school, insisted 
on sending his boy to the vernacular one. And this with 
outspoken expression of his two reasons, educational and 
social that a child should know his own mother tongue 
before beginning English ; and further, that he should 
first know his own people, and not be kept apart by that 
false pride which nowadays in India tends to separate 
the prosperous classes from their less fortunate brethren 
here following the disastrous example set by England, 
which for two generations has been so deeply influenced by 
' Tom Brown's Schooldays/ yet has missed their earliest 
and perhaps most truly educative prologue, telling of Tom 
in the little village school before going to the great public 
one. Jagadis' companions were the sons of fisher-folk and 
peasants, and a natural comrade to and from school was 
the son of his father's orderly. So to this day, though the 
formal teaching of the school has long faded from memory, 
there survive many lively impressions of the peasant-life, 
and with enduring sympathy, perhaps most vividly of 
all, the stories of the fisher-boys, of their fathers' experience 
of the river, with its incidents and dangers. All these the 
boy eagerly wove into his imaginative world of the wonders 
of nature and the romance of man ; moreover, these went 
well with the dacoit servant's adventures already mentioned. 
This little Faridpur school essentially of the ' Three 
R's ' seems to have been already moving into that well- 
conventionalised dullness which has been so characteristic 


of those of the past generation in East and West alike, and 
from which both are too slowly escaping. Indeed in those 
days games which in later years have become so popular, 
at length even in many schools compulsory, were still 
contraband. The master strongly disapproved of cricket, 
even in the boys' free afternoon hours, as ' a waste of time/ 
which should be given for the preparation of lessons. But 
the boys there as everywhere spontaneously carrying out 
this needed scholastic revolution were too clever for their 
pedagogue. They got the village carpenter to shape them 
rough bats and stumps ; and from the juice of an india- 
rubber tree, slowly rolling and modelling it, they managed 
a pretty fair ball. .For a field they chose a broad road- 
crossing, at a quiet place well off the main way between 
village and school : they posted a scout at each of the 
approaches from these, and so played with fearful joy ; till 
sometimes the alarm was given of the suspicious master's 
coming. But the boys were ready for him : the stumps 
were pulled, and all dived into the nulla-bed, where they 
had already collected a store of dry leaves ; among these 
they lay concealed till the danger had passed, and, happier 
than ' the babes in the wood/ they could come out to resume 
their game. 

The schoolbooks too were already more or less acquiring 
the European standard, their cram-trade type, and so 
could be of little interest to the children : still, although 
more slowly, the young Jagadis did really learn to read for 
himself at home. Thanks to the good early start given by 
the Jatras, the old popular plays mentioned above, he 
grew more and more interested in the stories of the ' Maha- 
bharata' and ' Ramayana/ In the latter the character of 
Rama, and still more the soldierly devotion of his brother 
Lakshmana, impressed him ; but ' the characters were 
mostly too good, too perfect/ It was the old warriors of 
the ' Mahabharata/ more rudely virile and strenuous, with 
their defects and qualities, at once human and superhuman, 
who made more appeal to the imagination of the boy, and 


who have thus made more impression upon his character 
and outlook on life. Above all, and most characteristically, 
it was Kama who became the boy's hero ; and this from 
ten years old onwards, up to the formative years of puberty 
indeed so deeply that it might still be put on his garden- 
stage to-day and the part vividly played by him, despite 
grey hairs and science ! Indeed it should be so ; for hear 
him talk : ' Kama ! Kama ! the greatest of all the heroes ! 
Eldest of the Pandavas, he should have been the king ; but 
he was more the son of a great god. Floated away by 
his mother, he was found and brought up by the wife of a 
charioteer, who trained him to be the great warrior he was. 
From his low caste came rejections, came every dis- 
advantage ; but he always played and fought fair ! So his 
life, though a series of disappointments and defeats to the 
very end his slaying by Arjuna appealed to me as a 
boy as the greatest of triumphs. I still think of the tourna- 
ment where Arjuna had been victor, and then of Kama 
coming as a stranger to challenge him. Questioned of 
name and birth, he replies, " I am my own ancestor ! You 
do not ask the mighty Ganges from which of its many 
springs it comes : its own flow justifies itself, so shall my 
deeds me ! " Then later, when before the great battle his 
mother reveals to him the secret of his birth, and tells him 
that if he will refrain from this contest with her sons whom 
he now for the first time knows to be his younger brothers 
she will answer for it that he shall be their chief, and reign 
.as Emperor; he says "No! Those who brought me up 
are my true mother and father, poor though they be ; and 
it is Duryadhana, King of the Kauravas, who has been my 
chief through life. I cannot change sides now. But this 
I promise you : on your other sons, my brothers, I will not 
lay a hand, save only on Arjuna ; but him I must fight to 
the end. ! " And then their battle ! At Arjuna he aims 
his arrow, and would have slain him ; but a defending god 
shakes the earth under his feet as he lets the arrow fly, and 
so it misses his enemy by a hairbreadth. Now the arrow 


was magical, tjiough Kama knew it not ; so it flew back 
into his hand and spoke to him : "I was made to kill 
Arjuna ; with my winged sharpness and your aim we are 
invincible : aim me once more/' But Kama threw it away, 
saying, " I will have no advantage ; I fight but in my own 
strength ! " And so he took again another arrow. But this 
time the unfriendly god suddenly opened an earth-crack 
which swallowed Kama's chariot-wheel ; he leapt down 
to lift it out, and as he stooped Arjuna cut him down with 
his great sword ; and so he fell, still defiant of his fate ! 

' This too was the hero I loved to identify with my own 
father always in struggle for the uplift of the people, yet 
with so little success, such frequent failures, that to most 
he seemed a failure. All this too gave me a lower 
and lower idea of all ordinary worldly success how small 
its so-called victories are ! and with this a higher and 
higher idea of conflict and defeat ; and of the true 
success born of defeat. In such ways I have come to feel 
one with the highest spirit of my race ; with every fibre 
thrilling with the emotion of the past. That is its noblest 
teaching that the only real and spiritual advantage and 
victory is to fight fair, never to take crooked ways, but 
keep to the straight path, whatever be in the way ! ' 

Again and still in his own words ' I feel how necessary 
it is to keep alive the great traditions of the heroic age 
of India through travelling Jatra players and the reciters 
of the epics. It is through them that the highest national 
culture has been kept alive among the people. They are 
fast disappearing, and we must either revive the institu- 
tion or have its modern equivalent. Last night I was 
thinking of your Edinburgh and London Masques of 
Learning, with our Indian students presenting our tradi- 
tions. Why not do the same here, on the full Indian 
scale, from the old Aryan forefathers onwards, and with 
all races, all castes, with their heroes and their sages ? 
And the cities too, from the early days of old Pataliputra, 
and holy Benares ! Yes, and on to modern Bombay. 


And the people too ; from our old primitive folk to modern 
Bengal, and to Calcutta, with its poets, artists, thinkers ! 
Why cannot this be done ? It should be ! It must be ! 
Then and then only shall we fully realise the true India, 
where all peoples with their traditions became unified by 
the spirit of their land, and where even elements seemingly 
discordant may yield factors of individuality and strength. 
It is these which have kept India rejuvenescent and 
ever evolving ; and which will save her from that palsy 
of death which has extinguished so many of her ancient 
contemporaries ! ' 

To all this the writer cannot but warmly agree ; since 
for him, among all the many advances of education, amid 
which he has worked experimentally throughout life, there 
is none in his experience which has more fully justified its 
value than does dramatisation ; and this from the earliest 
childish make-believe and its small home scenes, and through 
village and family plays, up to the largest culture- 
pageanting which University has yet made for City. So 
let him recall from one of these Masques its scene of highest 
dramatic and literary commemoration for the English 
tongue that of the Mermaid Tavern, with Ben Jonson in 
its chair, and Shakespeare making his farewell to him and 
all his old companions. Among them high place was 
given to three whose names are seldom remembered, 
yet who were none the less the virtual professoriate of that 
illustrious group of dramatists and poets. For one was the 
chronicler who gave Shakespeare his plot for ' Macbeth/ and 
for his English historical plays ; another the translator of 
Plutarch's ' Lives ' of the great Greeks and Romans, without 
which we should lack Mark Antony, and more ; and the 
third was the translator of Montaigne, whose kindly wisdom 
suffused Shakespeare's thought, and kindled Bacon to his 
scarcely less immortal Essays. Such a scene is thus no 
mere past revival, but an affirmation too, of a long-lost 
yet now returning secret that of the permeation of the 
Theatre with the great heritage of the university. For by 


this union the one may be redeemed from its too common 
triviality, or worse : the other from its too common dullness, 
and worse ; and thus may come, through these together, 
the needed renewal of popular culture as well. 

Return from such forecasts of the coming education of 
the next generation to the early days of our elder one, fifty 
years ago ; and so start with young Jagadis at his next 
school. At this time his father was transferred to Western 
Bengal, as the Assistant-Commissioner of Burdwan. By 
nine years old his vernacular grounding, on which his father 
had so wisely insisted, was secure enough to justify his 
sending him now to a higher English school ; and so, after 
three months at the Hare School in Calcutta, he was sent 
to the more strictly English teaching of St. Xavier's. 
Even then it was introducing that high educational 
tradition of the Jesuits which, despite Protestant and other 
ill will, has made their teaching respected in all lands. 
Still, we scientific men cannot but plead for further progress 
into that fuller life of all studies with which the Jesuits, 
and more or less all other Western schools, so vividly began. 
Hence, as indeed for most of us in East or West, the boy's 
real and inward education was largely left in his own hands, 
and in those of external circumstances, and these were 
not without their painful sides. The school was almost 
exclusively of English boys, themselves but little acquainted 
with Bengali, and that not of the best ; so little Jagadis's 
situation was perplexing, with only a beginning of English, 
enough to puzzle out sentence by sentence, but not really 
to read, much less to talk. Moreover, while the other boys 
were at home in the great city, the newcomer was completely 
a country boy, with no previous town experience at all, 
and with his familiar world suddenly left behind, and of 
little avail, save as a solace of memory. After the teasings 
and baitings which new boys have so often to suffer, 
there came the compulsory fight ; in this case quite 
normally as boys' stories go with a substantially bigger 


fellow, the class champion, not to say bully, who had 
already had frequent experience in the use of his fists, 
while the little Jagadis had never yet clenched his fist at 
all. Heavily pounded accordingly, with bleeding nose and 
dazed and watery eyes he seemed defeated and the fight 
practically at an end ; but then came a burst of war- 
fury, a memory perhaps of the old heroes, at any rate 
an onslaught so furious as to surprise the other, and knock 
him down, wellnigh stunned, and unwilling or unable to 
rise at call. So the youngster was hailed victor, and 
acquired full rights of freemanship ; yet hardly of comrade- 
ship, for the respective backgrounds of town and country, 
of East Bengal and England, remained too different. A 
further disadvantage was that Jagadis had been placed in 
a hostel in which the others were not schoolboys, but students 
of different colleges, who took little or no notice of the little 
chap, and whose world was also too far away. Though not 
wholly isolated from games of his schoolfellows, he found 
his main interest through return to his home pursuits. His 
pocket money was spent on animal, pets, and to their 
housing and tending his spare time was devoted. In the 
corner of the compound too he laid out a little garden and 
spent much ingenuity upon its water-supply, winding about 
some pipes which he managed to lay hands on, and making 
a little stream with a little bridge, evidently based on those 
of home. It is amusing to note the renewal of this piping 
and stream in later years in Bose's Darjeeling garden, and 
to find stream, bridge and all in the little garden of his 
Calcutta home, next the Bose Institute. Indeed the writer, 
as veracious chronicler and would-be interpretative critic, 
cannot but see in this old child-interest the explanation 
of an otherwise unintelligibly strong, even emphatic, longing 
for a stream and bridge in the recent lay-out of his enlarged 
garden at the Bose Institute last year. The writer's argu- 
ment of impracticability, joined to those of the architect, 
at the time discouraged them ; yet we see that the mature 
Director of the Bose Institute may still be constrained, by 


his inmost and subconscious self, to introduce them, despite 
all our arguments ! For not simply is the boy the father 
of the man : the boy is the man ; and the happiest man 
is he who most truly remains the boy. 

In such ways the man's happiest recollections are of 
the bi-annual vacation at Burdwan and later at Cutwa 
and plainly the most truly educational experience also. 
Returning from school laden with new pets rabbits, 
pigeons, a long-tailed lamb, and others he found occupa- 
tion in building houses for them, with willing co-opera- 
tion of admiring and rejoicing sisters. There too he had 
his riding horse, faithfully kept for him. And the father's 
wisdom, the mother's love, the grandmother's kindness and 
piety, renewed the old atmosphere and encouraged fuller 



AT sixteen Jagadis passed from school to St. Xavier's College ; 
and there while doing the ordinary work, in - a more or 
less ordinarily respectable way, but as yet without marked 
interest or distinction he fell under the influence which 
plainly determined his turning to Physics, rather than 
to the natural history of his own more prominent tastes. 
All the pupils of Father Lafont, so long Professor of 
Physics in that college, recall his teaching and influence 
as truly educative. His wealth of experiments and vivid 
clearness of exposition of them, made his class the most 
interesting in the whole college ; and his patient skill, 
his subtlety, as well as brilliance of experimentation, were 
appreciated by this young student above all. Here was 
Bose's first discipline towards that combination of intellectual 
lucidity with wealth of experimental device and resource by 
which he has all the more fully represented and honoured 
his old master by surpassing him. 

But, as is common to youth, with its vague ferment of 
ideas, its perplexity among ambitions, his career was not 
at all clearly in sight. Finding that he could pass 
examinations, and not without distinction, his first idea, 
beyond taking his B.A., was to visit England for higher 
training. At this time, as indicated in the preceding 
chapter, Mr. Bose's schemes and investments had not only 
mostly failed, but had burdened him with debts, of which the 
high interests were swallowing all he could spare and save. 



Jagadis keenly realised that his first duty was to take the 
burden off his father, and by his own earnings to pay off 
the debt. The most promising career for this was to win 
a place in the Indian Civil Service. But Bose's father, 
though himself successful and even distinguished in the 
Government service, vetoed his son's proposals. He 
strongly felt the position of an administrator as one too 
much above and aloof from the fortunes and struggles of 
the people ; and he did not wish his son to repeat this 
authoritative experience, but to take a more ordinary part 
among his fellow-men. He was willing to see him a scholar 
or utilising his scientific aptitudes and training for the 
advancement of Indian agriculture. 

Young Bose then turned his attention towards medicine, 
apparently the only avenue and means of support for 
the career of natural science. This he still hoped to study 
in some English University, and so thought of London. 
But the great cost of a stay in England had to be reckoned 
with ; and at this time his father was on his two years' 
medical leave on reduced pay, and uncertain whether his 
health would admit of return to duty, and its larger 
income. It was clearly inexpedient for Jagadis to undertake 
the expensive educational stay in England in circumstances 
so uncertain. 

A further complication, and for an affectionate son the 
most serious of all, was his mother's dread of separation 
her fear not only of the strange unknown Western world on 
which her boy's heart was set, but also that terror of the 
sea which is so common in India, though so strange to us 
Western folk with seafaring in our blood. Is not this perhaps 
a survival, with old folk-lore exaggeration, of the dangers 
of the Indian coasts ? above all, perhaps, of the perils of the 
days of Indian maritime enterprise towards the West, and 
of voyaging to China with its typhoons, of colonisation of 
Java and Cambodia, doubtless all with disasters, which, like 
so much of Indian history generally, have lapsed from record 
and even oral tradition, but survive in the national mind, 

1 >,,. 

:\- : A 



and pre-eminently in the minds of the mothers, and in 
feelings intensified by vagueness ? 

The mother had lost her second son, aged ten, when 
Jagadis was seventeen, and she continued long to mourn 
deeply ; but now concentrated her highest hopes and 
tenderest caresses on her remaining son, as an Indian mother 
so intensely does. Her nerves were thus doubly shaken^ 
since after her sorrow there came new and increasing fears 
for Jagadis' wanderings. The father's affairs went on from 
bad to worse, so a family council was held, and it decided, 
for every reason, that Jagadis must not go. To do him 
justice, he was also ending his own struggle with similar 
conclusion ; he loyally admitted that under the circum- 
stances it would be selfish of him to press further. In short, 
he renounced his projects, and promised to settle down to 
do his best in India. 

But when all seemed settled, the mother's strength 
of character came out, and to the full. She thought the 
whole matter out afresh for herself, and rallied *from her 
fears her all but nervous breakdown. So coming to 
Jagadis' bedside one evening, and taking his head in her 
lap as if he were still the child she felt him, she said : ' My 
son, I cannot understand much of this going to Europe, 
but I see your heart's desire is to educate yourself to the 
utmost ; and so I have made up my mind. You shall 
have your heart's desire. Though nothing is left of your 
father's fortune, I have my jewels ; I have even some 
money of my own. Between these I can manage it. 
Go you shall ! ' 

With the mother thus decided, there was naturally no 
more of family council in opposition, nor of father in 
hesitation. After all, his veto had only been for the Civil 
Service, and for the Law. He welcomed the idea of his 
able son's doing well in medicine ; for science as a career 
was then practically unthought of. His own health im- 
proved, and he went back to his duties (now at Pubna), 
which meant an increase of income. Hence the jewels were 


not sold, and the mother was induced to keep her money for 
Jagadis' return from Europe, though the family economies 
were henceforth doubtless stricter than ever for their 
student's sake as well as for relief of the father's burden. 

To follow our student's changing fortunes more clearly, 
we must look beyond his educational routine and its 
anxious vicissitudes, and into the less conventional elements 
which were meantime also part of his preparation for life. 
The love of nature, of pets, of horses, readily develops in 
youth towards sport and adventure in the wild. With the 
advent of vigorous boyhood had come the joy of taking 
risks, even in chancing narrow escapes ; and these were 
forthcoming. Thus, when under fifteen, fording a doubtful 
river on horseback, which the flood had cut deep, the horse 
slipped into a hole, and turned over under water, leaving 
its rider to disentangle himself, swim from under the 
struggling animal, and land himself and it, little the worse. 
This fine horse thereafter would tolerate no other rider, 
not even his father, and so was idle during the long 
terms of absence in Calcutta. His attendant, now an old 
Rajput Sepoy, taught the boy shooting ; whence hunting 
expeditions as often as might be. A college vacation at 
nineteen culminated in a month in the Terai, with first 
experience of big game, and vivid impressions of jungle 
and forest. Then six months later came a fascinating 
invitation to a hunting holiday in Assam, from a friendly 
zemindar a crack shot and distinguished hunter ; and 
with not only wild buffalo in his forest, but rhinoceros. 
Arriving at the nearest railway station in the evening, 
a palanquin was waiting for a night journey of twenty-one 
miles. Then he was out for an active day's sport, but 
in the evening came an alarming attack of fever, of 
an unprecedented violence. It was agreed he should 
return at once before it grew worse. But the palanquin 
was not now available. Anxious to be off, he asked, 
' Can you not spare me a horse ? ' ' The only horse 
available is too dangerous for you a fine racer, but a 


brute with every vice, who nearly killed his last rider, 
and whom no one has mounted since/ ' Let me see him ! ' 
Out came the horse from his stable ; but at the first advance 
it reared, to fall on him with his forefeet, and to bite as 
well. Dodging this attack, he jumped on its back, where- 
upon the furious creature instantly bolted with him ; and 
so, without a moment for farewell, much less for prepara- 
tion for a more decorous start, the headlong gallop went 
on without possibility of restraint. On the way appeared 
a river previously crossed when asleep in the palanquin, 
and with the road apparently making clear for its bridge ; 
but with a path breaking off alongside some way ahead. 
With the hunter's instinct and quick decision, he forced 
the horse aside ; and the next moment saw the justification 
of his action in avoiding the bridge broken by the flood, 
into which horse and he, but for this change, must have 
plunged together. In another moment the path led to a 
light bamboo footbridge extemporised to replace the broken 
one, and this the wild creature took in a few bounds, 
cracking it nearly to breaking. Only after fourteen miles 
was it exhausted, and so the final seven miles it went 
quietly. The fever patient, exhausted still more, started on 
the long railway journey to Calcutta. The fever resisted 
quinine and all other treatment, and made frequent and 
exhausting returns ; so that the University degree was 
taken under difficulties. Nor did the brief home holiday 
before sailing to England relieve it either. 

With the sea- voyage, the fever grew worse, not better. 
One day of extreme paroxysms, in making for the surgery, 
he collapsed at the door, and was carried to his berth in 
the doctor's arms. Treatment and nursing failed, as 
in Calcutta ; and the patient overheard people saying, 
' That poor boy will never see England.' His one pleasur- 
able recollection of the whole long journey is of two 
ladies on the railway journey from Southampton, who 
spoke to him kindly and gave him their illustrated papers ; 


and so gave a touch of life and cheerfulness to lighten 
his depression. 

Arrived at London, his B.A. diploma served him for 
matriculation, and he started the usual first-year work of 
the medical student. The physics and chemistry were much 
what he had done before, but the zoology course, under 
Ray Lankester, was interesting and wholly new ; for even 
to this day Calcutta University excludes zoological science. 
Botany too, in the summer term, was congenial, so that 
the preliminary scientific examination was passed without 
difficulty. With the following autumn term began the 
first year of medical studies proper, with anatomy. But 
the fever was still as bad as ever, with even more frequent 
attacks, which were brought on intensely by the odours 
of the dissecting-room. Hence the anatomist advised young 
Bose to give up his medical course as hopeless. Dr. Ringer, 
then the most distinguished physician of the Hospital, 
as well as one of the best and kindliest of professors, 
who had already been treating him with arsenical and 
other injections, but all without success, concurred in this 
advice. Thus thrown into new perplexity, Bose decided 
on leaving London and taking to science at Cambridge. 
The fever determined his course afresh, and for life. First 
came a dreary struggle to cram Latin, etc., enough for the 
entrance examination (in which Sanskrit was accepted 
in lieu of Greek) ; but of all this little recollection remains, 
save a lifelong ill will to Paley ! A natural science scholar- 
ship was won at Christ's College, and he entered in January 
1881. A very different life was thus begun, more congenial, 
though only very slowly curative ; for this old metropolis 
of the Fens was for an ague patient one of the worst of 
climates to be found in Britain indeed north of the Mediter- 
ranean. Abandoning all drugs, young Bose took to boating, 
with daily perspiration accordingly, and general strengthen- 
ing as well. But the fever persisted, and at one time 
became so severe as to alarm the college authorities. An 
upset in the icy water of the Cam was a setback. The attacks 


continued, first weekly, then fortnightly ; and not until well 
on in the second year did ordinary health return, and 
working powers get their fair chance. After this Bose seems 
to have become immune to malaria ; but insomnia, whether 
as accessory or as an acquired habit, lingered for six or 
seven years, and at times of overwork this has ever since 
more or less threatened to return. 

Nowadays recalling symptoms, kindred cases very 
largely fatal, the place of origin, and other circumstances, 
it seems probable that this illness was no ordinary fever, 
but ' Kala-azar/ still a serious and recurrent pest, of Assam 
especially, though nowadays becoming amenable to treat- 
ment, and happily still more to prevention. 

The first batch of students who called on the new-comer 
were a rather fast set, and Bose was gently lectured by 
his tutor, who advised him as a stranger to drop these 
acquaintances, and for good. After this came a period of 
shyness and solitude ; but with the second year, with 
returning strength, the merry company of hall dinners, and 
what not, the enjoyment of college life and companionship 
really began ; and a wide circle of acquaintances was 
formed, and a few friendships. His range of contacts was 
widened beyond the college through a natural science 
club, with active meetings for papers and discussions, and 
abundant comradeship and gaiety. Though after nearly 
forty years most old acquaintances have vanished or been 
forgotten, a few cordial recollections survive, as notably of 
Theodore Beck, afterwards Principal of Aligarh College, 
and of D'Arcy Thompson, since at Dundee and St. Andrews. 
Of Shipley too (now head of Christ's), though senior to 
him, he has warm memories, and of a few others now 
scattered through the professions, and mostly lost sight 
of. Among other friends were Fitzpatrick, afterwards 
an active physicist and master of Emmanuel College, and 
Reynolds Green the botanist. 

The first summer vacation was spent in the Isle of 


Wight, in the main pleasantly. But on too adventurous 
a solitary rowing outside Shanklin Bay he got caught in a 
squall, and had a very hard three hours' struggle to return, 
with constant risk of upset ; hence a new increment of fever, 
though happily with a kindly landlady to nurse him. The 
next summer included a couple of months as one of a small 
college party tramping in the Highlands, of which the 
Trossachs are best remembered ; while the last long vacation 
was spent in degree work at Cambridge. 

At the outset of these Cambridge studies Bose was still 
perplexed as to his course, and uncertain of his aptitudes, 
and he adopted the plan of going as fully as possible to the 
courses of science lectures ' a perfect orgie of lectures ' 
and with these to as many laboratories as possible. And 
with good results ; what better teacher could he have had 
for Physiology than Michael Foster, or for the Embryology 
than Francis Balf our, then at the very height of his brilliant 
powers. Geology too had its interest, both from Professor 
Hughes and his kindly and hospitable wife ; and so on. 
But after the middle of the second year, he settled down 
to regular work in Physics, Chemistry and Botany. Of 
Professor Liveing's chemical course, the stimulus to spectro- 
scopy is specially remembered. Vines' lectures and labora- 
tory of Botany were also much appreciated, and Francis 
Darwin's first course of Vegetable Physiology was given 
before he left. But most educative and decisive for the 
future physicist was the teaching of Lord Rayleigh, whose 
admirably patient and careful experimentation, to the most 
scrupulous accuracy, with every factor of disturbance 
allowed for or compensated, and all with correspondingly 
clear and careful explanation, produced a profound im- 
pression, which has been lifelong. Coming after Father 
Lafont's experimentation, which had been so brilliant and 
illuminating, and thus the best of introductions to physical 
science, was this complemental instruction needed by the 
more advanced student that of the minutest painstaking, 
so necessary when dealing with large problems, and ensuing 


discovery. And though our student's own original powers 
had not yet appeared, as indeed seldom happens so early 
in life, his work satisfied his teachers : as was evidenced 
first by his Cambridge degree in the Natural Science Tripos, 
and that of B.Sc. taken at London about the same time and 
without further work. In later life Bose's friendly con- 
tacts developed, with cordial subsequent encouragement of 
his investigations, as these began to appear in later years ; 
and of these old teachers Lord Rayleigh and Professor 
Vines have been actively appreciative of his researches 
in Physics and Vegetable Physiology respectively, through- 
out their long series, and sponsors for their presentation 
to the Royal and Linnean Societies. With Francis 
Darwin, too, cordial relations have been maintained ; 
and now and then an old acquaintanceship is revived. 



THRICE armed with good degrees, from Cambridge and 
London in addition to the initial Calcutta one, young Bose 
felt it time to return to India, towards which not only 
family ties and homesickness, but increasing family cares as 
well, had long been straining him. Four years is a long 
exile, in youth especially ; and now, at nearly twenty-five, we 
have the almost grown man ready and eager for a career. 
Fortunately for him, Professor Fawcett the economist, then 
Postmaster-General, who had kept up an old acquaint- 
ance with Bose's much senior brother-in-law the late 
Mr. A. M. Bose, afterwards a Calcutta barrister, and a 
man of much note and a leader of public' opinion in his 
day, still warmly remembered wrote spontaneously, in- 
viting him to call. After this Fawcett asked his colleague, 
Lord Kimberley, then Secretary for State for India, if he 
knew., of any appointment in the Education Department ; 
but none was then intimated, so he could only advise him 
to go home to India and see. Fawcett gave young Bose 
an introduction to Lord Ripon, then Governor-General, 
and this he presented at Simla on his journey home. The 
reception was of the kindest, and the Viceroy promised 
to nominate him for the Educational Service. Yet in course 
of the conversation he suddenly broke out, in full bitterness 
of disappointment : ' My life here has been a failure : I 
wanted to serve India, and to give Indians more responsi- 
bilities. At first all seemed promising, but then came this 



Ilbert affair ! I never thought our English liberal tradition 
could be thus abandoned ! ' 

On reaching Calcutta Bose called on the Director of Public 
Instruction, who had already received, through the Govern- 
ment of Bengal, a letter from Lord Ripon recommending 
him to them for an appointment. The Director was none 
too pleased, and blurted out, ' I am usually approached 
from below, not from above. There is no higher-class ap- 
pointment at present available in the Imperial Educational 
Service. I can only offer you a place in the Provincial 
Service, from which you may be promoted.' Bose declined 
this offer. Noticing that Bose's appointment had not been 
gazetted, the Viceroy wrote to the Government of Bengal 
for an explanation of the delay. This pressure from above 
highly irritated the Director. When Bose saw him in 
answer to his letter, he told him that his hand had been 
forced, and he would offer him an appointment in the 
higher service, but that it would be only an officiating 
appointment giving no claim for permanence. If Bose 
satisfied the test of service, he would then consider the 
question of making his appointment permanent. 

There was also a strong doubt, not to say prejudice, 
against the capacity of an Indian to take any important 
position in science. Intellectual acuteness in Metaphysics 
and Languages had always been frankly acknowledged, but 
it was assumed that India had no aptitude for the exact 
methods of science. For science, therefore, India must 
look to the West for her teachers. This view was accepted 
by the Government, and so strongly maintained in the 
Education Department that when Bose was appointed 
Officiating Professor of Physics in the Presidency College, 
its Principal protested against this appointment on the 
above grounds. 

Thus opens a chapter of Bose's life in which the writer's 
condition of personal freedom has most definitely decided 
him to disregard the reticence of his sitter, who would 
fain let bygones be bygones right and proper on personal 


grounds though that be, and at an age when even the 
sharpest wounds of battle have healed. But the writer is 
interested in his subject on more than personal grounds, 
and has so undertaken it ; in fact, at every point on 
genera] grounds also, and equally as regards Bose's con- 
structive work in science, his attitude in education, anJ 
his linking of Eastern with Western thought and culture. 
For these reasons, and in this spirit, old difficulties, other- 
wise too controversial and personal, have here to be noted 
and frankly discussed. 

To understand not only the immediate situation, but 
much that follows, the writer may explain that he writes 
peculiarly on his own responsibility, as a lifelong student 
of Universities, and with more than five years' acquaint- 
ance with Indian ones. To begin with, the non-Indian 
reader must understand that while the Indian Civil Service 
is open to any Indian who can win his place by examina- 
tion in it, and who thereafter is on the same scale of 
status and pay as his English colleagues, the Higher 
Education Service is accessible only by nomination ; and 
these posts, with extraordinarily rare exceptions, had not 
been given to Indians, even of the highest European 
qualifications. In general, the Indian professors, though 
of the very same duties and responsibilities, formed the 
' Provincial Service/ with much lower pay. Promotion 
from this service to the higher branch is nominally possible 
to all distinguished members of the Provincial Service, but 
it is practically extremely rare. So much has this been 
the case that even the chemist who is now at the head of 
his subject in India, as Bose in physics although coming 
back to India with his Doctorate in Chemistry, won with 
high distinction, showing the promise he has since amply 
fulfilled, and appointed to the Presidency College was 
never promoted to the full position. Yet for many 
years he did the teaching and examining work without 
European colleagues, and has besides won European 
reputation by his discoveries. In the writer's opinion, it is 


to this unfortunate system that the lower general level of 
individual studies and of original productivity, in com- 
parison with the staffs of other Universities in the world, 
which of all things in India has most surprised and dis- 
appointed him, is plainly not a little due. In the Civil 
Service, at the Bar, or on the Bench, European and Indian 
must and do work together ; yet in every University and 
its colleges, where unity of working is the daily necessity, 
and should be far easier of attainment, they are practically 
segregated into two distinct racial camps, and thus with 
deterioration of the one and depression of the other, and with 
diminished values to both and diminished respect from their 
students, who are too much dissociated from both camps 
accordingly. If and when real efficiency of higher educa- 
tion, with corporate spirit and active intellectual life, are 
to be adequately realised in India, this system will have 
not only to be abandoned in its working but transformed 
in its spirit. Indeed, one very real reason for the writer's 
undertaking this biography, beyond the great contributions 
Bose has made to the advancement of science, is found in 
his efforts towards raising and maintaining the professorial 
standard and ideal above and beyond racial difference 
altogether. And while this chapter is being completed, 
the writer is gratified to find that this invidious distinction 
has been officially removed thanks, in great measure, to 
the life-work of Bose, not simply as a man of science, but 
as an educationist with fearless advocacy of this and 
other needed improvements in higher education as recently 
demonstrated before the Indian Services Commission. 

To return to Bose. Young educational officers used. 
to be sent out to the provincial colleges ; and it was after 
experience and approved services that they were brought 
to the Presidency College, which has long been reckoned 
the premier educational institution in India. The students 
of this college were anything but tame. They were indeed 
highly critical of the teaching power of their professors. They . 
had earned for themselves the reputation of an independence 


which had been too readily interpreted as a spirit of in- 
subordination, and thus were sometimes driven towards it. 
An unfortunate altercation had occurred between two 
English professors and their students, and had gone to 
such a length as to force the Government to appoint a Com- 
mission of Inquiry. Strong feeling had been engendered; 
and no more difficult test could have been imposed than 
to hold the wilder spirits in check and discipline. The 
conditions which confronted Bose in the beginning of his 
career might well have daunted the most resolute. We 
shall see later that on these were superposed others, against 
which he had to struggle for many years to come. 

When Bose joined the service, an Indian professor's 
income, even if in the Imperial Service, was two-thirds 
that of a European's. (Bose succeeded later in getting this 
distinction abolished.) After entering on his duties, Bose 
found that this two-thirds pay was to be further reduced 
by one half, since his appointment was only officiating. 
In other words, he was to get one-third of the pay normally 
attached to the office hitherto. From the first he was very 
clear as to his course that of performing all that could be 
asked from him and more ; but at the same time he resolved 
to do all in his power throughout his career towards 
raising the status of Indian professors. With this com- 
bination of personal pride with loyalty to his countrymen 
and colleagues, he decided on a new form of protest, and 
maintained it with unprecedented definiteness and per- 
tinacity. As his protest was disregarded, he resolved never 
to touch the cheque received by him monthly as his pay ; 
and continued this for three years, with what privations 
accordingly need not now be entered into, save with a word 
of appreciation for his wife's brave acceptance of them. 

Bose was confronted with other difficulties. The 
family fortune was now at its lowest ebb. Of the many 
projects started by his father some turned out to be highly 
successful from the beginning : among these may be 
mentioned the People's Bank, which was the forerunner 


of the later Co-operative Societies. He had taken many 
shares in this Bank, as became its active founder. The 
shares of the Bank rose* high before many years, and it is 
now one of the most successful concerns in its line. Had 
he kept those shares, he and his family would have been 
permanently provided for ; but, always generous to a 
fault, he gave away his shares to poorer friends. The 
burden of other industrial and agricultural ventures which 
were not immediately successful fell on him. Moreover, 
he stood as security for others who had started kindred 
enterprises, and ultimately the responsibility of these fell 
on Mr. Bose ; and thus young Bose more and more realised 
that he must put his whole mind and effort to extricate his 
father from this heavy burden of debts. He took matters 
personally into his hands and, going straight to his ancestral 
home, parted with all the property which the family pos- 
sessed. None but an Indian can realise the shock to the 
family honour of parting with ancestral property that has 
been hallowed by the memories of forefathers ; for in India 
this is a general feeling, and not simply that of aristocratic 
tradition. All the relations came to dissuade him from 
this humiliation, but Bose was adamant in his resolve. 
All the landed properties were sold, and their proceeds 
paid to the creditors. This cleared off 50 per cent, of the 
debt. Then he appealed to his mother ; for according 
to Hindu law a wife's property is held sacred, and the 
husband, or his creditors, can on no account estrange it. 
She had held this aside for her son's return, but when 
that son wished to face the future undaunted, the mother 
became no less heroic in her sacrifice. Her personal property 
was disposed of ; and the total clearance was now 75 per 
cent, of the principal and accumulated interest. The 
creditors, touched by this determination of the family to 
do their very utmost, expressed themselves fully satisfied, 
and accepted the unexpected instalments as payment in 
full. But young Bose had a different view on the subject, 
which he kept to himself. For the next nine years he 


struggled ; until, out of his own earnings, the balance of 
the 25 per cent, which the creditors had renounced was 
paid them in full. 

As regards Bose's work at the Presidency College, where 
his capacity for teaching and maintaining discipline was 
to be tested, his influence over the students became estab- 
lished from the first day. The usual device of taking 
daily roll to enforce regular attendance at the classes was 
found superfluous ; and so interested did the students 
become in his lectures that there used to be a struggle for 
securing front seats for better view of the experiments. 
The cram books, formerly used for memorising purposes, 
were soon discarded as unnecessary. His old students, 
even those who in later life have taken up other professions, 
still recall with delight, as the writer can testify, the 
permanent impression made on them by his direct and 
vivid method of teaching. 

After three years' work in this temporary post, both the 
Principal (Mr. C. H. Tawney) and the Director of Public 
Instruction (Sir Alfred Croft) came fully to realise the 
value of Bose's professorial work, and to understand his 
character, and they became henceforth his staunchest friends. 
The Director had found that Bose could be inflexible when 
questions of principle were concerned. Bose on his part 
also realised more fully than ever that the best way to 
get on with an Englishman is to stand up to him. The 
same man, when firmly stood up to by the Indian, may 
not only become his personal friend, but be substantially 
improved thereafter in his ideas and manner. This matter 
is important ; and we may later note one or two other 
instances of it among the many which have arisen in 
Bose's career. 

In consequence of this change of view of the Director, 
Bose's appointment, by help of a special order from the 
Government, was not only made permanent, but this 
with retrospective effect. He therefore received his full 


pay for the last three years in a lump sum, which was 
promptly made over to his father's creditors. The balance 
was gradually cleared off in the course of the next six years. 
After the discharge of the debt, his father survived only 
for a year, and his mother for two years more. They did 
not live to see their son's scientific success. Many years 
later, the people of Faridpur asked Bose to speak at the 
fiftieth anniversary of the Exhibition and Mela founded 
by his father. His address was on ' A Failure that was 
Great.' It told the story of his father's efforts and 
initiatives, and the too frequent unsuccess of his sowings. 
Here are the concluding words : 

A failure ? Yes, but not ignoble nor altogether futile. 
And through witnessing this struggle, the son learned to look on 
success or failure as one, and to realise that some defeat may be 
greater than victory. To me his life has been one of blessing, 
and daily thanksgiving. Nevertheless everyone had said that 
he had wrecked his life, which was meant for greater things. 
Few realise that out of the skeletons of myriad lives have been 
built vast continents. And it is on the wreck of a life like his, 
and of many such lives, that will be built the greater India 
yet to be. We do not know why it should be so ; but we do 
know that the Earth-Mother is always calling for sacrifice. 

The memory of those whose love had filled his life has 
thus been a lifelong inspiration. But his future struggles were 
to be not for professional survival nor for family honour ; 
and on his thirty-fifth birthday, November 30, 1894, he fully 
resolved that his life henceforth was to be above all dedicated 
to the pursuit of new knowledge. Within three months of 
this resolve, with no laboratory to speak of, and with 
the help of an untrained tinsmith, he was able to devise 
and construct new apparatus for his first research on some 
of the most difficult problems of electric radiation. Success 
was immediate : and in the course of a year the Royal 
Society undertook the publication of his investigations, 
and offered help from their parliamentary grant for their 
continuation. In recognition of the value of his researches 


the University of London conferred on him its Doctorate of 
Science without examination. Lord Kelvin wrote to him in 
1896 that he was ' literally filled with wonder and admiration : 
allow me to ask you to accept my congratulations for so much 
success in the difficult and novel experimental problems 
which you have attacked.' M. Cornu, the former President 
of the French Academy of Sciences, and a veteran leader 
in this field of physics, also wrote him early in 1897, saying 
that ' the very first results of your researches testify to your 
power of furthering the progress of science. For my own 
part, I hope to take full advantage of the perfection to which 
you have brought your apparatus, for the benefit of the 
Ecole Polytechnique and for the sake of further researches 
I wish to complete/ 

Scientific success had come unexpectedly to him : how 
was he to accept it ? -Not in a .spirrt^pf mere personal 
gratification : but as_encouragement to jncessant work, 
which shoukLwin for hiscolnTtrvmenrrecognition of their 
capacity for science, and -stir -them to like effectiveness^ 
The dream of establishing an Institute of Science came to 
him at this time, with its hope that others might by it be 
saved from the harassing difficulties that had so long con- 
fronted him. But he was too proud to ask help towards 
realising his vision, which appeared to others as a mere dream. 
What could be done must be done by himself, and at his 
own risk. He and his wife therefore once more accepted 
the continuance of their life of economy, almost of privation, 
so that he might some day be able to help on the needed 
modern revival of the ancient scientific tradition of India. 
From these days, and for the next quarter of a century, 
that has been the goal on which his mind has been con- 
centrated ; and the many papers and books he has produced 
are best understood as steps towards the creation of the 
Research Institute he has at last fully initiated. 

A word now of the conditions under which research 
had to be carried out. The feeling of the Education Depart- 
ment had long been unfavourable ; the two friends he had 


at length made, the Principal and the Director, were retiring 
from the service ; and now Bose's success kindled hostility 
which more or less persisted. The departmental view was 
that the teaching of classes was the whole duty of a pro- 
fessor, and that research must therefore involve neglect of 
his proper function : even this in spite of his giving, with 
characteristic thoroughness and pride, twenty-six hours 
of weekly lectures and demonstrations in the College, 
although the average performed by his colleagues was very 
much less. Hence the only time to carry on investigations 
was after the long day's teaching and preparation work 
were over. No grant was available for research ; Bose, from 
his own slender income, had to find means for the con- 
struction of his apparatus and the payment for assistance. 

But hopefully for Bose, the interest of his work, and 
its high appreciation by leading Western men of science, 
attracted the notice of the Lieut enant-Governor of Bengal. 
He understood the higher function of a University : that it 
was not mere routine teaching which in India especially 
had too much become the encouragement of cram for the 
passing of examinations but the training of students in 
clear and constructive thinking, and towards the advance- 
ment of knowledge. He realised the difficulties under which 
Bose was labouring, and therefore arranged for the creation 
of a new post with higher emoluments, with more initiative, 
and with reasonable leisure for research. The duties of this 
post were to be the organisation and development of labora- 
tories in the many and widespread colleges under the 
Government, and the personal training of advanced students 
for original investigations. The scheme was sanctioned, 
and Bose was informed that he would receive the formal 
letter of appointment in the course of a few days. 

But at this very time a matter came up which nullified 
all these hopes. Bose was a Fellow of the Calcutta 
University, which, though supported by the Government, 
is so far an independent body. Bose had formed very 
definite views with regard to the duties -he owed tp his 


College under Government, and those which he owed to 
the University in his independent capacity as one of its 
fellows. While his new appointment was waiting final 
sanction, a question came up before the University, in which 
the majority of officials under Government held very 
pronounced views. Bose was present at the University 
meeting, and in his vote he did not follow the lead of his 
official chief. The new appointment proposed for him 
was immediately cancelled. 

On a subsequent occasion he was informed by a Govern- 
ment Secretary that there was a matter before the Univer- 
sity in which some of the members of the Government were 
especially interested. Bose could not attend on the day 
on which the matter was decided, and he was requested 
to submit an explanation. In reply, Bose wrote inquiring 
whether, in attending any meeting of the University, the 
Government expected him to vote on the particular side of a 
question which might be advanced by his official superiors, 
irrespective of any opinion which he might form as a result 
of the discussion. If, in following an independent course, 
the Government thought that he was not properly dis- 
charging his duties as a Fellow of the University, he begged 
permission to resign his Fellowship. 

The Lieutenant-Governor, to whom the matter was 
referred, appreciated Bose's point of view, but could not 
overcome the opposition of the Education Department in 
giving sanction to the new appointment. He, however, 
thought it just that Bose should be recouped for the great 
expense he had incurred in course of investigations which 
had redounded to the credit of the Indian Government. 
An official communication reached him that the Govern- 
ment was willing to pay the expenses he had incurred in 
pursuit of his research ; but Bose, while expressing gratitude 
for this consideration, declined to accept any remuneration 
for his past work. The Government then sanctioned an 
annual grant of Rs. 2500 (166) towards the outlay for 
his future research carried on at the Presidency College. 


But all this did not mitigate the pressure of his daily 
routine work ; and the concession which Bose most needed 
for research was some relaxation from the excessive hours 
of teaching above mentioned. It had been a great disap- 
pointment that, after recognising the value of his services, 
the new appointment that was contemplated should be 
withdrawn because he could not always obediently follow 
the particular views of his official superior in regard to 
affairs of the University. He had passed through years 
of severe overwork and strain, and the hostile attitude of 
the Department had chilled the freshness and spontaneity 
needed for all initiative work. He therefore waited on the 
Lieutenant-Governor, and preferred a request that he should 
be allowed the year's furlough which was his due, to enable 
him to visit Europe and come in touch with other scientific 
men and their work. The Lieutenant-Governor, who, as we 
have seen, entertained a personal regard for Bose, was fully 
sympathetic ; but knowing the slenderness of his means, 
asked if it was not injudicious for him to venture on a 
costly foreign visit, even though conducive to his scientific 
work. Bose, with sudden impulse, inquired whether, in 
these circumstances, the Government could not send him 
to England on a scientific 'deputation/ The Governor 
answered that the Imperial Government would never 
sanction a deputation on a matter which was merely 
educational. The Education Board at Simla had lately 
issued a resolution expressing regret that India had never 
taken to scientific pursuits, in spite of the efforts of the 
Government, and Bose had naturally felt the injustice of 
this ignoring of the scientific work he had been carrying 
on at the Presidency College, which had had such wide 
publicity in India since its appreciation in Europe. He 
could not help expressing his bitter disappointment at 
the contrast between such professions of desire for scientific 
study and research by Indians and the real apathy of the 
Education Board. The Lieutenant-Governor seemed irri- 
tated by such plain speaking, and turned the conversation ; 


so the interview was closed without definite result. Bose 
had gone up to Darjeeling for the interview and was return- 
ing next day to Calcutta. But as he was stepping into the 
train a messenger brought him a letter from the Director of 
Public Instruction, informing him that the Governor had on 
his own responsibility decided to send him to England on 
a scientific deputation for six months ; and that he could 
therefore start for Europe any day that suited him. The 
Lieutenant-Governor would telegraphically communicate 
with the Government of India and the Secretary of State 
in London. 

The despatch which followed included the following 
statement from the Director of Public Instruction, now 
aroused to full support : 

Dr. Bose's work is not merely the education of candidates 
for University degrees, but the promotion of physical science 
in a line which he has made peculiarly his own. To help him 
in that is to promote the cause of science all over the world ; 
and this, I assume, falls within the functions of the Government. 

To this the Lieutenant-Governor added his own recom- 
mendation that 

he had done what he could to encourage and advance Dr. Bose's 
researches, as he thinks it the duty of a great Government to do, 
when it has a man of such exceptional qualifications on its 
staff ; and he attaches much importance to Professor Bose's 
visiting Europe and conferring with the leaders of scientific 
inquiry there. 

By sheer persistence of work, and by his personality, Bose 
had thus won from Government a measure of recognition 
and practical support for scientific work which was then 
unique, and remains everywhere too rare . And the successes 
which he has once and again achieved, even against depart- 
mental difficulties, in winning appreciation and support 
from his own Government, are so many points gained for 
the cause of science all over .the world towards its more 
adequate recognition. 



Electric Waves 

Now an outline of Bose's first researches. Towards some 
new age the progress of science and its applications 
has been tending ever since the dawn of civilisation ; 
and to-day, it may be, more than ever. In the past its' 
growth has been too often like that of a coral reef storm- 
beaten and broken, even subsiding : but now its workers 
hope they are city-building for all time helping to erect 
the ideal city of knowledge which should grow indefinitely, 
though it can never be completely realised. Each of 
its busy workers is searching and quarrying out, shaping 
or laying his stone ; and at some point, and for its 
moment, it rests on the highest edge of the rising wall. 
But on this stone, so soon as accepted, others may 
speedily follow ; and thus each sound and solid piece 
of work is overbuilt, and so far surpassed. Each stone 
commonly bears its own mason's mark, but the world cares 
little for that : its brief glance of interest is naturally 
enough on the handling of the new blocks as they are lifted 
and laid on the wall-edge against the sky. At most there 
can survive in history but a few individual names, whose 
memory is preserved by the mighty columns they have 
wrought ; while these again stand on earlier foundations 
laid by toilers long forgotten, giants though they must 
have been. Still the old masons know, and at times recall, 
the significance of past work ; they review it and its doers 



from the standpoint of permanent contribution, underlying 
present superstructure and future alike. Hence, though 
every science seems and so far is in continual change and 
this often of style and aspect with each new group and 
mood of workers its growth has yet a substantial unity. 

In this way appreciation, such as the present, of a 
notable living worker involves some brief mention of such 
work of past years as is now fully taken into the general 
structure, to support later work by successors' ; before we 
come to the growing edge where he is actively employed. 
Indeed, lower than these two levels we may sometimes find 
a third, that of portions of wall with stones long laid, where 
their worker has been interrupted, and where no one has 
yet continued his task. 

; In this comparison much of Bose's earlier physical 
investigation naturally belongs to the first of these cate- 
gories, that of accepted and established science, now fully 
incorporated and utilised. His later work, that centering 
around the Response to Stimulus of the Living and Non- 
Living, is of the second category : where the builder is 
conspicuously busy with his assistants on the growing edge 
of science. To this we shall come in a later chapter ; but 
there are also elements of his physical researches belonging 
to the third category those still awaiting continuance, 
whether by himself or others. For the moment then we may 
look to the first and last-named of these categories, leaving 
the second for later treatment. 

From the previous chapter we see how little time for 
fresh thought or experiment remained after long days of 
three or four lectures, with usually more hours of apparatus- 
making, and experiment-preparing, of lecture syllabus- 
writing, paper-correcting, and so on ; and with evening 
leisure disturbed too often by the various struggles of 
academic existence above briefly indicated, and too long 
fretted also by the struggle of paying off the debt of honour 
from an income peculiarly modest. It was not until 
1894, as already mentioned, when reaching his thirty-fifth 


year, that Bose felt free enough definitely to start regular 
work as an investigator; indeed on that birthday, Indian 
fashion, he made to himself that vow. And, as we have 
seen, he was well prepared, not only in physical knowledge 
and experimental skill, but also in character, his initial 
adventurous courage and strenuousness now matured and 
strengthened by life. 

In these years the most conspicuously interesting move- 
ment in physics centred round the work of Hertz, the 
brilliant and too short-lived experimentalist who produced 
the electric waves which Clerk Maxwell, building in his 
turn on the experimental work of Faraday, had predicted 
mathematically, twenty years before, in his magnificent 
correlation of light-waves with electro-magnetic disturbance. 
So in the formative years of our investigator, as older readers 
will remember, the Hertzian waves were the wonder of their 
time, just as later the X-rays of Rontgen, and a little later 
the magical radium of Madame Curie, and the later develop- 
ments of that still branching investigation. 

First, then, a word of explanation is needed before we 
come to Hertz and his problem, much less to Bose's develop- 
ment of it. In the previous generation Fresnel had cleared 
the wave-theory of light, and enabled us to visualise it, in 
terms of vibrations of the ether : but these not in longitudinal 
pulsations like sound-waves in air, but transversal, like 
the up and down movements which take place in the waves 
of the sea, which travel fast and far without corresponding 
movement of the water itself until it breaks upon the beach. 
Throw a stone into a standing pool ; and watch the surface 
rising and falling as the wave-circles extend to the bank ; 
watch too how this reflects these wave-circles back into the 
pond, and at angles varying with those of their incidence ; 
and thus, in the minor infinities of intersecting ripples which 
arise, we have a simple introduction to those intricate yet 
orderly wave-motions of the ether which the physicist has 
to assume as filling space, in order to realise the manifold 


phenomena which appear in course of his study of light, 
and which he can thus not only experiment upon, but explain 
with mathematical clearness. 

Contemporary with Fresnel, as mathematician of light, 
was Ampere, the mathematician of electricity. He worked 
out the laws of those mutual actions of currents which had 
been discovered by the succession of brilliant experimentalists 
up to Faraday. In thus rising from the experimental and 
empirical level, and establishing Electro-dynamics as a 
rational science, he naturally enough suggested that the 
ether which carries the waves of light must also be the 
vehicle of electric disturbances. But the testing of this 
attractive hypothesis by experiment no easy matter was 
next accomplished by Clerk Maxwell, who was rewarded by 
the discovery that electrical disturbances travelled with the 
same velocity as that of light a result concordant with 
previous independent calculation of the speed of a current 
through a perfectly conducting wire. That some intimate 
correspondence must exist between electricity and light 
could thus no longer be doubted. Maxwell's next step was 
to reinterpret the familiar contrast of conductors and non- 
conductors ; and now, instead of thinking the latter inert, 
as scientific men had hitherto done (so that the reader may 
be pardoned for perhaps still doing so), he reinterpreted 
both together. The familiar copper wire is not a perfect 
conductor, but has an appreciable resistance, of which Ohm 
had already determined the simple law ; with progressive 
loss of energy accordingly, which appears in the wire as 
heating ; this raised to white heat gives us light as in an electric 
lamp. The process of electric loss in production of heat, 
Maxwell compared to what he observed when water is forced 
through pipes, with friction and heat increasing as these 
are narrowed ; and it is evident that since fluids are all 
more or less imperfect (indeed water being a viscous fluid 
compared with many others), the movement of the fluid 
must sooner or later come to a stop, and all its energy 
converted into heat. In short, then, the electrical 


resistance of conductors can be thought of as a viscous 

What now of that of non-conductors ? This term is also 
relative, since these differ among themselves ; and hence at 
first they were thought of as but extremely bad conductors. 
But here Maxwell had a fresh idea, that of their non-con- 
ductivity as by no means comparable to an exaggerated 
viscosity, but of a contrasted nature, like the resistance 
offered by elastic springs, which do not waste the kinetic 
energy expended on them into friction and heat, but store 
it as potential, in their coils, as far as the structure of these 
allows ; and then give it out anew, as the pressure upon 
them is reduced or withdrawn. Thus while the familiar 
current of conduction along a wire goes on as Jong as its 
electro-motive force continues, the currents of displacement, 
which Maxwell's speculative eye discovered in the non- 
conducting body (answering to the metal springs of his 
mechanical image above), can but have a short duration, 
for their distortion soon comes to an equilibrium, of electro- 
static energy. Now imagine the coiled springs to break, 
or burst free ; there is a sudden and complete discharge of 
their energy a process obviously sharply contrasted with 
that dissipation into heat which we find in conductors 
carrying a current. 

Thus Maxwell escaped from the old and merely negative 
view of the non-conductor as a passive obstacle ; and saw 
it thrilling with its own internal currents of displacement, 
like the rapid oscillations of a mass of springs. But ordinary 
currents manifest themselves (i) by being wasted into heat 
by the resistance due to the imperfections of the conductor, 

(2) by their action on the magnet, so conveniently shown 
by introducing a galvanometer into the circuit, and also 

(3) by their induction of currents in conductors in their 
neighbourhood. So if Maxwell's hypothetical currents in 
non-conductors really exist, they must have these pro- 
perties ; but so rapid are their oscillations, and so brief 
is their duration,, that no ordinary experiment can detect 



them. Still, with the reasoned certitude of his mathematical 
treatment, Maxwell stuck to it that the currents are none 
the less there ; and so framed his electro-magnetic theory 
of light. For now, from this point of view, the light- waves 
of the ether, already lucidly but separately visualised 
and measured by Fresnel and others, may be interpreted 
as the product of rapidly alternating currents set up in the 
dielectric ether (and as it were the oscillations of the elastic 
springs) and thus carried through space. The mathe- 
matical mind was impressed by Maxwell's theory and its 
calculations ; but neither physicist nor plain man could 
be satisfied without concrete proof, through experimental 
demonstration. But how reach experimental mastery 
and understanding of alternating currents and oscillating 
discharges of such high frequency as is required by 
the known velocity of light about 300,000 kilometres 
(186,000 miles) per second ? And with -the numberless 
waves in that second, when even the longest visible red rays 
are pouring upon our retina every second at the rate of at 
least 25,000 crowded into every inch of that vast distance ; 
and those which affect the photographic plate are more 
than twice as many in the same time ? The difficulty of 
experiment is here obvious. Still, experimenters set to 
work ; and Feddersen, working with the Ley den jar, 
photographed its long-known spark, by help of a rapidly 
revolving mirror. Now if this discharge be a continuous 
one, the photograph would be that of a luminous streak, 
like that of a star slowly photographed while the earth turns 
round. But the photographs showed successive firefly- 
like flashes, proving the intermittency of the discharge, 
and the photographs of sparks showed these as not homo- 
geneous, but as symmetrically contrasted, the bright points 
at one end corresponding to dark points at the other, and 
conversely. Here, then, was clear ocular demonstration 
that the discharge, which to our eye seems but a 
single and instantaneous spark, is really a succession of 
sparks, in oscillation between positive and negative. This 


oscillation was next lucidly imaged by Kelvin, as the swing 
of ' the electric pendulum/ But is the energy of these 
electric oscillations simply dissipated through resistance, 
and into heat, as in the incandescent particles of the spark 
we see ? Maxwell had predicted that there must also be 
some such radiation for electric waves ; so here arises an 
experimental test between his theory and preceding ones, 
by which no such phenomenon had been imagined, or is 
even possible. 

Here then is where at length Hertz came in, soon 
with decisive experiments. First he had to devise a fresh 
apparatus for exciting the oscillating discharges more 
steadily and more rapidly (a shortened electric pendulum, 
as it were), and with the discharges more fully under 
observation and control. In this he succeeded, but not 
without great difficulties, traced especially to the uncertain 
and irregular behaviour of the brass balls between which 
the oscillating discharge took place. But next, how was he 
to know whether the electric waves, which Maxwell had 
foreseen, and which he was seeking for, were really being 
projected into space from his radiator's oscillating dis- 
charge, or no ? Here, obviously, he needed some kind of 
receiver for the anticipated rays ; and to contrive it was 
a new and perplexing experimental problem. His method 
was to place in the path of the expected rays an exploring 
apparatus a pair of closely approximated metallic rods, 
in which the rays should induce an electric tension ; which 
should then, when strong enough, give minute sparks 
between its adjacent poles. Alas ! no spark could be 
observed ; yet Hertz was not discouraged. Realising that 
such induced currents must needs be extremely small, he 
had recourse to the microscope. The poles could thus be 
brought to within a minute distance ; and then he had the 
joy of success, for a minute but unmistakable spark now 
appeared with every impulse from the exciting apparatus 
at some distance off. Here, then, in this tiny spark was at 
once the success of the primary experiment so long needed 


for the demonstration of Clerk Maxwell's theory, and the 
corresponding justification of the young experimenter's 
labours ; at once raising him from the level of the many 
dreamers and inventors whom most men despise or ridicule 
before they succeed, to that pinnacle of success which 
compels respect and arouses admiration. 

Turn now from experimental process and details to* 
appreciate the magnitude of Hertz's result, his proof of 
the real and objective existence of this new range of ethereal 
vibrations. Not simply as a joy for the mathematicians, 
whose vigorous method, in Maxwell's powerful hands 
that of imaged conception, strongly guided L and^boldly 
driven had thus triumphed, as dramatically as ever 
of old, say for the first verified prediction of an eclipse, 
or in later days by the telescopic finding of a new planet 
in the very place where calculation foretold its presence. 
Yet the main wonder remained the physical one. For here 
on one side is light, on which our intellectual life, no less 
than our practical life, so intimately depends, and as to 
which, moreover, we have the fullest and longest, the most 
varied yet also most exact, knowledge of any of the forces 
of nature. But there on the other hand are the phenomena 
of electricity and magnetism, so potent and yet so subtle, 
so varied and complex, so paradoxical, so obscure and even 
mysterious; and so long defying ordinary representation 
and visualisation wellnigh altogether. Heat too is organi- 
cally familiar to us ; and its measurement and observation 
have been increasingly in progress for centuries. The 
identification of radiant heat with light, as but a continued 
spectrum of ultra-red rays, had been in its time, and not 
so long before, one of the great advances of discovery one 
readily and essentially connected too with the all-embracing 
doctrines of energy, so far in its conservation, but especially 
in its dissipation. The small visible spectrum into which 
Newton's prism spread out a beam of white light, though 
ranging through the whole pageant of colour, from red to 
Violet, had been shown to be but a single octave of a 


vaster spectrum, of cosmic radiation ; witness the additional 
octaves of shorter and shorter ultra-violet (photographic) 
rays, and corresponding octaves of heat-waves longer than 
the lowest visible red. But now far below these heat-rays 
of the great spectrum, large by comparison with those of 
light (which range from 60,000 to 25,000 to the inch), Hertz 
had experimentally produced new rays altogether, whose 
existence, and to some extent therefore their light-wave-like 
behaviour, had indeed been foreseen by Maxwell ; yet with 
strange and varied properties he had not foreseen, and soon 
capable of applications which would have surprised and 
delighted him as much as any. To realise the enormous 
magnitude of Hertz's waves, as compared with those of 
the longest heat-rays known, we. must leave their scale, that 
of known ether- waves hitherto, and compare them with the 
big waves of sound, slow-moving through our atmosphere, 
-a heavy and viscous fluid unlike the imponderable and 
elastic ether. Taking, then, the ordinary velocity of sound 
in warm weather at 1200 feet per second, and the range 
of audible vibrations at from 16 per second for deepest 
note and 30,000 for highest a wide range of no less than 
ii octaves we have about 70 feet for the largest and 
lowest appreciable sound-waves, and say 4 inches for the 
shortest and highest. But even Hertz's shortest waves 
when measured turned out to be about 4 yards, and his 
longest waves ranged to hundreds of yards, while evidence 
was soon forthcoming that this immense electric spectrum 
could be extended in both directions, not only shortening 
towards the heat spectrum, but lengthening also to an 
unknown immensity of magnitude. 

But Hertz, while thus triumphantly vindicating Max- 
well's main life-labour, was still only at the opening of the 
full verification necessary. Given these electric waves, 
even with their enormously longer wave-length than light, 
must they not behave like light ? If so^ one would expect 
them, in the first place, to be variously transmissible i.e. 
some bodies should be transparent to them, some absorbent 


and opaque, and some midway translucent, as it were. 
Experiment immediately justified these anticipations, 
although, as a physicist would be prepared to expect, with 
different media than for ordinary light. Thus a sheet of 
water is opaque to the electric waves, while glass and 
pitch turned out alike to be transparent to them. 

The next question is naturally Can these waves be 
reflected, like light ? With big plane mirrors, sheets of 
zinc and other metal, reflection was found to take place ; 
but not with the precision of optical phenomena, in which 
the angle of reflection is exactly equal to the angle of inci- 
dence, whereas here the reflection was spread out. But 
this too was only what was to be expected from the large 
size of waves. Indeed, though light is propagated recti- 
linearly, a certain curl of its waves inwards on passing an 
obstacle has long been known to take place ; and this 
' diffraction ' has been beautifully investigated, experi- 
mentally and mathematically. On the great scale of Hertz's 
waves, comparable to those of sound indeed far surpassing 
these, since ranging from several metres, the shortest he 
produced, up to two hundred yards, or thence again to even 
a mile it was natural that their rectilinear propagation 
should be but relative, and that they should curl round 
corners, just as sound-waves do. 

Hertz next tested whether Newton's classic experiment 
the refraction of light by the prism could be repeated 
with his new rays. But for their immense and spreading 
magnitude, a correspondingly large prism was needed, on 
a scale beyond that of glass-casting. Still, Hertz rose to 
the occasion, and cast a gigantic prism with some two tons 
of pitch. Experiment rewarded him : the electric rays 
were unmistakably bent towards the base ; and though his 
measurements with such long and curling waves were 
naturally but a first and rough appproximation, the great 
thing was proved the expected refraction did take place, 
and that very appreciably. Thus encouraged, Hertz set to 
testing whether his electric rays could not also be polarised, 


like those of light. For the polariser and analyser of the 
optician, he employed grids of metal, each a row of parallel 
wires, and found that electric vibrations parallel to these 
were absorbed, while those at right angles to the wires could 
pass through. When the two gratings were parallel, the 
electric beam passed through ; but when placed at right 
angles to each other, it was completely stopped, just as for 
light with the crossing of Nicol's prisms. Broadly then, 
Hertz's comparison of the new electric rays with light was 
so far complete, and the confirmation of Maxwell's theory 

There remained of course much to be done : both as 
regards the improvement of the whole range of apparatus 
in detail, and the increased precision of research towards 
bringing in other considerations which hold good in 
the case of light, not to speak of unknown developments. 
There can be no doubt that Hertz would have gone further 
in such directions ; but at this stage his weak health 
doubtless overstrained by those years of intense thought 
and labour, aggravated more or less by neglect gave way ; 
and he died of an ailment even then rarely fatal, and now 
easily treated by the surgeon the consequence of a mere 
nasal catarrh. The regret throughout the scientific world 
for this early loss has rarely been paralleled the only fully 
analogous case within the writer's memory being that of 
Francis Balfour, the embryologist of Cambridge, in an 
Alpine accident now some thirty-five years ago. But, as 
Hertz had wished, the path was opened ; and able physicists 
entered on it, first to test and verify, then to extend the 
investigation in new directions. The first defect to be 
grappled with was the uncertain behaviour and irregularity 
of discharge of the balls between which the oscillating dis- 
charge took place. Hence to improve this portion of the 
apparatus to ensure ' good ' sparks without ' bad,' has been a 
main endeavour for subsequent investigators. Here Lodge 
and Bose were specially successful : the first by intro- 
ducing an intermediate ball, which served as a regulator of 


the discharge, and the second by the use of platinum-covered 
surfaces, from and to which the alternating sparks could 
pass without roughening or oxidation. Bose's radiators, 
instead of being disordered by specks of dust, as previous 
workers had found, continued to emit their sparks, and 
these their waves, so steadily as to be uninterrupted even 
when a jet of air mingled with street-dust was turned upon 
it. Bose also used for his radiator a sphere surrounded 
by two hollow hemispheres. This device increased the 
energy of radiation. 

Further advance of the determination of the optical 
properties of electric radiation by quantitative measure- 
ments have been retarded, since on account of the large 
size of the waves their strictly linear propagation could not 
be secured. Bose was able to produce extremely short 
waves, which largely filled up the gap between the infra- 
red rays and Hertz's long electric waves. 

For this purpose, the whole of the radiating part of 
the apparatus was enclosed within double metal walls 
to cut off stray radiation : the outer of copper to prevent 
the escape of the electric rays, and the inner of soft iron as 
a shield to cut off the magnetic disturbance. 

The next problem before experimenters was to im- 
prove upon Hertz's receiver. Here the initiative was 
afforded by Professor Branly, of the Catholic University 
College of Paris, whose ' radio-conductor ' has since become 
so well known. In principle it is merely a slender tube 
containing metal filings, in which, although themselves 
good conductors, there is yet considerable resistance, since 
their contacts are comparatively few, and these variably 
imperfect. But Branly found that the Hertzian waves, 
which could not but produce considerable induction in 
the filings, enormously reduced their resistance, some- 
times even to a millionth. Hence it followed that the 
apparatus could be used as the needed improved receiver, 
'since detecting the electric rays more finely and more 
clearly than did the first receiver of Hertz. After the 


filings have thus acted, a tap suffices to shake them back to 
their former irregularity, and the apparatus is ready for 
the next experiment. 

Lodge made able use of this simple expedient ; he also 
offered an interpretation of its action, as due to. fusing or 
soldering of the minute points of contact of the filings 
by the inductive effect produced in them through the 
incidence of the Hertzian waves, and for this reason he 
renamed it a 'Coherer/ Branly, however, maintains the 
original name, with his explanation that the Hertzian 
waves merely modify in some ways the non-conducting 
film upon the surface of the filings. Bose's receiver a 
great advance on that of Branly and Lodge, of which the 
sensibility is variable, sometimes even seeming capricious- 
replaced the irregular filings by fine wire spiral springs, 
adjusted with a thousand regular contacts or thereabouts, 
and fixed in ebonite, and under control by a screw, A weak 
current is passed through this, to which the spirals offer 
a very appreciable resistance. The current is enormously 
reduced, as with Branly's apparatus, but now even more 
sensitively and more regularly when the instrument is 
placed in the path of the electric waves ; the more since 
the electric beam of Bose's generator is not only sharp and 
well defined, but better regulated. The sensibility of 
this apparatus, says M. Poincare (to whose clear treatise 
the writer' is much indebted), f is exquisite: it responds 
to all the radiations in the interval of an octave. One 
makes it sensitive to different kinds of radiations, by vary- 
ing the electromotive force which engenders the current 
which traverses the receiver.' Bose also was successful in 
inventing other types of receivers which recovered auto- 
matically without any tapping. It is also well worth notice 
that the whole apparatus has thus not only been Improved 
by Bose and perfected in all details, but condensed from 
the enormous dimensions of Hertz's original devices, and 
-the still very considerable magnitude of those of Lodge and 
other investigators, to a small and compact set of .appliances, 


which stands conveniently upon one end of a writing-table, 
and may be packed into a suit-case, and thus carried and 
exhibited to any audience. 

Bose had now made himself the best equipped among 
physicists in this field of investigation. For with the 
most perfect production of rays, and these under the fullest 
control, it was possible to work towards shorter and shorter 
waves, less dispersive in their diffraction, and producible 
as a definite beam of half -inch section. Furthermore, his 
receiver not only surpassed previous ones in that sensibility 
which is so great in all forms, but what is more important 
in its certainty and uniformity of action. His problem 
thus admitted of fuller and clearer statement, and*came 
substantially to this : Hertz's study of the electric waves, 
and still more his comparisons of their behaviour with 
optical phenomena, were more or less qualitative. But 
' science is measurement ' : it must have quantitative 
precision ; and for this purpose more regular waves must 
be produced, and as near those of heat and light as 
may be i.e. as short as possible. With the perfected 
apparatus Bose carried out his extended investigations on 
the optical properties of the electric rays. The scheme 
adopted was as follows : 

(a) Verification of the Laws of Reflection (plane 

mirror, curved mirror). 

(b) Phenomena of Refraction (prisms, total reflection, 

opacity caused by multiple refraction and reflec- 
tion ; determination of the indices of refraction). 

(c) Selective Absorption (electrically coloured media). 

(d) Phenomena of Interference (determination of 

(e) Double Refraction and Polarisation (polarising 

gratings, polarising crystal, double refraction 
produced by crystals, by other substances, and 
by strain ; circular polarisation ; electro-polari- 



scope and polarimeter ; rotation of plane of 

Fully to summarise the results of this comprehensive 
experimental inquiry is here impossible : enough to borrow 
from a recent retrospect of it by an eminent American 
physicist, Dr. Kunz of Illinois University : 

Bose showed that these short electrical waves have the same 
properties as a beam of light, exhibiting reflection, refraction, 
even total reflection, double refraction, polarisation and rotation 
of the plane of polarisation. The thinnest film of air is sufficient 
to produce total reflection of visible light with its extremely 
short wave-lengths ; but with Bose's short electric waves, the 
critical thickness of the air-space was determined by the 
refracting power of the prism, and by the wave-length of the 
electric oscillations. He found a special crystal, Nemalite, which 
exhibits the polarisation of electric waves in the very same 
manner as a beam of light is polarised by selective absorption in 
crystals like Tourmaline, which Bose found to be due to their 
different electric conductivity in two directions. The rotation 
of the plane of polarisation was demonstrated by means of a con- 
trivance twisted like a rope, and the rotation could be produced 
to left or right, just as different sorts of sugar rotate the plane 
of polarisation of ordinary light towards one direction or the other. 
The index of refraction of these electrical waves was determined 
for different materials ; and a difficulty was eliminated which 
presented itself in Maxwell's theory, as to the relation between 
the index of refraction of light and the dielectric constant of 
insulators. Bose also measured the wave length of the various 
oscillations. In order to produce the short electrical oscillations, 
to detect them and to study their optical properties, he had to 
invent a large number of new apparatus and instruments ; 
and he has indeed enriched physics by a number of apparatus 
distinguished by simplicity, directness, and ingenuity. 

So far the American physicist. But for the conclusion 
of this chapter we may best quote one of Bose's own 
passages, which better unveils the spirit which lies behind 
research : in fact the part of the scientific imagination 
which ever unifies reason and experiment alike. 


Imagine a large electric organ, provided with an infinite 
number of stops, each giving rise to a particular ether note. 
Imagine the lowest stop producing one vibration in a second. 
We should then get a gigantic ether wave 186,000 miles long. 
Let the next stop give rise to two vibrations in a second, and 
let each succeeding stop produce higher and higher notes. What 
an infinite number of stops there would be ! Imagine an unseen 
hand pressing the different stops in rapid succession, producing 
higher and higher notes. The ether note will thus rise in fre- 
quency from one vibration in a second, to tens, to hundreds, to 
thousands, to hundreds of thousands, to millions, to millions of 
millions. While the ethereal sea in which we are immersed is 
being thus agitated by these multitudinous waves, we shall 
remain entirely unaffected, for we possess no organs of perception 
to respond to these waves. As the ether note rises still higher 
in pitch, we shall for a brief moment perceive a sensation of 
warmth. This will be the case when the ether vibration reaches 
a frequency of several billions of times in a second. As the note 
rises still higher, our eyes will begin to be affected, a red glimmer 
of light would be the first to make its appearance. From this 
point the few colours we see are comprised within a single octave 
of vibration from 400 to 800 billions in one second. As the 
frequency of vibration rises still higher, our organs of perception 
fail us completely ; a great gap in our consciousness obliterates 
the rest. The brief flash of light is succeeded by unbroken 

How blind we are ! How circumscribed is our know- 
ledge ! The little we can see is nothing compared to what 
actually is ! 

\But things which are dark now will one day be made clear. 
Knowledge grows little by little, slowly but surely. Many 
wonderful ,, things have recently been discovered. We have 
, already caught broken glimpses of invisible lights ; some day, 
perhaps not very distant, we shall be able to see light-gleams, 
visible or invisible, merging one into the other, in unbroken 


'"'.'' - -' 


Boss's scientific results, given in the last chapter, passed 
rapidly into current science, and its text -books, English 
and Continental, through a series of papers communicated 
to the Royal Society by Lord Rayleigh, whose constant 
sympathy was the best of encouragements for the young 
investigator. A reprint of Bose's collected Physical Papers 
may some day be published, and lead to further develop- 
ment of some of their inquiries, whether by Bose, his pupils, 
or others. 

The main results of all these papers were also popularised 
in the standard way through various lectures, concluding 
with one of that series of Friday Evening Discourses at 
the Royal Institution, which has so long given one of 
the very best of platforms for the announcement of fresh 

The invitation to deliver this discourse so impressed 
the India Office that they granted Bose three months' 
extra deputation leave, which admitted of its preparation 
and delivery. Its reception was fully appreciative. The 
scientific public had been fully prepared to be interested 
in the work, not only by the Royal Society papers, and the 
publication of full abstracts and appreciative articles in 
the Electrician and other technical journals, but from Bose's 
first appearance in England at the Liverpool meeting of 
the British Association. After Bose's paper there, Lord 
Kelvin not only broke into the warmest praise, but limped 



upstairs into the ladies' gallery and shook Mrs. Bose by 
both hands, with glowing congratulations on her husband's 
brilliant work. Moreover, the general press and the public 
were struck by him as the first Indian to win distinction 
through investigation in science in the most strictly 
Western of all its departments, and at that time also the 
most progressive. 

The preceding generation had handed on many recol- 
lections of the achievements of applied physics, beginning 
with the laying of the first transatlantic cable, which 
had brought Sir William Thomson (afterwards Lord 
Kelvin) into fame, after which came successive marvels, 
such as electric light, the telephone, the phonograph, 
Rontgen rays, and more. Now a new marvel was silently 
preparing to break upon the world the application 
of Hertz's waves to wireless telegraphy, towards which 
Hertz seemed to have some premonition and various later 
investigators were feeling their way, as notably Lodge, 
and above all Marconi. Bose himself had as early as 
1895, in a public lecture in Calcutta, demonstrated the 
ability of the electric rays to travel from the lecture- 
room, and through an intervening room and passage, to a 
third room 75 feet distant from the radiator, thus passing 
through three solid walls on the way, as well as the body of 
the chairman (who happened to be the Lieutenant- Governor). 
The receiver at this distance still had energy enough to make 
a contact which set a bell ringing, discharged a pistol, and 
exploded a miniature mine. To get this result from his small 
radiator, Bose set up an apparatus which curiously antici- 
pated the lofty ' antennae ' of modern wireless telegraphy 
a circular metal plate at the top of a 20-foot pole being 
put in connection with the radiator and a similar one with 
the receiving apparatus. Encouraged by this success, our 
inventor not only went on signalling through the College 
but planned to fix one of these poles on the roof of his house 
and the other on the Presidency College a mile away ; but 
he left for England before effecting this. 


On the publication of Bose's papers on Electric Waves, 
The Electrician, in its review (December 1895), drew attention 
to the practicability of devising 

a practicable system of electro-magnetic ' light '-houses, the 
receiver on board ship being some electric equivalent of the human 
eye. The evolution of a suitable generating apparatus would, 
we thought, present little difficulty ; that of a suitable receiver, 
on the other hand, seemed likely to give considerable trouble. 
In this connection we would draw attention to the substantial 
and workmanlike form of ' Coherer ' devised by Professor Bose, 
and described by him at the end of his paper ' On a new Electro- 
Polariscope.' The sensibility and range of this type of ' Coherer ' 
would appear to leave little to be desired, and it is certainly 
more likely to withstand, with equanimity,' the thousand and 
one shocks that the flesh is heir to at sea, than any of the forms 
hitherto brought about. 

And subsequently, after Bose's Friday Evening Dis- 
courses at the Royal Institution, The Electric Engineer 
expressed ' surprise that no secret was at any time made 
as to its construction, so that it has been open to all the 
world to adopt it for practical and possibly money-making 

Bose has sometimes, and not unnaturally, been criticised 
as unpractical for making no profit from his inventions. 
But as to this he was determined from the first. His 
child-memory had been impressed by the pure white flowers 
offered in Indian worship ; and it came early to him 
that whatever offerings his life could make should be 
untainted by any considerations of personal advantage. 
Moreover, he was painfully impressed by what seemed to 
him symptoms of deterioration, even in scientific men, by the 
temptation of gain ; and so at this time he made the resolve 
to seek for no personal advantage from his inventions. 

In 1901 one of the great manufacturers of wireless 
apparatus proposed to Bose, just before his Royal Institu- 
tion lecture of that year, to sign a remunerative agreement 
as to his new type of receiver ; but to the business man's 
frank surprise, not to say disgust, he declined the offer. 


An American friend, indignant with what seemed such 
unpractical quixotism, forthwith patented the invention 
in his name in America, but Bose would not use his rights, 
and allowed the patent to lapse. As a consequence, his 
improved coherer came into use till a fresh device was 
adopted in its stead. 

It may be frankly admitted even in some cases main- 
tained that under present industrial and economic 
conditions it may be practically impossible to organise 
and apply certain useful and desirable inventions without 
conforming to the customary rules of the game. After 
full recognition of the prevalent economic situation, it has 
been necessary to explain Bose's position as that of no 
mere quixotist. Simply stated, it is the position of the 
old rishis of India, of whom he is increasingly recog- 
nised by his countrymen as a renewed type, and 
whose best teaching was ever open to all willing to accept 
it. It also concurs with that of the modern pilgrim 
of a later chapter and of the boy growing up in the 
enthusiasm of the antique poetry and chivalry of the 
past, whose acquaintance we made at the beginning. 

Towards the close of Bose's stay in England in 1897, 
he was invited to explain his results in Paris by prominent 
members of its Physical Society, and also by the leading 
physicists of Berlin. At the Societe de Physique the chair 
was taken by M. Cornu, who had been President of the 
Academy of Sciences, a veteran investigator in optics 
and electricity, whose generous appreciation remains one 
of Bose's most valued reminiscences. Lippmann, already 
famous through his inventions in colour-photography, 
Cailletet, who had made one of the first successes in the 
liquefaction of gases, and others of foremost rank were 
present. Lippmann and others were so enthusiastic as to 
insist upon a later demonstration in the Sorbonne ; and 
soon afterwards Bose was made an honorary member of 
the Societe de Physique. 


In Berlin his discourse was to the Academy of Sciences, 
which printed his comprehensive experimental summary. 
To this discourse not only the Berlin physicists turned 
out, but some from a much greater distance : thus old 
Professor Quincke of Heidelberg, who had been greatly 
interested in the subject and had endeavoured to 
construct Bose's apparatus, came all the way expressly 
to hear him, and to invite him to visit his laboratory. 
At Berlin, Helmholtz's successor, Professor Warburg, 
told another investigator who was asking his advice 
about taking up electric waves : ' Bose has left you 
practically nothing to do : better try something else/ 
A visit to Kiel to lecture before the University and to 
meet Ebert, a notable worker in Electro-magnetism, and 
next a pleasant stay in Heidelberg to visit Quincke, Lenard 
and others, completed this tour ; and Bose then started 
homewards from Marseilles. 

From the above account of the success of Bose's scientific 
deputation to Europe, it will be seen that the long-standing 
prejudice which the West had entertained regarding the 
incapacity of Indians to do advanced scientific work 
was removed. Bose was in fact here the pioneer 
who succeeded in breaking through what had so long 
seemed a closed door, and thus opened the highway into 
active and productive science for his countrymen. 

Referring to Bose's work, Sir Henry Roscoe, the Vice- 
Chancellor of the University of London, acknowledged that 
the Eastern mind was equally capable of making great 
scientific discoveries and producing experimentalists as 
eminent as those of the West. And Lord Reay, the former 
Governor of Bombay, representing the statesman's point 
of view, drew attention to the importance of India's 
contribution to science : ' For science was absolutely 
international, and any result obtained by Dr. Bose in India 
could at once be annexed by us without protest.' 

Not only were scientific men impressed by the importance 


of such collaboration of the East in the advance of science, 
but enthusiasm was aroused in the most unexpected 
quarters. The London Spectator had consistently main- 
tained a critical attitude towards Indian aspirations ; but its 
editor was drawn by curiosity to attend Bose's discourses 
at the Royal Institution ; and in the following week a 
long leading article appeared, from which the following is 
an extract : 

There is however, to our thinking, something of rare interest 
in the spectacle there presented, of a Bengalee of the purest 
descent lecturing in London to an audience of appreciative 
European savants upon one of the most recondite branches 
of modern physical science. It suggests at least the possibility 
that we may one day see an invaluable addition to the great 
army of those who are trying by acute observation and patient 
experiment to wring from Nature some of her most jealously 
guarded secrets. The people of the East have just the burning 
imagination which could extort a truth out of a mass of 
apparently disconnected facts ; a habit of meditation without 
allowing the mind to dissipate itself, such as has belonged to 
the greatest mathematicians and engineers ; and a power of 
persistence it is something a little different from patience 
such as hardly belongs to any European. We do not know 
Professor Bose ; but we venture to say that if he caught with 
his scientific imagination a glimpse of a wonder-working ' ray ' 
as yet unknown to man but always penetrating ether, and 
believed that experiment would reveal its properties and poten- 
tialities, he would go on experimenting ceaselessly through a 
long life, and, dying, hand on his task to some successor, be it 
son or be it disciple. Nothing would seem laborious to him in 
his inquiry, nothing insignificant, nothing painful, any more 
than it would seem to the true Sanyasi in the pursuit of his 
inquiry into the ultimate relation of his own spirit to that of the 
Divine. Just think what kind of addition to the means of 
investigation would be made by the arrival within that sphere 
of inquiry of a thousand men with the Sanyasi mind, the mind 
which utterly controls the body and can meditate and inquire 
endlessly while life remains, never for a moment losing sight 
of the object, never for a moment letting it be obscured by any 
terrestrial temptation. 


We can see no reason whatever why the Asiatic mind, turning 
from its absorption in insoluble problems, should not betake 
itself ardently, thirstily, hungrily, to the research into Nature 
which can never end, yet is always yielding results, often evil 
as well as good, upon which yet deeper inquiries can be based. 
If that happened and Professor Bose is at all events a living 
evidence that it can happen that would be the greatest addition 
ever made to the sum of the mental force of mankind. 

And more briefly The Times wrote : 

The originality of the achievement is enhanced by the fact 
that Dr. Bose had to do the work in addition to his incessant 
duties as Professor of Physical Science in Calcutta, and with 
apparatus and appliances which in this country would be 
deemed altogether inadequate. He had to construct himself his 
instruments as he went along. His work forms the outcome 
of his twofold lines of labour construction and research. 

Many of the leading scientific men wished to show their 
appreciation of the value of Bose's work in a practical way. 
Their natural spokesman, Lord Kelvin, strongly realised 
the all but impossible conditions under which that work had 
hitherto been carried out ; and he wrote to Lord George 
Hamilton, then Secretary of State for India : 

It would be conducive to the credit of India and the 
scientific education in Calcutta, if a well-equipped Physical 
Laboratory is added to the resources of the University of Calcutta 
in connection with the Professorship held by Dr. Bose. 

Following on this letter a memorial was sent, drawing 
the Secretary of State's attention 

to the 'great importance which we attach to the establishment 
in the Indian Empire of a Central Laboratory for advanced 
teaching and research in connection with the Presidency College, 
Calcutta. We believe that it would be not only beneficial in 
respect to higher education, but also that it would largely 
promote the material interest of the country ; and we venture 
to urge on you the desirability of establishing in India a Physical 
Laboratory worthy of that great Empire. 


Among the memorialists were Lord Lister, then President 
of the Royal Society, Lord Kelvin, Professor Clifton, Pro- 
fessor Fitzgerald, Dr. Gladstone, Professor Poynting, Sir 
William Ramsay, Sir Gabriel Stokes, Professor Silvanus 
Thompson, Sir William Riicker, and others. 

Impressed by all this, the Secretary of State sent a 
dispatch (May 1897) to the Government of India enclosing 
the memorial, and supporting it ' being of opinion that 
the question of establishing an institution of the kind 
mentioned is deserving of consideration by Your Excellency 
in Council/ 

Lord Elgin, then Viceroy, told Bose that the Government 
was interested in his project, and would communicate with 
the Government of Bengal. This came filtering through 
departmental channels, with the appended note that 
though the scheme was important, yet it might be 
postponed to a future date. Bose understood what this 
really meant. He had succeeded in making the India 
Office and the Government recognise the claims of science ; 
but he also realised that the Government working machinery 
could be effectively delayed by departmental cogwheels. 
His friends in England were anxious to hasten matters at 
headquarters, if he would let them know what was causing 
delay. But that would have meant dropping his work 
of research for an indefinite period ; so he made up his 
mind to face the old difficulties as best he could, and 
be independent of facilities that the Government might 
offer, but by which there seemed little chance of his 
benefiting. It is worthy of remark that the cogwheels 
suddenly became mobile when Bose had neared the period 
of retirement from Government service. Then the scheme 
for which he had striven for many years resulted in the 
recent foundation (1914) of a fully equipped Physical 
Laboratory. Though this came too late to be of much 
advantage for himself, he had the consolation that he 
had been able to leave the Presidency College better than 
he found it. Pupils whom he had trained were now in 


charge of Physical Departments with Laboratories in 
different colleges. His efforts had not altogether been 
in vain. 

Bose's attitude of detachment appeared quixotic 
and unpractical to many, as other resolves had done 
previously. Though he seems never to have evaded any 
fight for principles, he was the more indifferent to personal 
advantage. He answered the criticisms of his friends by 
saying that he had long ago made up his mind to choose 
not the easier but the more difficult path ; that appeared 
to him the true scope for manhood. 

But, although abandoning the advantage derived from 
general recognition of his work towards securing facilities 
for his own research, he continued his dream of securing 
these for his successors ; and thenceforth was more resolved 
than ever to establish a Research Institute, as far as might 
be through his own savings and efforts. Again he and his 
wife curtailed their expenses, and religiously put aside a 
portion of pay and other earnings, from University examina- 
tions and from the proceeds of books and lectures. These 
he invested in securities which fortunately for him trebled 
in value after twenty years. A windfall also came, and in 
an unexpected way. By seniority, and by the distinction 
of his service, the highest appointment in the Educational 
Service, the Directorship of Public Instruction, had come 
within his reach. But he preferred to remain at the 
Presidency College as a Professor of Science. Here too 
seniority entitled him to the highest grade, with correspond- 
ing rise of pay. Bose, with customary indifference, had never 
consulted the Civil List. Had he done so, he would have 
found that his promotion to the top of the Service had been 
long overdue. For their own reasons the Department had 
not informed the Government about this promotion : only 
on the eve of his retirement the claim of a junior officer was 
brought to the notice of the Government, which then 
inquired why the question of the prior claims of Bose had 
not been reported. As no satisfactory explanation was 


forthcoming, the Government gazetted Bose to the highest 
grade, with retrospective effect. The large amount thus 
received was fully credited to the account of the Research 
Institute, which was to be materialised in a few years' 
time. A legacy towards this also came from an old and 
valued friend. 

Regarding Bose's claim on Government for facilities of 
research, it must be said to its credit that the idea was 
not dropped altogether. Lord Curzon indeed, when Viceroy, 
desired to revive it. But, as he was not a scientific man 
himself, he sent a cable to four English men of science 
for their opinion. The two physicist referees cabled their 
highest appreciation of Bose's work ; but the other two 
happened to. belong to the physiological camp (and as will 
be seen later) hostile to Bose, and they opposed the 
idea. In this .dilemma, where scientific opinion seemed so 
evenly divided, the Viceroy, by way of compromise, con- 
ferred on Bose at the Delhi Durbar in 1902 the decoration 
of the Companionship of the Indian Empire. 



The Theory oj Molecular Strain and, its Interpretations 

RECALL now from Chapter IV the receiver of the electric 
waves, the ' radio-conductor ' of Branly (called ' Coherer ' 
by Lodge, in terms of his simple and attractive thesis of 
the fusing together of its metallic particles at their points 
of contact by the inductive action of the electric waves). 
Next recall the difficulties and irregularities of its action, 
more or less felt by all observers, and notably abated by 
Bose's form of receiver. Bose, as we have seen, succeeded 
in making his electric wave receiver, at first made of steel 
springs (afterwards electroplated with cobalt to avoid 
oxidation), highly reliable. He was also able to devise 
other receivers which, in addition to their extreme sensitive- 
ness, exhibited automatic recovery. He could exalt the 
sensitiveness of his receivers to any degree desired by slight 
increase of pressure of contact, and by increase of electro- 
motive force in the receiving circuit. But after these 
improvements a new anomaly appeared. When experi- 
ments had been carried on continuously for a couple of 
hours or so, the receiver became less sensitive, and after 
more prolonged work, still more so, reminding one of 
fatigue. What could be the meaning of this fatigue ? 
When the fatigued receiver was allowed to rest for several 
hours, it became sensitive once more. Thinking, naturally 
enough, that longer rest would render it still more sensitive, 
Bose left the receiver aside for several days, with the quite 

7 1 


unexpected and perplexing result that it had become 
insensitive once more. This particular insensitiveness 
could not, as in the case of fatigue, be restored by further 
rest ; but he excited the ' idle ' receiver by an electric 
shock, with the surprising result that its sensitiveness was 
restored. Two altogether different treatments were thus 
found necessary in the two cases : rest for the ' fatigued ' 
receiver, and active stimulation for the ' idle * one. 

The theory of the ' Coherer ' was therefore inadequate ; 
for if the diminution of resistance by external stimulus 
were brought about simply by soldering of particles, such 
diminution would be independent of the previous history of 
the receiver, i.e. of its moderate rest, restoring sensitiveness 
as if from fatigue, or of its prolonged rest, reducing this as 
it were to idleness. 

To explain these anomalies, Bose was led into 
new and wide fields of investigation. Hence two 
papers. 1 The terms ' Electric Touch,' or ' Contact-sensi- 
tiveness/ were introduced to avoid the theory involved 
in the term ' Coherer/ and also because the nature of 
response depended on the surface of contact, and not on 
the substratum. An insensitive metal such as copper, 
when coated with a thin film of a sensitive metal like 
cobalt, acquired extreme sensitiveness : whereas a highly 
sensitive material like iron, when given a coating of an 
insensitive metal like copper, gave little or no response. 
Bose next embarked on a systematic investigation of the 
contact-sensitiveness of all the metals, non-metals and 
metalloids obtainable. Many of the rare metals were at 
the time not available, but in some cases he isolated the 
elements from their compounds in an electric furnace ; 
and experimentally overcame many other difficulties 
encountered at every step. 

The investigations on metals were carried out in the 

1 ' On a Self-Recovering Coherer/ Proc. Roy. Soc., 1899. ' On Electric 
Touch, and the Molecular Changes produced in Matter by Electric Waves,' 
Proc. Roy. Soc., 1900. 


sequence of their atomic weights from Lithium, with its 
lowest atomic weight 7, to Lead, with high atomic weight 
205. He was surprised to find that the ' electric touch ' 
exhibited a periodic change. When a substance exhibits 
under electric radiation an increase of conducting power, 
its sign of ' touch ' he distinguished as positive. This is 
the strong characteristic of the ' Coherer ' made of iron. 
This diminution of resistance was by no means general ; 
his investigations revealed the astonishing fact that 
potassium exhibited an effect which was diametrically 
opposite, namely an increase of resistance. The receiver 
made of potassium exhibited, moreover, a rapid and spon- 
taneous recovery, requiring no tapping. It is quite evident 
that an increase of resistance and automatic self-recovery 
could on no account be due to the supposed fusion and 
coherence of neighbouring particles by the induction-spark. 
The response, positive or negative, is determined by the 
chemical nature of the substance ; and the phenomonen 
must therefore be one of molecular change. 

In arranging the elements in order of their increasing 
atomic weights, the ' Electric Touch ' was found, as stated 
before, to exhibit a remarkable periodicity, approximately 
represented in the accompanying curve (Fig. i). 

Those above the horizontal line are positive, those below 
negative, and others which cross the line more or less 
neutral. Of the neutral substances, copper and silver 
may be taken as typical. 

There are other interesting differences in the behaviours 
of different metals. In some cases the induced change of 
resistance under electric stress was not permanent, but the 
substance completely recovered its original condition. It 
was as if the molecules were put under strain by the 
impressed stress. Electrically some were highly elastic, 
their recovery being quick ; in other cases less elastic, and 
the strained molecules remained in that condition, the 
recovery being extremely slow. In such cases, however, 
anything which caused molecular disturbance e.g. the 


action of warmth helped the automatic recovery. Even 
substances like iron, which remained conducting as an after- 
effect of electric stimulus, recovered automatically when 
maintained at a higher temperature. 

FIG. i. Periodicity of Electric Touch. Abscissa represents the atomic 
weight ; ordinate the electric touch positive or negative. 

From the observations of these various characteristics, 
Bose was led to suppose that electric radiation produced a 
molecular change of an * allotropic ' nature, similar to the 
allotropic change induced in sulphur or phosphorus by 
visible light. 

The action of light on various kinds of matter is 
familiarly known, though little understood. Everyone has 
noticed how colours are often faded by exposure ; while 
chemists have long known that common yellow phosphorus 


is transmuted into the red variety, less dangerous because 
no longer liable to that rapid oxidation in the atmosphere 
which may readily set the familiar variety on fire. Sulphur 
exposed to light is not changed to the eye, but treat- 
ment with bisulphide of carbon, so convenient a solvent of 
common sulphur, proves that light has somehow rendered 
it insoluble. To this phenomenon of ' allotropism ' we shall 
return later : it is enough at first to note that the action 
of light on bodies, though sometimes within our direct 
observation, need not necessarily be so, yet may none the 
less be real and profound. 

But how shall we proceed to the investigation of these 
changes ? how detect changes if they take place ? and 
how discriminate between the exposed substances and 
the unexposed ? The photographic plate is the familiar 
instance in point ; but though chemists have endeavoured 
to explain what happens (as by reduction of silver chloride, 
and the reduction of this to metallic silver), the amount 
of material altered is too small to admit of analysis 
and verification. Bose showed how it can be detected 
electrically, for which the galvanometer is sensitive to a 
degree incomparably beyond that of chemical estimation. 

Now the allotropic variation or change in molecular 
aggregation in a substance must, according to Bose, change 
more or less all its properties physical and chemical e.g. its 
solubility, its density, its chemical activity, and its position 
in the voltaic series in consequence of which a current flows 
from electro-positive to the relatively electro-negative ; it 
would also change its power of electric conduction. Note in 
this connection the familiar difference of conducting power 
in the three allotropic modifications of carbon. As charcoal, 
its conducting power is high ; as graphite, its conducting 
power is only moderate ; while diamond is practically a 
non-conductor. Let us call these A, B, and C. If we 
could produce any transformation of graphite (B) towards 
charcoal (A), it would be detected by increase of con- 
ducting power, and if towards diamond (C) by decrease 


The invisible molecular change may thus be detectible 
by this subtle electric test, with its great advantage 
over chemical estimation, which requires large quantities, 
and long hours of analysis, during which the substance 
may have automatically returned to its primitive state. 

That allotropic transformation may electrically be 
detected, is also seen in other ways. In a selenium cell 
the incidence of light causes an increase of conducting 
power ; and removal of light is attended by self -recovery. 
If the stress has been moderate the recovery is quick ; if 
very great, as by strong light, the recovery is very much 
protracted. Nor is light the only agent of such allotropic 
change ; heat-rays may also produce it. Thus ordinary 
iodide of mercury spread out in a thin film is practically 
a red pigment, but when exposed to heat radiation it 
becomes transformed into a yellow allotropic variety. On 
removal of the radiation the substance recovers, the recovery 
being hastened by a mechanical scratch, and the thin 
film becomes red once more. Bose found that this visible 
change had as a concomitant, a change of electric resistance. 

In summary, then, we find that in iron-like substances 
with the positive ' touch ' the transformation is towards 
an increase of conducting power ; and in potassium-like 
substances, it is towards diminution. Just as all substances 
as regards their magnetic properties fall into two classes, 
para-magnetic or dia-magnetic, so all substances are 
divisible into two classes, one exhibiting a positive and 
the other a negative ' touch.' 

Bose had here discovered new classes of electric 
phenomena ; and these two classes of conducting bodies 
(for only with conductors was experimentation found 
possible) we may characterise as ' contact-positive ' and 
' contact-negative.' In at least one almost neutral yet 
slightly positive substance silver Bose succeeded in 
producing by chemical means a negative variety, which 
gave the negative response of diminished conductivity. 
This variety was found Jess stable, since heating restored 


the new variety to the familiar one ; and on stimulation 
he also found repeated reversals from + to , and back 
again, thus giving an alternating curve. The change 
induced in various substances by electric radiation seemed 
to Bose plainly one of molecular strain in response to 
external stress. So, he asked himself, do not such varia- 
tions, sufficiently marked and permanent, give the physicist 
a peep into the chemist's (hitherto empirical) collection of 
' allotropic substances/ and even a method towards their 
further investigation ? For if the transient allotropism 
thus discovered be thought of as molecular strain, with 
the possibility of recovery, then ordinary allotropism, so 
relatively stable, becomes also comprehensible i.e. in 
terms of over-strain, from which spontaneous return is 
difficult or impossible under ordinary conditions. 

This delicate mode of inquiry was rightly claimed 
as ' full of promise in many lines of inquiry in molecular 
physics. . . . The varieties of phenomena are unlimited ; 
for we have in each substance to take account of the pecu- 
liarity of its chemical constitution, the nature of its response 
to ether waves, the lag and molecular viscosity. All these 
combined give to each substance its peculiar characteristic 
curve : it is not unlikely that the curves may give us 
much information as to the chemical nature and physical 
condition of the different substances.' Bose's new investi- 
gations had been to disclose a new class of phenomenon 
of which electro-optics had given no suggestion, those of the 
different touch of metals, when employed as materials of 
so many ' Coherers/ or rather receivers. Here, returning 
to the chemical suggestions above noted, was an interesting 
correlation of electric properties with atomic weights, and 
the disclosure of a new arrangement of these accordingly 
one not without suggestive analogies to MendeleefFs famous 
classification, and inviting therefore fresh research. 

Return now to the nature of the electric radiation 
discussed in Chapter IV : first, as an extended spectrum 
of longer and longer waves beyond those of heat, and yet, 


as Maxwell had foreseen and Hertz had shown, analogous 
to those of light ; and then with their correspondence, 
increasingly determined by Bose's work, as regards their 
reflection, refraction, polarisation and other phenomena 
in short, an advance of electro-optics. 

But now, leaving the direct study of the varied yet 
profoundly similar rays of this long spectrum of radiation, 
which we call ultra-violet, luminous, thermal and electric, 
we come to a third class of problems touching the effects of 
diverse radiation on different kinds of matter. As to the 
effect of electric radiation, Bose was able to show that it 
induces a state of temporary or permanent molecular strain 
in matter attended by physical or chemical change in the 
substance. Since electric waves have turned out to be so 
similar in their nature and behaviour to those of light, may 
they not also have molecular reactions more or less similar 
to the photographic effect ? In the concluding part of 
his Electric Touch paper, Bose says : 

The effect of electric radiation (like visible radiation of light) 
is to produce rearrangement of the atoms or molecules of a sub- 
stance ; so does light produce new atomic or molecular groupings 
in a photographic plate. The contact-points of the coherer 
may therefore be regarded as corresponding to the particles 
of a photographic plate. Investigation on this aspect of the 
subject has given me some extraordinary results. They seem 
to connect together many phenomena which at first sight do not 
seem to have anything in common. I am at present trying to 
arrange an apparatus which will, by means of the pulsating 
galvanometer spot of light, automatically record the various 
molecular transformations caused by external forces. 

While the speculative hypotheses with which so many 
fruitful investigations begin have to be experimentally tested 
and verified before they can be published as contributions 
to positive science, it is their inception and development 
which are the main interest in any biographic treatment. 
Moreover, is not this view of any investigator, as struggling 
to criticise his dream, interesting and suggestive to other 


workers, and so to the teacher of science also ? The 
workers in every laboratory are taught patient accuracy, 
and so far so good ; but must we not encourage their free and 
varied speculation as well ? Have not the great discoveries 
been great dreams ? Are not Kepler's four laws the sur- 
vivors of innumerable speculations some say hundreds, if 
not thousands, of trials and guesses ? And did not Darwin 
defend and recommend even ' fool-experiments/ as he called 
them ? Many a new investigation has begun in this specu- 
lative and tentative way. 

A further perspective is here of interest. At first it 
seemed as if the discovery of ' touch/ or contact-sensi- 
tiveness, in the field of electric radiation had no parallel in 
that of optics ; but now we see it leading back from newly 
observed phenomena of electricity to the interpretation of 
those produced by light, and ultra-visible rays. The funda- 
mental unity of the long spectrum is thus further manifested 
and from one of its known extremes to the other, from 
electric to photographic. 

By some instinct or foresight, Bose had already, in 1896, 
when describing his receiving contact of the electric wave, 
likened it to a ' photographic particle/ and that premonition 
he was now able increasingly to substantiate. In a 
paper which we have here no space to review ' The Con- 
tinuity of the Effect of Light and Electric Radiation ' 1 
it was investigated in many forms of matter, and further 
generalised as well. Next, ' The Similarities between 
Radiation and Mechanical Strains/ at first hypothetical, 
were demonstrated experimentally, as by the construction 
of a ' Strain-cell/ in which a sudden twist, through measured 
angles, of one of two similar standard wires of any metal 
immersed in water, was shown to produce a definite and 
measurable amount of electro-motive force. The acted 
wire usually behaves like the zinc plate of the ordinary cell, 
but not always : some become copper-like. There are thus 
two classes of bodies, much as we have seen for electric 

1 Proc. Roy. Soc., 1901. 


radiation. The effects of recovery from moderate strain, 
and of overstrain beyond speedy recovery, were also 

Hence at length the interesting paper ' On the 
Strain Theory of Photographic Action/ 1 which, despite 
its technical detail, is in principle intelligible enough even 
to the non-photographer. The photographic effect in a 
sensitive plate is demonstrated by its ' development ' 
after exposure. This effect of light on sensitive substances 
may be fugitive or persistent, with gradations between. 
Bose's idea is that the image, with its lights and shadows, 
produced differential strains on the sensitive matter 
of the plate ; and that these differently light-strained 
particles are consequently unequally attacked and fixed 
by the developer. But if this image be correctly inter- 
preted in terms of molecular strain, gradual recovery is to 
be expected, with a subsequent fading of the image. The 
early photographers, with their daguerreotypes, were much 
troubled by this : hence subsequent photographic progress 
has largely been through making plates of more enduring 
quality. So that nowadays one goes on taking a series 
of plates and films to be developed at leisure. Such 
improved plates, on Bose's theory, simply delay or impede 
the molecular elastic recovery of the variously strained 
particles, which constitute the image, and hence give ample 
time for its development. The term ' Sensitiser ' may 
in many cases be a misnomer, since it may actually 
cause a retardation of recovery. 

But the time of recovery should have its limit, and 
it is here interesting to note that experience confirms 
this. After Bose's exposition of his theory at the 
Royal Photographic Society, one of the audience told 
how after a photographic tour in India the development 
of a batch of plates had been delayed by circumstances 
for two years. On then proceeding to develop, he found 
no image at -all : and this he had till then thought of as a 

1 Proc. Roy. Soc., 1901. 


mere spoiling by climate. But, as Bose's theory explains, 
he now saw it as a recovery of the plates from their 
image-strained condition. For some time later, wishing 
urgently to take a photograph, at a moment when he had 
not a single fresh plate available, it occurred to him, as a 
mere chance, to try one of those spoiled Indian plates, 
of which the development had been abandoned. To his 
agreeable surprise the new photograph was successful 
in fact, as if the plate had been a fresh one. He now for 
the first time understood, and brought his experience 
forward as a vivid confirmation of Bose's theory of strain 
and recovery. 

Substances may be sensitive, yet give no photographic 
image. For on the same general view, since almost all 
substances are molecularly affected by radiation, though in 
different degrees, and with very different rates of recovery, 
it is theoretically possible that we may alike vary the 
sensitive material for our photographic images, and find 
a widening range of developers for them. And in the world 
of nature our conception of activities of radiant energies 
through the whole spectrum, and of their effects upon 
recipient matter, similarly expand thereby. And if this 
is true throughout the range of inorganic matter, why 
should it not hold good in the living world as well, sensitive 
to radiation as we know it to be ? Here, however, we are 
somewhat outrunning the paper before us, though not its 
author's active mind. 

As examples of sensitive substances other than photo- 
graphic plates with their salts of silver, why not plates of 
other materials ? Moser had already obtained invisible 
images by prolonged exposure of clean silver and copper 
plates, which he developed with mercury vapour ; and 
Waterhouse had made similar experiments, even with 
lead and gold, using the common developers. Since Bose 
had found all metals sensitive to electric radiation, the 
sensitiveness to light also was what he expected, while the 
prolonged exposure found necessary was to provide the 


necessary strain in materials less sensitive to light than 
are silver salts. 

Mechanical pressures may also produce images capable 
of development, the so-called ' pressure-marks ' ; and, by 
electric strain, the ' inducto-scripts/ 

At this time (1901) Bose was interested in the question 
of obtaining photographs without the action of light. 
Various radio-active substances were being found whose 
emanations affected the photographic plate. But Bose 
worked with substances which ordinarily were not radio- 
active. A section of a dried stem of a tree exhibits con- 
centric markings, due to unequal growth in different 
seasons ; these different rings, according to Bose, should 
emit radio-active particles at different rates under the action 
of stimulus. He enclosed a section of a stem in a dark 
box, with a photographic plate in front of it, but not in 
contact. Outside the box were two metallic plates, which 
were in connection with a machine which caused rapid 
electric oscillation in the intervening space. Under the 
action of this stimulus the radio-activity of the wood was 
evidenced by an extraordinarily clear impression of its 
structure given on the photographic plate this, be it 
remembered, without the intervention of light. The accom- 
panying reproduction (Fig. 2) is the photograph of a leaf of 
Bo-tree taken by the above method. By taking similar 
photographs, he obtained remarkable results with various 
stones and crystals, which revealed characteristic differences 
in their composition. A new field of investigation was 
opened out for immediate exploration ; but all this had 
to be indefinitely postponed on account of another line 
inquiry which, as we shall see later, demanded his 
of undivided attention. 

His theory of molecular strain, however, has been fruitful 
in physical and chemical researches ; and subsequently 
found corroboration from Hartley in his work on the 
absorption spectra of solutions of metallic nitrates. In 
summarising his results he refers to ' three remarkable 


communications by J. Chunder Bose published in the 
" Proceedings of the Royal Society/' 1902. It is supposed 
on good grounds that " the effect of radiation is to produce 
a state of molecular strain." Experimental evidence is 
adduced which shows that the molecular strain caused 

FIG. 2. Photography without light. 

by the action of light, changes the physico-chemical 
properties of substances, so that it becomes possible to 
develop a latent image through differences in chemical 
stability as, for instance, by reducing agents.' Dr. Hartley's 
own experiments lent strong support to this, for the spectra 
obtained by him showed ' that the solutions of metallic 
nitrates are in a state of molecular strain.' * 

1 Journal of the Chemical Society, 1903. 


Enough now of this theory of photography : we may 
pass to Bose's ' Artificial Retina.' His various forms of 
electric receiver were sensitive to the waves longer than 
those of heat ; whereas the photographic plate is normally 
sensitive only to the short waves towards the opposite 
ends of the immensely long and varied spectrum. But, he 
asked, may it not be possible to find substances of wider 
and wider range of receptiveness ? The ideal substance 
would be one sensitive through this enormous range, and 
responding not only to our visible light, but to all the many 
octaves of the invisible light, which stretch out on each 
side of the single octave of our colour-sensation. Hence 
a new and systematic series of tests of the range of 
responsiveness of natural and artificial substances without 
number, which is indicated, as begun, in the paper on 
'Electric Touch,' but has never yet been completed and 
published. Still, the desired substance was at length 
found one so exquisitely sensitive to the long electric waves 
as to supersede previous materials in the electric receiver 
of wireless telegraphy, already mentioned ; yet giving also 
the same unquestionable galvanometric answer to thermal, 
luminous and ultra-violet rays. 

To reduce this all-perceiving super-retina to the level 
of our human perception was next easy ; for on placing 
in front of it a flask of water, to represent the aqueous 
humour, the electric and thermal rays are now absorbed, 
and thus can no longer be responded to ; and similarly as 
to some of the ultra-violet rays as well. Thus this ' retina ' 
could now practically only ' see ' the rays which are visible 
to ourselves and signal their impulse to its galvanometric 
' brain ' behind, while on removing the absorbent water its 
innumerable octaves of wider perception were restored. As 
Bose remarked, ' Perhaps we do not sufficiently appreciate, 
especially in these days of space-signalling by Hertzian 
waves, the importance of that protective contrivance 
which veils our sense against insufferable radiance/ Here, 
then, is a first -class example of ' the wonders of science ' ; 


in fact of its ' Natural Magic/ as the old physicist Porta 
called his book, still memorable for his description of the 
' Camera Obscura/ which is now reduced in size into the 
photographic camera. The camera is indeed a sort of 
giant eye ; and its sensitive plates are a kind of simple 
and inorganic retina. Correspondingly, the eye is a camera, 
and its / retina an organically elaborated sensitive plate, 
subtly layered for the perception of different shades of light. 
This further invention of Bose's incredible or un- 
canny though to some it seemed at first comes into line 
with our general and elementary understanding of eye 
and camera alike : the wonder is in its immense range 
of sensitiveness. Yet instead of finding any super-retinal 
elaboration, well-nigh beyond microscopic inquiry, still 
more beyond mere dissection, when we open the little globe 
of the electric eye, and take away its lens, this amazing 
super-retina turns out to be made but of two tiny crystals 
of galena, adjusted to contact-sensitiveness. That this 
common lead ore, this heavy sulphide, should of all known 
things have fullest sensitiveness to all ether-waves, of nature 
or of laboratory art, is worth reflecting on. Lead ' dull 
lead ' is less dull than we think ! And the characteristic 
response of the artificial retina next led Bose to discover, 
as we shall see later, certain unsuspected phenomena in 
human vision. 



INCREASINGLY throughout the preceding chapters there 
have incidentally appeared various parallelisms between 
the response of inorganic matter and phenomena we are 
accustomed to consider as characteristic of life. Indeed, 
but for the sake of brevity, these resemblances might 
have been multiplied. Still, to our physicist they were 
at first but incidental to his main inquiries. But as they 
multiplied they also grew more impressive, more and 
more close in their correspondence, and always under in- 
vestigation of the same experimental and precise character 
which marked the whole of the preceding physical work. 
Such precision was in fact unavoidable, since these in- 
creasingly physiological studies were carried on by exactly 
the same methods as he had so often verified, and which 
had become familiar and well defined. It is important to 
note this : because so complex are the phenomena of life, 
and so long have they been regarded as mysterious, that 
biological speculation and even experiment is open to 
suspicion of unsoundness, and not least among physi- 
ologists in regard to each other ; and hence, at their 
wisest, they are critical of themselves. It was with 
this caution and self-criticism that Bose began ; and 
not simply with a good deal of that fear and trembling 
which every respectable specialist feels when he ventures 
even to look over his neighbour's wall, still more to pluck a 
handful of the roses which are overhanging into his garden. 



For he had become fully aware of the commonly 
held belief in the West that while the East excelled in 
metaphysical speculations even to subtlety, it had no 
special aptitude for methods of exact science. In fact 
the capacity for concrete investigation was at that 
time commonly reckoned as due to some phreno- 
logical ' bump ' absent from the Indian make-up, and 
towering dome-like upon the Western skull alone. Hence 
Bose had, from his earliest days of physical work and 
teaching, the ambition at once of justifying and reviving 
the scientific aptitude of his countrymen, who moreover, as 
their old art and commerce show, are not without practical 
and skilful hands, and cannot have heads so exclusively 
religious and metaphysical as the concentrated study of 
Sanskrit literature had induced others to think. The 
experimental rigour of Bose's work, and the exquisite refine- 
ment, yet simplicity, of his apparatus, from this first wave- 
transmitter and receiver to the unprecedentedly delicate 
and exactly recording apparatus which his workshop keeps 
increasingly turning out to this day, are thus explained. 
And, as a matter of fact, the one criticism of the apparatus 
and research in the Institute which the writer has ventured 
to make from time to time is, that one might sometimes be 
fruitfully enough working with this or that instrument 
without the delay of demolishing and reconstructing it 
for the sake of some, after all, minute percentage of extra- 
exactitude. Yet he cannot but respect this also, and bear 
his testimony to the physicist's precision, which can endure 
no trace of inaccuracy. 

Let us return, however, to the new investigation, into what 
we may now begin to call ' the Response of the Living and 
Non-Living,' since that became the title of the volume of 
two years later, in which all these studies are summarised. 
It yielded such abundant and surprising results that Bose, 
for whom there was still no scientific public in India, nor 
even a single colleague with whom he could discuss his 
problems, was feeling the need of a new journey to Europe. 


A very cordial invitation fortunately came from the Inter- 
national Congress of Physics, which was one of the many 
world-gatherings arranged at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. 

The surprising results which Bose obtained had roused 
the interest of the new Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, and 
he decided to send Bose on a scientific deputation to Europe, 
as his predecessor had done four years before. He believed 
that ' the visit of Professor Bose to Paris will be of great 
advantage to the singularly original researches in which 
he is engaged.' Accordingly, Bose reached Paris in August 
1900, as a delegate from the Governments of Bengal and 
of India. 

Bose read his paper on the Response of Inorganic and 
Living Matter before the Paris International Congress of 
Physicists (1900). * Reference has already been made to 
Bose's observation of the curious phenomenon of fatigue 
exhibited by the receivers of his electric waves ; and of how 
fatigue was removed after a period of rest. The receiver, 
however, became insensitive when left idle for too long a 
period ; and in this latter case the inertness was removed 
by the stimulus of an electric shock. In this paper, however, 
Bose for the first time in science compares and parallelises 
the responses to the excitation of living tissues with those 
of inorganic matter. 

A muscle-curve registers the history of the molecular change 
produced by excitation in a living tissue, exactly as the curve 
of molecular reaction registers an analogous change in an in- 
organic substance. The two represent the same thing ; in the 
latter the molecular deformation is evidenced by the change 
of conductivity ; in the other the same deformation is mani- 
fested by the change of form. We have thus means of study 
of the molecular reaction produced by stimulus, of varying 
frequency, intensity and duration. An abyss separates the 
phenomena of living matter from those of inanimate matter. 
But if we are ever to understand the hidden mechanism of 

1 'De la Generalite desPhenomenesMoleculaires produits parl'6lectricit6 
sur la Matiere Inorganique et sur la Matiere Vivante,' Congres Inter- 
national de Physique, 1900. 


the animal machine it is necessary to face numerous difficulties 
which at present seem formidable. 

Then follows ' a comparative study of the curve of 
molecular reaction of inorganic and living substances.' 
First a curve from magnetic oxide of iron (Fe 3 O 4 ), slightly 
warmed, and then following it, one of the usual muscle 
curves, showing - a striking general resemblance to the 

This leads to further study of the behaviour of the iron 
oxide in comparison with that of muscle : (i) of the effect 
of a superposition of maximum excitations ; (2) that of 
summation of moderate excitations slowly succeeding each 
other ; and (3) that of rapidly succeeding stimuli. 'Alike for 
mineral and muscle, these effects are extraordinarily similar, 
and their curves correspond so closely in fact that either 
may be taken for the other. And in detail : (i) when the first 
excitation is at maximum, no effect is in either case ob- 
servable from a second stimulus ; (2) moderate excitations 
are summated ; and when in slow succession, the effect of 
each shock can be distinguished as steps in the ascending 
curve ; (3) when the stimuli are very rapid, the effects are 
combined, and the phenomenon known as tetanus appears 
in both alike. 

He also found that in many inorganic substances, when 
ordinary stimulus produces the normal ' negative ' effect, 
a feeble stimulus elicits the very opposite, i.e. positive. 
He was long puzzled by the dual result, not simply as 
being new to physics, but as yet without parallel in the 
observed response of living tissues. But, he asked himself, 
is this a real contrast between non-living and living ? 
or may not farther experiment disclose an analogous dual 
reaction in living things ? The inquiry led him to the dis- 
covery of certain living reactions of high significance. These 
will be treated later in greater detail. 

Iron oxide, when warmed, gives an enhanced response 
under stimulus ; and recovery is also much quickened ; 
but only up to a certain level, when both are again 


diminished. The same phenomenon is already well known 
for muscle, which of course similarly has its optimum, beyond 
which the response is diminished. Again, just as the 
fatigue of muscle is removed by rest, or by the gentle 
mechanical vibration of massage, or by variation of 
temperature, as by a warm bath, so is it essentially with 
the iron oxide. For this ' fatigue/ i.e. the diminution of 
response, can be removed by treatments exactly parallel. 

Next as to the effect of the injection of foreign sub- 
stances. Potassium, as we have seen, has great electric 
elasticity, and recovers from stimuli almost at once. But 
when it is treated with certain foreign substances, its first 
response appears unaltered, but in subsequent responses the 
power of recovery is almost lost. Similarly with the effect 
of certain poisons (e.g. veratine) upon muscle. 

In all the phenomena above described continuity is not 
broken. It is difficult to draw a line and say, ' here the physical 
phenomenon ends and the physiological begins,' or ' that is a 
phenomenon of dead matter, and this is a vital phenomenon 
peculiar to the living.' These lines of demarcation would be 
quite arbitrary. 

We may explain each of the above categories of phenomena 
by making a great number of independent hypotheses, or else 
discovering a constant property of matter common to all its 
forms, living and organised, dead and inorganic ; we may attempt 
on the basis of this common property, an explanation of the 
different phenomena, which at first seem so very different. And 
in favour of this latter view we may invoke the general tendency 
of science to seek, wherever facts permit, a fundamental unity 
amidst the apparent diversity. 

Bose's paper came as a great surprise ; and the Secretary 
of the Congress declared that he ' at first felt stunned.' 
The meeting soon realised the full importance of the 
subject, and many of its members expressed themselves 
enthusiastically over the new results. The paper was 
regarded as one of the most important received by the 
Congress, and it was published in its volume. 


So much for the reception of these ideas among Western 
men of science. Far deeper was the effect produced on 
the thoughtful among his own countrymen. Europe was 
still unconscious of a renaissance in India the uprising of 
an intellectual activity which was gathering strength ; but 
Indians rejoiced to find in Bose an exponent of the new in 
science, whom the West could understand and appreciate. 
Independent expressions of the feeling came ; Swami 
Vivekananda, who had impressed America by his eloquent 
enunciation of the philosophical and religious spirit of 
Vedanta, was then in Paris, and went to hear Bose at the 
Congress. In one of his letters (collected later as ' The 
Wanderer ') he writes : 

Here in Paris have assembled the great of every land, each 
to proclaim the glory of his country. Savants will be acclaimed 
here ; and its reverberation will glorify their countries. Among 
these peerless men gathered from all parts of the world, where 
is thy representative, O thou the country of my birth ? Out 
of this vast assembly a young man stood for thee, one of thy 
heroic sons, whose words have electrified the audience, and 
will thrill all his countrymen. Blessed be this heroic son ; and 
blessed be his devoted and peerless helpmate who stands by 
him always. 

In the field of literature Bose's lifelong friend, 
Rabindranath Tagore, not yet known in the West, but 
who had already given a deep impress to Bengali literature, 
sent him as his letter from India, a poem, of which the 
following extract is a close translation : 

Whence hast thou that peace 
In which thou in an instant stoodst 
Alone at the deep centre of all things ; 
Where dwells the One alone in Sun, Moon, flowers, 
In leaves, and beasts and birds, and dust and stones ; 
Where still one sleepless Life, on its own lap 
Rocks all things with a wordless melody, 
All things that move or that seem motionless. 


Call thou thy scholar-band come forth 
Out on the face of nature, this broad earth. 
Let them all gather. So may our India, 
Our ancient land, unto .herself return ; 
O once again return to steadfast work, 
To duty and devotion, to her trance 
Of earnest meditation. 

So far, then, goes the story of this Paris paper, told at 
greater length than usual, alike on personal grounds and 
because of its importance as including new departures. An 
essentially similar paper was next read before the Physical 
Section of the British Association at its Bradford meeting 
in September in 1900, and was cordially received by 
the physicists. At this meeting also several of the most 
prominent of them suggested to Bose to offer himself as 
candidate for an important chair of physics then vacant, 
and with warm assurance of their support ; but Bose was 
too loyal to his own country and University seriously to 
feel the temptation, though he naturally appreciated the 
compliment. A faint shadow was however felt by Bose 
at this meeting ; for he noticed that while the physicists 
were warm in their appreciation of his work, and readily 
took up his interpretations, the members of the Physi- 
ological Section, who had been invited to hear the 
paper as is the custom when ' boundary questions ' 
are raised looked perplexed and kept silent ; the method 
of experimentation, by this time familiar to the physicists 
from Bose's previous papers, being strange and unfamiliar 
to them. It may here be mentioned that this method of 
' conductivity-variation ' has since been used with great 
success in Bose's subsequent physiological work, and has 
now found acceptance among vegetable physiologists ; 
presumably by this time among animal ones as well. 

Before leaving India, Bose had begun to suffer from 
an illness which subsequently became serious, brought 
on by too continuous fatigue and constant standing 
at experiments. After being unsuccessfully treated in 


Calcutta, it was neglected by the sufferer until he broke 
down in London after the Bradford meeting, with the 
result that two months were lost between operation and 
recovery. But in this enforced idleness some further 
thinking was done, with devising of experiment in ways 
more familiar to physiologists. On recovery, he got to 
work by December 1900, at the Davy-Faraday Laboratory 
of the Royal Institution, to which he had been cordially 
invited by his old friends and teachers, Lord Rayleigh and 
Sir James Dewar. An assist- 
ant was found, Mr. Bull to 
whose punctual, intelligent, 
and skilful carrying out of 
experimental work Bose still 
looks back with peculiar 
satisfaction. For thus so 
admirably seconded, the lost 
time was rapidly made up, 
and new experiments were 
quickly carried out in many 
new directions. On leaving 
London, Bose was able to 
interest his friends in finding 
continued outlet for Mr. 

Bull's abilities. He has since become head of the Photo- 
graphic Department of the London Polytechnic, where 
Indian students find from him a ready welcome. 

This winter's work became more and more physiological ; 
yet, looking at his problems from both sides, he was now 
occupied not only with the physics of Physiology, but with 
what we may call the physiology of Physics. The com- 
parison of the responses of the living and non-living, out- 
lined in the above Paris paper, was now attacked afresh, 
by the electro -motive variation method, to which physi- 
ologists were accustomed ; and the curves given by metals 
and muscles were worked out afresh, and with a fuller 
experimentation, including the effects of fatigue and of 

FIG. 3. Electric response of metal 
showing fatigue (tin). 


stimulating, depressing and poisoning drugs. The non- 
living and living alike gave responses which were essentially 

Revolving these results in his mind, it occurred to Bose 
in his constant alternation of self-criticism and cosmic out- 
look, that if the striking continuity between such ex- 

tremes as metal and 
animal be real, then 
a test should be 
afforded by ordinary 
plants, hitherto 
reckoned as unre-. 
sponsive. Full of 
this idea, Bbse 
rushed out into the 
garden plot of his 
London lodging and 
gathered the first 
leaves of its horse- 
chestnut tree just 
opening ; and on 
testing one of them, 

FIG. 4. Action of stimulant in enhancing ne found it respond 
response of metal (platinum). In this . r 

and in following records the first series Vigorously. He next 
exhibit the normal response ; the subse- 
quent series show the effect of chemical 


found his carrots 

and turnips despite the stolid and prosaic aspect by 
which we have too long misjudged them turning out to 
be highly sensitive, even in their very roots. Some sea- 
kale, however, gave little or no response. On inquiry the 
greengrocer explained that it had suffered on the journey 
to London from a fall of snow; and fresh specimens on 
a later day gave full response. 

The normal similarity in the response of metal, plant, 
and animal was thus established, by many tracings of their 
curves ; and the next experiments were on the effects of 

nff tn 

greengrocer, and 


narcotics and poisons. On application of chloroform, plant 
response disappeared, just as it does for the animal ; and 
with timely blowing off of the narcotic vapour by fresh 
air, the plant too revived, and 
recovered to respond anew. 
Poison was applied to a fresh 
specimen, and as it absorbed the 
poison it exhibited a modification 
of the curve of response extra- 
ordinarily similar to that of the 
dying muscle ; and for the plant 
as for the animal, response came 
to an end altogether an appar- 
ently clear indication of death. 
Various drugs, poisonous in 
quantity, were found to act as 
stimulants when given in minute 

Now here comes in the value 
of a fresh mind, untrammelled 
by the customary prepossessions 
of the biologist. Neither bot- 
anist, zoologist, nor physiologist 
had ever thought or from his 
outlook would be likely to 
think of attempting to poison 
a metal : he would have con- 
sidered the very idea of such 
an experiment absurd. But here 

the physicist, unburdened by biological tradition, and ruth- 
less in his logic from previous experiences of unexpected 
correspondence, made all these experiments, and on a 
whole series of metals. Tin, zinc, brass, and even platinum, 
were alike dosed in succession with various poisons ; with 
the startling results of curves of response similar to 
those of the poisoned plants and animals, and like 

FIG. 5. Action of poison in 
abolishing response of 
muscle (uppermost 
record), plant (middle 
record), and metal (lowest 


them coming to an end. Oxalic acid was found specially 
effective, to which tin, the most sensitive of metals, imme- 
diately gave way : even platinum, chemically the most 
inert of the noble metals, soon succumbed. Recalling 
Darwin's observation of the stimulating action of ammonium 
carbonate on the sundew, Bose tried this on his metals, 
and with the surprising result of its augmenting their 
normal response, even three- or fourfold. Again, toxic 

FIG. 6. Stimulating action of minute quantity of ' poison ' which in 
large doses abolishes the response of metal. 

agents, which in large doses poison the plant, but in minute 
doses stimulate it, were found to have precisely similar 
effects upon the metals ; and similarly with certain other 

So striking was this correspondence, that one day when 
Bose was beginning to show his records to Sir Michael Foster, 
the veteran physiologist of Cambridge, the latter picked 
up one and said, ' Come now, Bose, what is the novelty in 
this curve ? We have known it for at least the last half- 
century.' ' What do you think it is ? ' said Bose. ' Why, 
a curve of muscle response, of course.' ' Pardon me ; it is 
the response of metallic tin.' ' What ! ' said Foster, jump- 
ing up ' Tin ! Did you say tin ? ' On explanation, 


his wonder knew no bounds ; and he hurried Bose 
to make a communication to the Royal Society, which 
he (then Secretary) offered to communicate. Finding 
that Bose was already invited to give an account of these 
discoveries as a Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal 
Institution, he said, ' Well, make us a preliminary com- 
munication immediately, and thus secure your priority, 
and that of the Society, and then you can give us a demon- 
stration later on at the meeting next month.' This was 

In this Royal Institution discourse (May 10, 1901) 
Bose marshalled the results he had been obtaining for 
the last four years and demonstrated each of these by a 
comprehensive series of experiments. But as these are 
outlined above, it is enough to quote the peroration : 

I have shown you this evening autographic records of the 
history of stress and strain in the living and non-living. How 
similar are the writings ! So similar indeed that you cannot 
tell one apart from the other. We have watched the responsive 
pulse wax and wane in the one as in the other. We have 
seen response sinking under fatigue, becoming exalted under 
stimulants, and being killed by poisons, in the non-living as in 
the living. 

Amongst such phenomena, how can we draw a line of 
demarcation, and say, here the physical ends, and there the 
physiological begins ? Such absolute barriers do not exist. 

Do not these records tell us of some property of matter 
common and persistent ? Do they not show us that the 
responsive processes, seen in life, have been fore-shadowed in 
non-life ? that the physiological is related to the physico- 
chemical ? that there is no abrupt break, but a uniform and 
continuous march of law ? 

If it be so, we shall but turn with renewed courage to the f 
investigation of mysteries, which have too long eluded us. For 
every step of science has been made by the inclusion of what 
seemed contradictory or capricious in a new and harmonious 
simplicity. Her advances have been always towards a clearer 
perception of underlying unity in apparent diversity. 

It was when I came upon the mute witness of these self- 


made records, and perceived in them one phase of a pervading 
unity that bears within it all things the mote that quivers in 
ripples of light, the teeming life upon our earth, and the radiant 
suns that shine above us it was then that I understood for the 
first time a little of that message proclaimed by my ancestors 
on the banks of the Ganges thirty centuries ago 

' They who see but one, in all the changing manifoldness of 
this universe, unto them belongs Eternal Truth unto none 
else, unto none else ! ' 

The Royal Institution lecture was highly appreciated ; 
and its totally unexpected revelations naturally created 
wide interest throughout scientific circles, and even in the 
press generally. So far Bose's earlier success, both scientific 
and popular, which had been earned by his previous work 
and on his visit four years before, had been fully repeated, 
and even surpassed. But now his troubles began. 

Here may be recalled an old and proverbial summary 
of the progress of ideas scientific and other that people 
first say : ' It is not true ' ; and next : ' It is not new ' ; 
and then often later : ' We knew it all before/ The last is 
indeed the commonest of these sayings in India ; but in 
Europe we generally begin with the other two. 

After his preliminary communication Bose read his 
paper at the Royal Society on June 6, 1901, with full 
and detailed experimental demonstration. The paper 
seemed as well received as usual, but the blow was now 
to come ; and this from no less than Sir John Burdon 
Sanderson, who was then, and for many years had been, 
' the grand old man ' of physiological science in England. 
His work, moreover, had largely lain not only in the 
study of the behaviour of muscle and nerve under stimu- 
lation, but very specially upon the movements of the Venus' 
fly-trap (Dionsea), to which Darwin had first called his 
attention, and to the electrical physiology of which he had 
devoted unsparing labours during many years. He thus 
stood out as a peculiar authority on the electro-physiology 
both of animals and plants so far as was then known ; and 


his interest was still so keen that he had come up from 
Oxford for this paper. He was naturally the person 
to whom a]l looked to open the usual discussion after 
the paper. He began with a compliment on Bose's 
previous physical work ; but then said it was a great pity 
that he should leave his own sphere of study, in which he 
had attained such acknowledged distinction, for other fields 
which properly belonged to the physiologists. Professor 
Bose's paper was still under consideration for publication; 
but he might give him the advice that the title should be 
changed from ' The Electric Response ' to ' Certain Physical 
Reactions/ so leaving to physiologists the use of their term 
' Response/ with which physicists are not concerned ; and 
further, as to the electric response of ordinary plants 
described at the end of the paper, he would say that it 
was absolutely impossible, since he had tried to detect it 
for many years past, and never could obtain any. It 
simply could not be ! 

Another well-known professor of physiology, also an in- 
vestigator of the reactions of muscle and nerve, followed 
Sanderson, and substantially supported him. Two physicists 
each asked one or two questions, and expressed themselves 
satisfied with all the experiments just demonstrated. Bose 
was then called on to reply. He understood that the 
facts experimentally demonstrated were not questioned 
by either of his critics. Instead of these being in any 
way impugned on their experimental evidence, he was 
asked on mere authority to make modifications, which 
altered the purpose and meaning of the paper, and to with- 
draw experimental facts among those which he had just 
been demonstrating. It seemed to him inexplicable that 
the doctrine could be advocated and in the Royal Society 
of all places that knowledge should advance so far 
and no further ; so he could on no account alter a word 
of the paper, even at the risk of a refusal of publication, 
unless he were shown, on scientific grounds, wherein the 
experiments he had just shown were faulty or defective. 


He expected experimental criticism, and was prepared for 
it, but not one word of that had been brought forward 
by either of his physiological critics. 

After this no one spoke, and the meeting separated, 
with formal thanks to the author of the paper ; but further 
trouble was in store. Sanderson from this time felt deeply 
offended ; for his was an intricate and Gladstonian mind, 
one of authority and influence, accustomed to be unques- 
tioned. He was given, alike in science and in life, to 
balancing different view-points and interests, and evolving 
compromises accordingly ; and that a young and direct 
mind would challenge such a courteously-worded com- 
promise, and in such outspoken fashion, must have 
utterly surprised and wounded him. Moreover, this direct 
contradiction of his negative results from plants, by Bose's 
positive ones, could not but be felt very keenly. Yet 
Bose on his part could not be expected to accept the situa- 
tion. His physical papers had been judged on their 
scientific merits, and his papers had hitherto found ready 
acceptance, his reputation for accurate work being well 
known. But here was an opposition based on no scientific 
grounds. He felt that as a physicist he was regarded as an 
intruder in the domain of physiology. As an unsophisti- 
cated man from the East, he had seriously taken the lessons 
preached by the West about the evils of the caste 
system ; but here he felt he had come against a yet 
worse system of caste whose etiquette he had unwittingly 
offended. Lord Rayleigh told him later that he him- 
self had been subjected to ceaseless attacks from the 
chemists, because he, a physicist, had ventured to pre- 
dict that the air would be found to contain a new element 
hitherto unsuspected ; yet, in spite of the protests of the 
chemists, his prediction, as is well known, was verified by 
the discovery of Argon. 

The paper, of which, according to custom, the proof had 
been circulated among the members before the meeting, 
was thus not published in the Royal Society's ' Proceedings,' 


but placed in the Society's ' Archives ' a fate which has 
befallen other notable papers before : e.g. that anticipation 
of the kinetic theory of gases which was unearthed and 
published by Lord Rayleigh a few years ago decades after 
its writer's death. Here it may be explained that the 
practice of the Royal Society with regard to the papers it 
publishes in its ' Proceedings ' and ' Transactions ' differs 
notably from that of the French Academy of Sciences, with 
its ' Comptes Rendus.' In the latter every paper read is 
printed, and issued forthwith on its writer's responsibility 
alone, without thereby suggesting the formal acceptance of 
the Academy, or even the approval of any of its members, 
beyond the one who has thought enough of it to present it 
to the meeting. The Royal Society, on the other hand, has 
its Publication Committees, so that the issue of any paper 
indicates that it has passed the scrutiny of one of these, 
and with at least a preponderance of acceptance. There 
is something to be said for each method : that of the French 
is democratic, since strictly in the worker's interest, of 
getting his idea known, without any delay ; that of the 
English is in the corporate interest, and so far necessarily 
hierarchic. Bad papers can thus more easily appear in the 
' Comptes Rendus ' than in the ' Proceedings.' For the latter, 
novel ones may sometimes be rejected or, as in this in- 
stance, shelved. This editorial process in any case is apt to 
be slow ; for while papers read in Paris appear regularly, 
at least in abstract, the week following, those at London 
may take months, sometimes even a year or two, especially 
when publication in the more dignified quarto form of 
the ' Philosophical Transactions ' is concerned. Papers by 
workers whose habitual soundness and accuracy have 
become known to the* relevant committee, of course 
get printed with little or no delay, and this had been 
the case with all Bose's physical papers. For the 
present one there was also no delay ; he had indeed 
settled its fate himself, and the paper was relegated to 
the Archives. 


Here now was the sharpest of interruptions to a career 
hitherto so successful ; and the contrast was a deeply 
painful one indeed as yet the severest shock of Bose's life. 
The blow was not simply for himself, as for any ordinary 
man of science in Britain ; but, as he clearly saw it, full of 
threatening omen for his future scientific career in India, 
imperilling his as yet limited facilities for new work, and 
his newly risen hopes of scientific support towards their 
increase. The news in fact at once went out to India, and 
in crude and exaggerated form ' Bose's work and paper 
are rejected by the Royal Society ' and thus of course 
with suspicion thrown upon his previous work as well. 

In a fortnight, too, his time in England would be 
up : his passage was already taken. But he saw that he 
must fight the matter out and justify himself ; so, without 
delay, he explained the situation and applied to the India 
Office for an extension of his period of deputation. He 
was told that this was without precedent, and could not be 
granted. A year's ordinary leave was due to him, as he had 
done the necessary service ; but it was next pointed out 
that this could only be arranged for in India, through his 
own College, as a matter with which the India Office does 
not interfere. However, it would take advice. Unluckily 
for Bose, the physiologist to whose advice they referred the 
matter was one belonging to the hostile group ; and the 
request was naturally declined. But nothing daunted, 
and determined to burn his boats if necessary, he wrote 
again, repeating the urgent and overpowering necessity 
he felt of justifying his result, and saying that he had 
resolved to remain in England to fight the matter out, and 
was prepared to take the consequences. The Secretary of 
State now personally looked into the matter, and as Bose 
through life had already, and has since so often, found 
his decision was made in the best English way. He was 
so favourably impressed by this uncompromising courage 
that he took the responsibility of granting an extension 
of deputation, and intimated the fact to Bose's College. 


Heartened by this, he went to work anew at the Royal 
Institution Laboratory. He at first feared a cold reception, 
but was consoled by a brother physicist : ' You can't 
poach on other people's preserves without some resentment ; 
and you've done worse you've upset their apple-cart.' 
He settled down to work for the vacation at his London 
home, and then returned to the Royal Institution when 
it reopened in October. Work abated depression, but did 
not remove it. About this time he was cheered by a letter 
from Professor Vines, the well-known botanist and vegetable 
physiologist of Oxford, who expressed interest, asked to see 
his experiments, and came accordingly to the Royal Institu- 
tion Laboratory, bringing with him Horace Brown, another 
effective investigator of the process of plant-life, and Howes, 
who was Huxley's successor at South Kensington. 

With the first application of stimulus to the plant, a wide 
swing of the galvanometer-mirror's light-beam along the 
scale demonstrated its sensitiveness. Never before had 
Bose seen three sober Englishmen so joyously excited : ' they 
were just as mad as boys.' Said Howes : ' Huxley would 
have given years of his life to see that experiment.' Said 
another : ' What did you do to let off steam when you dis- 
covered this ? You should shout, or you will kill yourself 
by repressing it.' Then in business mood : ' The Royal 
Society has not published your paper, so you can give it 
to the Linnean. We are its President and Secretary this 
year, so we invite you to read us a full paper. Show us 
your experiments ; and we will invite all the physiologists, 
and particularly your opponents.' 

We have seen how the account of Bose's discovery of 
Electric Response of Metals and of Ordinary Plants was rele- 
gated to the Archives of the Royal Society ; his paper before 
the Linnean Society, where his opponents were specially in- 
vited to attend, remained thus the only opportunity to meet 
all hostile criticism. On the eve of this paper he writes to 
a friend in India : ' If I ever give up this new line of inquiry 
it shall be through no compulsion, but through choice. I 


do not yet see my way clearly, but I shall take it up time 
after time, if only to show that one man's strength and 
resoluteness of purpose can face any combination. It is 
not for me to sit with folded hands in resignation. I do 
not believe in miracles : but the miracle shall happen this 
time ; for I know that I am fighting for the establishment 
of truth.' 

On the day after his paper (February 21, 1902) he 
writes again : ' Victory ! I stood there alone, ready 
for hosts of opponents, but in fifteen minutes the hall 
was resounding with applause. After the paper, Prof. 
Howes told me that as he saw each experiment, 
he tried to get out of it by thinking of a loophole of 
explanation : but my next experiment closed that hole.' 
All had gone well ; the speakers afterwards were glowing 
in their congratulations, in fact almost to ovation. The 
President wrote to him : 

It seems to me that your experiments make it clear beyond 
doubt that all parts of plants not merely those which are known 
to be motile are irritable, and manifest their irritability by an 
electrical response to stimulation. This is an important step 
in advance, and will, I hope, be the starting point for further 
researches to elucidate what is the nature of the molecular 
condition which constitutes irritability, and the nature of the 
molecular change induced by a stimulus. This would doubt- 
less lead to some important generalisation as to the properties 
of matter ; not only living matter, but non-living matter as 

The disaster of the previous year thus seemed com- 
pletely retrieved ; and the paper, with full illustrations of 
apparatus, went for publication. But now came a new 
surprise not less sudden than had been the previous one, 
and even more painful. For any active scientific mind, 
confident of its new results, may brace itself up to 
maintain them, like the theologian of old, against the 
world. To be told that one's results are not credible, and 
then to prove them, is thus a triumph for scientific 


discovery ; and Bose accomplished this, within less than a 
year an exceptionally speedy success, as too often the 
sad history of science goes. But now the new blow fell 
alleged evidence that these results were not new that 
they were known before ! already discovered by some one 
else ! Results substantially similar to those obtained by 
Bose had been communicated to a London scientific society 
in November 1901 by the physiologist who had seen Bose's 
experiments before the Royal Society (June 1901) and had 
also taken part in the subsequent discussion. Bose learned 
of the new turn of affairs from a letter from Professor 
Howes, as the Secretary of the Linnean Society. A new 
period of depression followed, far deeper than the preceding 
one, but he rallied himself to reply, formally asking for an 
inquiry into the matter. This was at once granted. Vines 
and Howes, both also Fellows of the Royal Society, had 
fortunately seen proofs of Bose's paper there ten months 
before that at the Linnean, and five months before the 
other claimant's communication. Bose's lecture at the 
Royal Institution, a few days earlier than the Royal 
Society function, was also in print and in evidence. With 
all the facts before them, the committee of inquiry had no 
hesitation. Bose's right to absolute priority was completely 
established, and the paper was published accordingly. 

After Professor Howes, as Secretary of the Linnean 
Society, had fully inquired into the claim to priority which 
had threatened to prevent the publication of Bose's paper, 
he wrote to him unofficially : ' I am fully sympathetic and 
the facts you cite but confirm my original conviction. 
You have been mercilessly done by. But my advice to 
you would be that you should head your paper with a 
plain statement of facts, and beyond this you should leave 
fools alone.' 

Bose, however, now that he was vindicated, being satis- 
fied with the result, mindful of the chivalrous traditions 
of his boyhood's tales, not to pursue a defeated antagonist, 
and desiring the matter to pass, attenuated this state- 


ment to the utmost brevity and politeness. But this only 
renewed Howes's wrath, and turned it fully on Bose : ' I 
have no patience with you : Eastern courtesy is misplaced 
here ! You are trying to save his face. Mark my words ! 
People will forget this, and he will soon be your enemy 

The prediction indeed proved only too true, as Bose 
has repeatedly found to his cost ; isolated in distant India 
he could not directly meet the vague insinuations that 
were industriously spread by his antagonist about the 
accuracy of his work, thereby prejudicing him in the 
estimation of English physiologists. This sort of tactics 
was successful only in so far as it added difficulties to his 
work for the next nineteen years, but it failed ultimately, 
especially after Bose's two visits to Europe in 1914 and 
in the present year, when he had full opportunity of giving 
public and private demonstrations of his remarkable results. 
The physiologists who had previously been antagonised by 
deliberate misrepresentations now fully recognised the 
value of his discoveries and his new methods of experi- 
mentation. Bose has now no stauncher friends than the 
general body of physiologists who had been at first led to 
regard him as an intruder. 

After the two painful experiences related above, Bose 
was no longer satisfied with the traditional method of 
writing papers for scientific societies, with their delays and 
risks of publication. ' I should have been too lazy to write 
books, but this forced me/ Hence a new period of concen- 
trated energy began, and some hundreds of experiments 
were carried out in the next few months. The mass of these 
are included in his volume ' Response in the Living and Non- 
Li ving/ 1 which thus not only embodies the result of all 
his previous London lectures and papers, but notably ex- 
tends them in various directions. Of these advances some 
indications are given in a fresh paper to the Royal Society 

1 Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1902. 


in May, I902. 1 This one was printed promptly, and without 
any criticism or objection, although the writer made it the 
occasion of re-stating the very matters previously objected 
to. For though the paper is essentially physical, and in 
the physicist's form of technical expression, his curves 
of response of metals are more convincing than ever ; 
and no summary of what was coming to be his main 
thesis could be more unmistakable than what appeared 
in the paper now accepted by the Royal Society. ' The 
various phenomena connected with the response in inorganic 
substances the negative variation the relation between 
stimulus and response the increased response after con- 
tinuous stimulation the abnormal response converted into 
normal after long-continued stimulation the diphasic 
variation the increase of response by stimulants, decrease 
by depressors and abolition by " poisons " so-called all 
these are curiously like the various response-phenomena in 
living tissues. A complete account of the mutual relation 
between the two classes of phenomena will be found in a 
work to be shortly published, " On the Response in the 
Living and Non-Li ving." 

Here, then, was at any rate a reversal of that decision 
which had consigned his results to the Archives of the 

Herbert Spencer too, who was alive to scientific advances, 
acknowledged ' Response in the Living and Non-Living ' in 
cordial terms and with regrets that it was too late to avail 
himself of the new results in his ' Principles of Biology/ 

Enough, however, for the present of scientific researches 
and their controversies. For reader, as for writer, it may 
be a welcome change to turn to another side of experience 
and character, as developed in widely different environments 
from those of laboratory science. 

1 ' On Electromotive Wave accompanying Mechanical Disturbance 
in Metals/ Proc. Roy. Soc., 1902. 



IT is one of the many conventional beliefs of the industrial 
age, with its railways, steamers and telegraphs of yesterday, 
its aeroplane routes for to-morrow, that abundant and 
extended travel, still more world-commerce, are essentially 
modern affairs, and that our forefathers, in any and every 
land, were practically all quiet stay-at-home people, knowing 
little beyond their self-sustaining village or their country 
town. But, as we look into the past, this too simple idea 
becomes shaken. Even in the early stone age we find 
flints unmistakably brought from afar ; and in this or 
that museum of Western Europe one may see a well-wrought 
neolithic jade, dug up in its own neighbourhood, which 
cannot have had a nearer origin than the Kuen Lun 
mountains in Central Asia. So the shell ornaments, 
frequently found in early inland burials, have been brought 
from shores often far distant. Later, again, the amber of 
the East Prussian shores is found in the excavations of 
Babylon. That ships of Solomon brought gold from its 
old workings in South Africa is a familiar suggestion, and 
likely enough ; and so on over the world. And though to 
our modern age of commerce and war, it has been the ancient 
weapon and the buried treasure which have most attracted 
attention, the religious past has also been steadily advancing 
its claims to what we now call internationalism. Of the 
wide and rapid extension of Buddhism throughout India 
and far beyond, and with return pilgrimages accordingly, we 



have the clearest evidence, from Hiuen Tsaing and earlier, 
to this day. Again, even this great religion was but one 
of a whole series of spiritual movements broadly con- 
temporaneous and surely interesting : witness the Zoro- 
astrians in Persia, ' the discovery of the Law ' in Jerusalem, 
the Pythagoreans of Greece and beyond, and so on, from 
the early founders of Rome to the Druids of the Celtlands 
from Gaul to the Hebrides. 

To understand Modern India we need better guidance 
than any of our modern writers, so often too strident, even 
to harshness, when not more or less narrowly specialised. 
For this we should need some truly European-spirited 
historian like Comte, or like Lord Acton ; and when he 
comes since we must first realise ourselves before under- 
standing others he will set before us those prehistoric and 
semi-historic traditions above touched on. He would next 
revive the unity of Roman days, from Clyde to Euphrates, 
and its interaction, not always hostile, with the northern 
barbarian world as well. He will not only renew for us 
Arthur, Alfred, Charlemagne, and more, as heroes of Europe, 
but behind all such champions of Christendom, show us 
Christendom itself, at its gentlest and best. He will make us 
feel anew the significance of the wanderings of St. Paul as a 
source of enduring impulse to the missions of Rome, of Ireland, 
of lona and Holy Isle ; as of Austin, Benedict, and others, 
throughout European lands ; and of later teachers farther still. 
He will trace the effect of such universally diffused re-idealis- 
ing of life in these medieval lay pilgrimages of all our peoples, 
with their faces set henceforward not only towards Rome 
or Santa Sophia, but to Jerusalem itself, of which even the 
Crusades were but the exasperated intensification. Within 
each land too, and even between them all, he will trace 
the pilgrims. Chaucer's genial company, riding towards 
Canterbury, is but a swan-song of this old spirit. To 
realise it more fully we must join all the great pilgrimages, 
as to Compostella, to Chartres, to Cologne and farther, for 
the West ; and similarly with East Europeans to Holy 


Novgorod and Kieff , to Mount Athos, and again to Jerusalem. 
And even in our Western cities, though the modern noises 
of machinery and cannon may have deafened us to the 
varying and ever-returning cadences of this pilgrims' chorus, 
we may feel its old spirit. Even in Ulster itself, that 
world-central survival of fanatic bitterness, we may still 
stand near St. Patrick's tomb and see the peasant, before 
he takes ship for America, scraping from above it a few 
grains of its soil into an old envelope to carry in his bosom 
till he dies, so that in that far-away alien land he may lie 
amid dust thus hallowed for his folk and faith. And if we 
have human feeling enough to respect a scene like this, 
however strange to our modern ways, why not also, on our 
way to India, respect the Haj/ which unifies another great 
faith, after all a kindred one, albeit Unitarian and abstaining ? 
Without some such sympathy how shall we understand our 
own most modern as well as most ancient fellow-citizens, 
the Jews, who beat us at our own games of business and 
politics, because they bear so deep in their hearts the 
memories and aspirations of their Holy City, and are even 
now carrying these into its renewal ? 

It is with such preparation then and not simply with the 
help of Baedeker and Murray, though brightened by all the 
picturesquely-coloured reporting of Kipling, of Ste evens, and 
the rest, or dulled by the school and college examination- 
routine of our administrators, our professional and business 
men, or by the conventionalities of politically-minded writers 
of whatever school or race that we may best approach 
and understand the greater aspects of India. For it is as a 
spiritual unity, underlying all the innumerable but more 
superficial differences, that India has primarily to be realised. 

We thus come to the Boses and their Indian travels. 
The physical sciences are based on observation ; the natural 
sciences yet more so ; but the social sciences need it most 
of all. In and through travel the social interests of men 
are peculiarly educated ; so that, though the traditionally 


religious motive of pilgrimage has faded in Europe and is 
fading in India, there is still no fear but that it will 
return upon our modern spiral. Neither Cook's tourists 
nor American ones may strike us as models of reverence ; 
but none the less it is their element of reverence which has 
sent the bulk of them so far therefore on true pilgrimage 
to the historic places of their world. Much more is this 
reverence persistent in India. So for both East and West ; 
as real and living education vitalises or replaces the tradi- 
tional official and commercial sorts, the socio-religious 
education of travel will grow up into a very real revival 
of the pilgrimages of old, however largely we may as yet 
prefer to describe it in more secular-looking terms, as of the 
wander-years of higher education. 

Now though here perhaps more consciously and definitely 
stated, yet none the less in essential spirit, we have been 
preparing to appreciate that side of Bose's life and larger 
education which may at first sight seem apart from his 
scientific studies, yet which none the less has nerved him 
for his best work, and above all for his Indian ambitions 
beyond his personal interests and achievements. Imme- 
diately after marriage he began, with his young wife, to 
devote the two annual vacations to seeing and knowing 
India and to realising what India has stood for ; and their 
experiences, especially if illustrated by a selection of the 
multitude of photographs which were thus made, might 
in themselves assuredly have made one of the best of 
individual records of Indian travel. But alas ! a few years 
ago a new and well-meaning servant, instructed to dust 
the collection of negatives, had thoroughly cleaned off every 
plate before his well-meant exertions were discovered ; 
while the pressure of scientific work through college term- 
times has kept the journal from being written. Yet vivid 
recollections survive, and the educative experience has been 
gained ; so that this Western-educated modern physicist 
also peculiarly and widely knows his country ; knows it as 
an Indian of Indians. 


Beginning broadly in historic order, with old centres 
and shrines before later ones, one of the young couple's first 
journeys was to the Sanchi Tope built by Asoka's queen 
over a relic of Buddha ; and with the life of the time carved 
upon its gigantic gateways. It was from Sanchi that 
Asoka's son and daughter went on the mission which estab- 
lished Buddhism in Ceylon to this day. Our present pilgrim- 
pair, having some adventure with dacoits by the way, went 
next to Mandhata with its huge old megalithic-based and 
iron-clamped gates of the temple, built at the junction of 
two sacred rivers which so readily and fitly becomes a 
sacred spot in India of the thrice sacred Nerbudda with 
the Tapti. They visited the adjacent temple ruins, whose 
legends link them with the heroes of the ' Mahabharata ' 
Bhima, Arjuna, and others. Another inspiring visit was to 
the noble old hill-city of Chitor, once and again the heroic 
centre of Rajput chivalry and woman's sacrifice tales of 
defeat surpassing those of its famous Towers of Victory. 
A j mere too, with its pilgrimage-centre of Pushkar on the 
lake, was duly visited. Next came the striking contrast of 
modern Jaipur, laid out with formal magnificence by its 
astronomer-prince, and of Amber, his ancestral hill-city 
one to the Western eye recalling, perhaps surpassing, that 
of Edinburgh, new and old. Agra and Delhi were, of 
course, also included. Another year, for health reasons, 
Naini Tal was taken as centre, with a visit to Lucknow by 
the way. From Naini Tal Bose went alone to the Pindari 
Glacier. A hairbreadth escape for guide and self proved 
only stimulating ; so the next year, starting by way of 
Almora, he piloted his wife and several friends to the glacier 
again. Another year, starting from Rawal Pindi, then the 
railway terminus, they made their way up to Baramulla, 
hired a house-boat for Srinagar, and saw much of the 
landscape beauty, the gardens and monuments of Kashmir. 
In two later years Kashmir was revisited, the last time as 
guests of the Maharaja, and so with fuller acquaintance, 
and a standing invitation to return. 


Another journey was through Orissa, with its famous 
temple of Bhubaneswar, its caves of Udaigiri and the great 
rock-inscription of Asoka, Puri with its Jagannath temple, 
the neighbouring ruins of Kanarak, the Chilka lake, and 
so on. The famous caves of A j ant a and Ellora were visited 
together ; and then again on a later journey with Mrs. (now 
Lady) Herringham and her group of Indian and other artist- 
collaborators on their task of copying the Ajanta paintings 
Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble) being also of the party. 
At Bankipur the excavations of Pataliputra, and the famous 
Persian and Moghul library, were duly visited ; and also 
the birthplace of Govinda Singh, one of that notable 
succession of saints and heroes who founded the Sikh 
religion. Another year the Sikh interest was followed up 
at its main centre Amritsar, with the golden temple. One 
journey to Lahore was to lecture in the University ; but 
again there were extended visits. Similarly the Bombay 
district was wandered through, largely for its cave-temples 
of Elephanta, Karli and Kenhari, and next the Mahratta 
country, with its associations of the struggles of the warlike 
Shiva ji. 

Again on their last return journey from Europe and 
America, in 1915, these ardent travel-comrades, landing at 
Colombo, travelled through Ceylon, visiting the ancient 
Buddhist temples, and thence came northwards through 
the great temple-cities of the south, from Rameswaram by 
Madura and Tan j ore, to Trichinopoly and Srirangam 
places of which the writer has lately written an interpretative 
eulogy, even venturing to correct the estimate of Ferguson. 1 
At the last named Bose was not only shown all that ordinary 
Indian visitors may see, but invited to enter the inmost 
precincts the Holy of Holies. He explained that he was 
not an orthodox Hindu, and no longer believed in caste, and 
had lost it in any case by his journeys to foreign countries 
across the sea ; and so he had no light to enter the 

1 ' The Temple Cities,' Modern Review, March 1919. 

sanctuary. ' No, no/ said the priest. ' Come in. You 
are a Sadhu.' 1 

Several visits too were made to the Kumaon district, 
one with a stay with the monks at Mayavati ; and each 
time with visits to the villages an element indeed running 
through all these journeys, and an interest no less real than 
that in the monuments and associations of the past. And 
in India, though definite historic record be too often lacking, 
in the present village and the past legends, the traditional 
spirit none the less survives ; and the simplest -seeming 
villagers are thus often deeply imbued with Hindu culture 
and mythology. With all these journeys such interests 
could not but strengthen. 

At Budh-Gaya under whose pipal tree, still represented 
by its descendant, Buddha attained his illumination a 
vacation was largely spent as guests of the Mahanta (the 
Abbot), whose conversations increased their insight into 
the spirit of Buddhism. Then too they saw the old city 
of Rajgir, where Buddha pleaded for the lives of the goats 
from its king, and which was the scene of the first assembly 
of his faith after his death. 

Such interest in the ancient centres of Indian learn- 
ing had an old and natural nucleus in youthful memories 
of Vikrampur and its traditions. Hence our pilgrims 
went at one time to Taxila, with its excavations now guided 
by Hiuen Tsaing's travel- journal of thirteen centuries 
ago ; and at another time to the ruins of Nalanda, to 
which Hindus look back as a great University, which had 
in the days of Athens thousands of students, including 
some from other lands beyond India. But of all journeys 
the best remembered seems that which was most of 
the traditional pilgrimage character to Badrinath and 
Kedarnath, the goal of the last journey of Judhisthira, 
one of the heroes who there sought his end. For this long 
journey the start begins with what is the terminus for 

1 A Sadhu is a man who has devoted himself to the contemplative 
and religious life, whether as hermit or wanderer. 


most pilgrims Hardwar, where the Ganges emerges from 
the mountains and enters on the plain. Three weeks' 
journey uphill from the railway was needed, with mules 
carrying all necessities of life, Bose riding or walking, 
Mrs. Bose sometimes walking, sometimes carried on light 
stretchers. On this journey, more fully than ever 
before, they felt themselves as in and of the pilgrim 
throng from all parts from Ceylon and Comorin, Bengal 
and Orissa, in fact every part of India. Never had 
they seen such intensive influence of religion at once 
traditional and natural ; for all the pilgrims were attuned 
and in accord, and greeting each other as friends without 
thought of caste. Every face was glowing with fervour 
as the great snows appeared ; and the cry of ' Jai 
Kedarnath ! ' (Glory to the God of Snows !) passed from lip 
to lip. Men and women alike were transfigured in trances 
of prayer and its reward of ecstasy. A blind man groping 
his way up a narrow and dangerous path, a mere cliff edge, 
when told, ' Friend, take care ! ' answers, ' Why need I be 
afraid when He is leading me by the hand ? ' 

No wonder then that Bose, after recalling these memories, 
should say, ' With all these experiences, India has made 
me and kept me as her son. I feel her life and unity deep 
below all.' 

This essential unity of India, which lives most deeply 
in the spirit of religion and in the soul of woman, is also 
clear in old-world statesmanship ; a vivid illustration of this 
was given as recently as the late eighteenth century by Queen 
Ahilyabai, the gentlest, but not the least effective, ruler 
of the notable and warlike dynasty of the Holkars. From 
her beautiful little capital of Maheswar on the Nerbudda 
itself a place of pilgrimage, some forty miles or so south 
of the present State capital of Indore, and hence a 
representative spot for Central India she sent the funds 
and chose the builders to erect four new temples at the 
extreme points of India north, south, east and west ; and 
thus encouraged further pilgrimage. 


The notion is often expressed by English journalists, 
and even by officials who ought to know better, that 
Indian unity is a recent ideal of lawyers and politicians 
taken from Mazzini and absorbed by unrestful youth ; 
and it is true enough that there are minds which thus 
too simply view it, through that education in European 
nationalism and liberalism which an orator can so logically 
adapt and so eloquently re-voice. But India's real unity 
is something incomparably older and deeper : it rests on 
sacred and epic literature and legend for the people, and 
on great and ancient philosophies, which are not merely 
cultivated by the classically educated, but deeply diffused, 
for good and evil, throughout the people as well. All this 
variety of cultural influences, in essential harmony and (to 
us strangely) free from intolerance, has from unnumbered 
ages been steeping into the Indian villages with their old 
economic self-sufficiency and moral solidarity : hence the 
apparent heterogeneity, of languages and castes, and of 
mingled and changing Hindu, Mohammedan and European 
rule, has mattered far less than we are wont to suppose. 

India then, though not a nation in a European sense, 
is something not merely less, but more. It is rather the 
analogue of Europe : and though even vaster in population, 
and more varied in climates and peoples, has a more diffused 
and an often deeper community of spirit. Not simply 
then through any mere political changes can this unity 
be more adequately realised though on the modern spiral 
some may think so but also, and more deeply and surely, 
through her cultural spirit. That spirit not even the con- 
quests of Islam have broken, nor yet the modern rule and 
other influences of the West. This it is which is stirring 
towards its renaissance, as the religious groups of the past 
generation, or the political groups of the present, alike 
show : and this it is which will more fully revive its old 
values, and adjust them anew with those of the Western 
world. This indeed is what many of its pioneers, like 
Bose among others, have throughout their lives, and each 


in his own way, been doing, and yet more fully preparing 

Instead then of always looking at India as a country 
with everything to learn from the West, and nothing to 
teach it, as the superior Western fashion has too long been, 
we are finding that we also have something to learn 
though as yet we may think only from Indians in the first 
rank, like Bose, Tagore, and perhaps a few others. But 
we have to learn something from the Indian culture itself ; 
and perhaps especially now in the present situation of 
Europe, torn into embittered halves, and these again 
subdividing without end along every old division of 
languages and nationalities, intensified by the recent 
Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, and other mythologies of race. 
And with even all those divisions more or less splintering 
across and estranged anew by the spreading rift of labour 
towards revolution. 

Suppose now we students, men of science, of letters, 
or of art, though hitherto so non-political, begin to consider 
how we may help forward something of that true peace and 
good will to which our best statesmanship indeed aspires, but 
can never by mere treaties realise, nor by political leagues 
obtain. Must we not again look to all that is best in each 
country's history and civilisation ? which should be found 
in its rural villages, its cities' past ? How else, for instance, 
has that old and bitter feud and mutual hate, so long second 
to none in duration and intensity in Europe that between 
Scots and English come to an end ? By growth of mutual 
knowledge and understanding, even more than by common 
advantage. How else abate the old bitterness, and the 
renewed alienation of Ireland ? how inspire a saner feeling 
in England where for so long it has been so far from 
that desirable ? Without some respect and good will 
for France as for Belgium, would the English people have 
risen to support them as they have done, even despite 
their admitted and manifest material interest ? And 
without that increasing sympathy with European culture 


which American travellers have been taking home these 
two generations, would their present virtual reincorpora- 
tion with Western and Mediterranean Europe have been 
possible ? 

The reunion of Europe, then, can most strongly, even 
if slowly, be made through the education of travel. 
Not merely in the recent tourist spirit, at least in the 
cruder forms ; but in that combining of the best of 
modern cultural travel with something of the old spirit 
of pilgrimage which that helps effectively to renew. The 
Brownings and Ruskin in Italy were examples of this 
union in their day : why not renew it more widely ? As 
Europeans grow more tolerant and more sympathetic, 
like the Indian travellers we have been following, our 
scheme of educational travel will grow and spread into 
fuller pilgrimages, which should be on the Indian scale 
throughout Baltic and Mediterranean lands alike, from 
Scandinavia to Spain, and thence to Greece and beyond. 
Why not east and west, from Russia to Ireland, indeed 
to America as well ? with ever increasing appreciation 
of all their regional and civic interests, the natural, 
the- spiritual and the temporal together, and in aspects 
historic, actual and incipient. Does this seem ' Utopian ' ? 
It is after all but what the tourist and the wandering nature- 
lover, the art-student, and the historian have long been 
doing, and what the regional agriculturist and town 
planner are now in their turn doing. To-day it lies with 
re-education, with reconstruction, and with re-religion 
as well, to organise all these contacts more fully. In 
view of the real and profound unity and all but universal 
tolerance, in spite of many imperfections and drawbacks, 
the recovery of some such measures of spiritual unity 
as her children feel cannot be unattainable in the West, 
the more since this once was a living force in the old days 
of Christendom a force which, so far from having lost its 
old appeals, is indeed for ever reviving. 

Not only is the cultural and spiritual value of a large 




experience of travel manifest in Bose's general outlook, 
at once ranging over India and the West ; but it was 
also of more than frequent scientific suggestiveness. One 
cannot, of course, explain mental incidents like the 
unexpected flash of this or that new physical or biological 
insight, or fresh plan of investigation, amid some scene 
of natural beauty or venerable antiquity, beyond the 
emotional and mental stirring such scenes so readily give. 
But Bose's ardent temperament could not but feel Asoka's 
inscription of old as a vivid call and command to his own 
life : ' Go forth and intermingle ; and bring them to the 
righteousness which passe th knowledge. Go forth among 
the terrible and powerful, both here and in foreign coun- 
tries in kindred ties even of brotherhood and sisterhood 
... everywhere/ 

Nor is it to be wondered at that among the excava- 
tions of Taxila, and again among the ruins of Nalanda, 
he should feel that it was not only their old University 
spirit thrilling within him, but the common spirit of 
all Universities. These visitings peculiarly awoke and 
strengthened in him the perception that his life-work was to 
be more than one of personal purpose and scientific character 
more even than the organisation of a physical laboratory, 
even of the best ; and that what he must henceforth aim at, 
and think out, and work for should be nothing less than 
recreation of some yet fuller centre of intellectual quest 
and diffusion, like those of old. First of all for India : 
yet also, like those, with contacts and impulses to all the 
world beyond. In this old pride of India as she was, and 
hopes of her as she may be, on one hand, no less than in 
his peculiarly full and wide participation in Western science 
on the other, we see at once the two uniting forces which 
found expression in the foundation of the Bose Research 

And with this better understanding of the man, upon 
his Indian side, and his ever-widening cultural sympathies 
and outlooks, we may return to his scientific work. 



AT the outset of this intricate subject a brief and per- 
sonal outline may be given. In his investigations on 
response in general Bose had found that even ordinary 
plants and their different organs were sensitive exhibiting, 
under mechanical or other stimuli, an electric response, 
indicative of excitation. If this were so, it puzzled him 
greatly that so-called ordinary plants should not give 
any indication of excitation by visible movement. In the 
best known of sensitive plants, Mimosa, the leaves, on being 
irritated, strikingly respond by a sudden fall of the leaf, 
due to contraction of the lower half of the cushion-shaped 
and joint-like leaf -base, the ' pulvinus/ Bose noted that 
the contraction of the pulvinus was small ; it was the long 
leaf-stalk which here acted as a magnifying index. He 
therefore thought that the .contraction due to excitation 
may be present in ordinary plants, and may only have 
escaped the attention of other workers. To test this antici- 
pation, he attached a similar magnifying device to ordinary 
plants, and was rewarded by finding that they too 
answered to stimulus by a distinct contraction. He there- 
fore entered into a long series of investigations in which 
the mechanical response of the plant indicated its state of 

For recording the responsive movement Bose employed 
his device of the ' Optical Lever/ by which the movement 
was greatly magnified. He was thus able to demonstrate 

1 20 


that ' all the characteristics of the responses exhibited by 
the animal tissues, were also found in those oj the plant.' 
The results of these extended investigations, embodied 
in a series of seven papers, were communicated to 
the Royal Society in December 1903. They were 
regarded as of such importance that the Royal Society 
accepted them for publication in their 'Philosophical 
Transactions/ But the same hostile influence which had 
attempted the suppression of his Linnean Society paper 
was again in full activity. Bose was now away from 
England, and his opponents had their way. The Royal 
Society then informed Bose that their appreciation of the 
value of his work was shown by their willingness to accept 
his papers for the ' Transactions.' His results were, however, 
so unexpected and so opposed to current theories that 
nothing short of the plant's automatic record would carry 
conviction ; his papers would therefore be placed, for the 
present, in the Archives of the Society. 

This postponement, and virtual refusal, of publication 
for the condition laid down seemed at that time an 
impossible one was of course widely taken, and in India 
especially, as a strong, if vague, confirmation of the dubious- 
ness of Bose's alleged discoveries. But happily Bose's 
response to this combination of environmental stimuli, 
by turns so depressing and so exasperating, was of the 
intensity and duration required for the large and sustained 
experimental productivity summarised in the two books 
which Bose wrote for publication. 1 They include an 
amount of work and fresh result during the three years 
of their production to which there can be few parallels 
in science ; so that; despite the painfulness of these ex- 
periences, we can now hardly regret them. We must, in 
fact, rather congratulate their sufferer upon stimuli which 
have proved to be of such effective increase to his own 
movements and growth. 

1 Plant Response, 1906, and Comparative Electro-Physiology, 1907. 
Longmans, Green & Co. 


In taking up his researches on the response of plants 
Bose asked himself : 

How are we to know what unseen changes take place within 
the plant ? If it be excited or depressed under some special 
circumstances how are we to be made aware of it ? The only 
conceivable way would be, if that were possible, to detect and 
measure the actual response of the organism to a definite testing 
blow. In an excitable condition, the feeblest stimulus should 
evoke a large response. In a depressed state, even a strong 
stimulus should evoke only feeble response ; and lastly when 
death overcomes life, there would be an abrupt end of the power 
to answer at all. In short, under successive uniform stimuli, 
the change in the magnitude of the response should reveal to 
us the physiological changes induced by the environment. 

We might therefore have detected the internal condition 
of the plant if we could have made it write down its response. 
In order to succeed in this, we have to discover some compulsive 
force which will make the plant give an answering signal ; 
secondly we have to supply the means for an automatic con- 
version of these signals into an intelligent script. And last of 
all we have ourselves to learn the nature of these hieroglyphics. 

Hence, then, is the essential transition in Bose's work 
from physics to physiology. Now for a fuller outline of 
the series which opened with the Response of Inorganic 
Matter. They comprise a succession of six volumes, 
representing many years of work, and each not only sum- 
marising separate investigations and papers communicated 
to the Royal or other Societies, but with large accession 
of new material. The first of the series, * Response 
in the Living and Non-living ' (Longmans, Green & Co., 
1902), with 199 pages, has been already summarised above ; 
the second, ' Plant Response ' (Longmans, 1906), amounts 
to 781 pages, detailing 315 experiments ; the third, 
'Comparative Electro-Physiology' (Longmans, 1907), goes 
to 760 pages, with 321 experiments described, and as usual 
largely figured also. The next six or seven years' work was 
largely devoted to the perfecting of recording instruments ; 
but substantial results of work with them are also embodied 


in the fourth volume of this weighty series, as ' Researches 
on Irritability of Plants ' (Longmans, 1913), with 376 
pages and 180 experiments. The work of the years follow- 
ing appeared in the ' Philosophical Transactions ' of the 
Royal Society for 1913. That of 1917 and 1918 has been 
mainly published as ' Life Movements in Plants/ this being 
Vol. I of the ' Transactions of the Bose Research Institute ' 
(Calcutta, 1918), with its 251 pages, including 21 papers. 
Vol. II of the ' Transactions ' for 1919 is just published, 
with its 344 pages and 30 papers. After the publication of 
one more volume their fertile author hopes to conclude 
his researches on Plant Movements, and thus to turn to 
other classes of problems old and new, each long meditated, 
but practically delayed. 

Given this long series of six volumes, with well 
over 2500 pages describing a full thousand and more of 
experiments, with summaries of their results, the writer has 
found it no easy problem to attempt any reasonably intel- 
ligible account of their main results, such as has been 
already offered above in Chapter IV, for Bose's initial work 
with electrical waves. To do this at all adequately, 
for such a multiplicity of problems in the plant world 
explored by our author, within the limits of present 
space is impossible ; since fuller explanation, rather than 
further concentration, would often be desirable. For 
adequate summary, even of main results, an entire volume 
is needed, and such a volume only Bose himself can write. 

Moreover, a biography is like a portrait : it seeks 
essentially to depict the man, and it can at best only 
indicate the scope, the principle and process of his life- 
work ; its volume of accomplishment must in general 
be left to the specialists to whom they are addressed, 
while even their principal results in the present case are 
still only beginning to be adequately summarised for 
students of bio-physics and of vegetable and animal 
physiology (indeed of experimental psychology too) in 
the various text-books and treatises of these subjects 


which are from time to time prepared for them, in various 
countries and their languages. 

Still the reader may reasonably expect some broad 
indications ; and towards such the writer has laboured. 
Instead of attempting fully to summarise any of the 
volumes either singly or in succession, a fresh method has 
presented itself which, despite its diagrammatic (and there- 
fore at first sight unfamiliar) aspect, may be found helpful 
towards expressing the main stages of the active life-work 
here before us. If we can outline such a graphic present- 
ment, it should be applicable to kindred interpretations, 
of scientific work and individual development together. 
At any rate, as our physiologist has so long been striving 
to trace the curves of life in plants (and also in animals), 
let us try to mark down some essentials of his own life- 
curves of interests and growing achievements, and of his 
aims beyond. 

As the pool or lake reflects the starry sky, so we may 
think of the mind of science in general as the would-be 
complete mirror of the cosmos. But the action of each 
individual scientific mind, with its own rhythm of growth 
and development, is like a widening wave-circle, which we 
watch as it starts from its excited centre and extends 
upon the surface of the pool. It reflects fresh images to 
us as it advances ; yet it is none the less the same 
wave-circle all the time, continuous with its own 
past, as it- presses on towards its widening future. Its 
photographs then, at different phases of this development 
conveniently those of notably vivid reflections to our 
eyes preserve for us its characteristic record, its essential 

The succession of books just named are, as it were, so 
many records of what has been fundamentally one and 
the same thought-advance, in its extension, and also of 
course in its deepening. Each book is thus a record up to 
its date of this extending curve, or at least of a large arc 
of the curve, while this or that intervening paper is a 


minor arc of this again, or on the way to it. In the present 
series this process is peculiarly clear, in fact as typical as 
may be. 

Of course, no mind's survey is all-comprehensive ; hence 
a semicircle is ample for our diagram. This again we 
may divide into parts, for the elements of an extending 
survey, and these are four : the response of metal, of 
plant, of animal muscle and nerve, and finally the 
corresponding physico-psychological interpretation as far 
as may be. A reconsideration of the facts already known 
to physiologists of the responsive behaviour to the stimuli 
of the physical environment of animal tissues, muscle and 
nerve, when taken in conjunction with our physicist's 
discoveries as regards the behaviour of inorganic matter 
under stimulus, led him to that remarkable discovery 
of the curve of response of metals so strictly similar 
to the response of animal tissues already noted ; and 
this correspondence next naturally led to that inquiry as 
to the possibility of corresponding responses from the 
plant, hitherto reckoned so passive and inert, which we 
have also seen as successful. Here, then, was a new and 
substantial unification of phenomena previously supposed 
to be strictly confined to animal physiology, and an 
extension of them first to the field of vegetable physiology 
and then to that of physics, in which no such close 
comparison had ever been suspected. Furthermore, 
since in all sciences it is man who is observing and 
interpreting nature, and thereby learning something 
towards the better understanding of himself, the field of 
human physiology is also successfully entered; especially 
perhaps with the chapter on ' Visual Analogues,' and the 
discovery of the binocular alternation of vision, and so on. 
Moreover in this way it generally happens, and specifically 
with such observations as those on ' unconscious visual 
impression/ that the field of psychology is entered, 
and found so far harmonious with preceding ones ; while 
further inquiry in this field is also indicated, as will be 


seen in a subsequent chapter. Leaving experimental 
psychology aside, however, for the present or rather, let 
us say, leaving it as implicated within the human and 
comparative fields we may conveniently divide the range 
of inquiries of this first volume of the series ' Response of 
the Living and Non-Living ' into its four main factors : 
of Non-Living, Vegetable, Animal, and Human ; and thus 
we see all comprehended in the generalising sweep of a 

The Response of the Non-Living has not been inquired 
into further ; for henceforth our investigator has been 
devoted to the Organic field. The next volume, as its 
name implies ' Plant Response ' is essentially confined 
to its chosen department of Vegetable Physiology, as 
closely as may be ; but in the immediately succeeding, 
and indeed complemental, volume ' Comparative Electro- 
Physiology ' we find not only an intensive application of 
all then known of that department of animal physiology 
to the further elucidation of plant-behaviour, but also 
vigorous incursions into the animal physiologist's own 
fields of labour ; with the ensuing development of many 
of his classic experiments to more refined observation 
and record, and larger comparative treatment of them, 
and often accompanied by fresh inquiries. 

Thus from a study of the response of leaves (in course 
of which Burdon Sanderson's and other previous work on 
Dionaea Venus' Fly-trap is reviewed and interpreted) 
we are led on by his consideration of the ordinary leaf as 
an electrical organ to that of the curious electric organs 
long known in certain fishes ; and thence to ' the theory of 
electrical organs.' 

This line of work is further extended into a whole 
chapter of comparisons of the ' response of animal and 
vegetable skins ' in which grape and tomato on one 
side, and frog, tortoise and lizard on the other, are 
all shown to behave substantially alike. So again Bose 
compares the behaviour of the epidermic and the secreting 


tissues of plants to those of animals ; and similarly with 
regard to the response of digestive organs, from the 
tentacle of the sun-dew, or the pitcher of Nepenthes, which 
Darwin's ' Insectivorous Plants ' had brought into great 
prominence a good few years before, to the stomachs 
of frog, tortoise and other animals : and in all this com- 
parative study unexpected agreements are found even of 
detail. So from a chapter on ' the response to the stimulus 
of light given by leaves/ our writer passes boldly to the 
response of the retina to the same stimulus. Again, from 
the determination of the velocity of transmission of excita- 
tion in plant-tissues and the comparison of the conducting 
powers of two parts of an identical nerve by the original 
device of a ' Conductivity Balance/ we come to a new 
method for the quantitative stimulation of nerve ; and 
thence again to the electrical response of isolated * vegetable 
nerve ' (isolated, that is, by the withdrawal of the fibro- 
vascular bundle, with its conducting elements included 
within its sheath, from the leaf-stalk of the fern), 
in which the analogous behaviour to animal nerve is 
demonstrated, in normal condition, under tetanisation, 
under influence of heat and cold, and under anaesthetics, 
like ether and chloroform. 

In such ways of investigation, at once broader in 
scope and bolder in comparison than heretofore, while 
more experimentally elaborated generally with improved 
methods and newly invented and finer apparatus this 
incursion into animal physiology proceeds, often with 
fresh results. The further investigations into the electro- 
physiology of nerve are too elaborate and technical for 
outline here ; but the animal physiologist has had since 
to reckon with them increasingly. 

It is now time to return to the earlier of these two 
correlated volumes, the one on ' Plant Response/ and 
to note something of its advance upon its predecessor, 
which indeed now appears to be the introduction to 
Bose's wide and varied inquiry in vegetable physiology 


which has become increasingly predominant. The essen- 
tial problem is thus stated : Is the plant a mysterious 
entity, with regard to whose working no law can be 
definitely predicated ? Or can it be interpreted as a 
machine i.e. as transforming the energy supplied 
to it in ways more or less capable of explanation ? 
So diverse are its movements that the first hypothesis 
has often seemed the only one. For light may induce 
sometimes positive curvature, sometimes negative ; gravi- 
tation induces one movement in the root and the 
opposite in the shoot, and so on : whence it appeared to 
many, even to evolutionists, as if the organism had become 
endowed with various specific sensibilities for its own 
advantage, but that a consistent physico-chemical explana- 
tion of its movements was out of the question, However, 
the thesis is here clearly affirmed, and justified in detail, that 
' the plant may nevertheless be regarded as a machine ; 
and that its movements of response to external stimuli, 
though apparently so various, are ultimately reducible to 
a fundamental unity of reaction. This demonstration has 
been the object of the present work, and not that treatment 
of known aspects of plant-movements which is to be found 
detailed, together with the history of the subject, in standard 
books of reference on Vegetable Physiology.' 

Of this large thesis the first chapter is a model of explicit 
statement. ' The plant, like a machine, responds either to 
the impact of external forces, or to energy latent within. 
As the working efficiency of an engine is exhibited by 
indicator-diagrams, so the physiological efficiency of a 
living machine may be inferred from the character of its 
pulse-records/ The making of the records, and the mode 
of exhibiting them during their progress (even to the largest 
audiences), are explained and clearly figured ; this ' Optical 
Pulse-Recorder ' may therefore here be figured (Fig. 7), as at 
once simple and convincing. The apparatus consists of a 
twin drum, over which is wrapped a band of paper to serve 
as the recording surface. The drums are kept revolving by 



clock-work. The excursion of the spot of light caused by 
the responsive movement of the plant-organ, is followed 

FIG. 7. The Optical Pulse-Recorder. B, arm of optical lever attached 
to moving leaflet ; L, ray of light, which after two reflections 
from the two mirrors falls on the recorder ; C, clock-work, which 
keeps twin-drum on which is wrapped the recording paper 
revolving ; H, horizontal guide bar ; K, inkwell with projecting 

by means of a sliding inkwell, from which projects the 
ink-sponge. By this means, the tracing of the response- 
curve and its various modifications under the action of 
different influences can be demonstrated. In the figure 
here reproduced the short arm of the optical lever is 
attached to the pulsating leaflet of the Telegraph-plant. 


Again it is shown that agencies which depress the 
physiological condition of a tissue also depress its 
pulse of response (and conversely) ; and this response 
ceases with death, just as does that shown in the 
indicator-diagram with the stoppage of the machine. 
Starting again with the muscle-curve so long familiar to 
animal physiologists, analogous curves are now for the first 
time obtained for the contractions of ordinary plants : not 
only those of the sensitive stamens of various composites, 
and the leaves of the sensitive plants, but also of ordinary 
leaves. The filaments which make up the corona or 
' glory ' of the passion-flower were found to give an 
excitatory contraction of great magnitude, . up to as much 
as 20 per cent, of their length. This is only an extreme 
case : the pistil and style and stamen of the flower exhibit 
contraction. The phenomenon, of course, varies with 
the nature of the tissue, since the thin cellulose walls of 
young cells may acquire many later thickenings and harden- 
ings, which are often of great mechanical strength and 
resistance. Turgidity too is an important and interestingly 
variable internal factor ; and age, season, temperature, 
and other factors have all to be reckoned with. 

The modification of response exhibited by given plants 
and their organs under various conditions is next copiously 
experimented on. Response is not merely uniform : it may 
show progressive increase the ' staircase effect ' of animal 
muscle. Nor is fatigue merely a muscular phenomenon. 
Plant-records also amply exhibit it ; for these readily 
become ' tired out ' by long-continued previous stimula- 
tion. The accompanying tracings (Figs. 8 and 9), taken 
by his automatic recorders, show how the successive re- 
sponses, under different conditions of experiment, undergo 
a ' staircase ' enhancement or a ' fatigue ' depression. 
Indeed some of the more intricate phenomena of fatigue, 
nowadays being so actively studied, alike for educational, 
athletic and industrial purposes, are seen not to be without 


their parallels in the plant ; not merely in the sensitive 
Mimosa, but even in the undemonstrative radish. 

The discussion of the various theories of response must 
be left to the professed physiologist : it is sufficient here to 
emphasise the more general conception underlying the whole 
work and increasingly verified as it proceeds. Not simply 
is the mechanical response to stimulus expressed in obvious 

FIG. 8. The ' staircase ' enhancement of response in plant. 

movements like the fall of the Mimosa leaf, but by mechanical 
response of organs of ordinary plants when their record is 
magnified, as by the optical lever. Such excitatory reaction 
caused by external stimulus expresses itself not only in 
mechanical movements, but also by generation of electric 
current, and by change of electric conductivity; and 
doubtless also in other ways, both physical and chemical. 
Just as the passage of one and the same electric current may 
be manifested not only by the swing of the galvanometer 
needle, but also in chemical change or in terms of light 
and heat, or by sound, as from an electric bell, according 


to the nature of the detecting apparatus upon its circuit 
so essentially it is with the organism, which may exhibit 
a variety of different responses to the same stimulus, 
in accordance with its differing functional and structural 
means of expression. Its mechanical response, its respon- 
sive electric current, its variation of conductivity are but 
different expressions of an identical reaction which underlies 

This conception of the concomitance of these different 

FIG. 9. ' Fatigue ' depression of response in plant. 

manifestations, when taken along with the further investi- 
gation of their optimum, and also of their maximum 
and minimum especially those of temperature, at which 
inaction appears, and even death supervenes next 
led to the unexpected discovery of a ' death-spasm ' 
in all plants. Furthermore, this death-spasm, when 
experimentally scrutinised and recorded by each of these 
independent methods mechanical, electro-motive, and 
conductivity variation was found to show the same 
simultaneity of all the three changes. 

For determining the critical temperature at which the 


death-spasm occurs, a perfected form of apparatus a 
' Death Recorder ' was devised. The death-point at 
any rate for all the dicotyledonous plants observed and 
their different organs was found to be almost as definite 
as a physical constant ; for, using very diverse specimens 
and methods, the critical temperature is always at or very 
near 60 C. The death-contraction in the plant is in every 
respect similar to the same phenomenon in the animal, and 
is an instance of true excitatory effect. Yet different plants 
have their characteristic death-curves, and the same species 
may exhibit variations under changed conditions of age 
and previous history. Thus when the plant's power of 
resistance is artificially depressed, whether by poisons or 
by fatigue, its death-spasm occurs at a temperature 
often considerably lower even as much as 23. This 
phenomenon, of course, also shows that the death-spasm is 
no mere phenomenon of coagulation ; for even if it takes 
place at 60 or thereabouts, it cannot also happen at 37 C. 

As stated before, there is an electrical spasm corre- 
sponding to the mechanical spasm at death. The electro- 
motive force generated at death-temperature is sometimes 
considerable : Bose shows that in each half of a green 
pea it may be as high as half a volt. If five hundred 
peas are suitably arranged in series, the electric pressure 
will be five hundred volts, which may cause even electrocu- 
tion of unsuspecting victims. And so Bose drily remarks : 
' It is well that the cook does not know the danger she runs 
in preparing the particular dish ; it is fortunate for her that 
the peas are not arranged in series ! ' 

All this complex investigation necessarily depended 
on contriving and adjusting three different systems of 
apparatus for recording different modes of response, 
mechanical and electrical. Though the instruments em- 
ployed were so widely different, yet the responses obtained 
were found to agree in every important detail. 

Much investigation has been devoted in these books, and 
also, more recently, to the nature and causes of ' automatic ' 


movements, of which those of the Telegraph-plant 
(Desmodium) are the extreme examples in the vegetable 
world. Briefly stated, the automatism turns out to be but 
apparent, in so far as these activities are proved to be 
dependent on external stimulus previously absorbed. The 
half-way house between this ' automatic ' activity and 
the simple response of a Mimosa leaf was discovered in 
Biophytum, a common weed of Bengal (akin to Oxalis) and 
also in the somewhat allied Averrhoa Carambola, an acid 
fruit-tree of Indian gardens. For while in these a single 
moderate stimulus gives rise to a single response, as in 
Mimosa, a strong stimulus produces a whole succession of 
responses, recalling the automatism of Desmodium. This 
observation suggested the idea that Desmodium might be 
depressed in its automatism, and even reduced to the single 
response of Mimosa ; and this condition was experimentally 
realised : the leaflets ceased to pulsate accordingly, and 
came to a standstill. Conversely, why should not Mimosa 
have its simple response exalted towards a multiple 
response, which is the transition stage on the way to autom- 
atism ? This was not at first demonstrable mechanically, 
but was proved by the electrical mode of response-record : 
while now more lately, with the finer recorders since 
invented, it has been successfully recorded in Mimosa. 
That is, its natural single response is developed into a slow 
rhythm of multiple response ; and this is practically 
equivalent to the automatism induced in Biophytum. The 
ascent of the whole series of sensitive plants from ordinary 
(but as we now know, only apparently) insensitive ones, 
first to simple response as in Mimosa, and thence through 
transitional forms like Biophytum to the habitually auto- 
matic Desmodium, has thus been made intelligible surely 
no small gain to our conception of the evolutionary process. 

Another remarkable comparison is here also made 
that between the automatic pulsation of the telegraph- 
plant and that of animal heart-muscle. The comparison is 


worked out in considerable detail, and the result is wholly 
confirmatory, in variously modified as well as in normal 
conditions, such as temperature, drugs or poisons. So 
exact is the correspondence that a poison which stops 
the heart in its phase of contraction also stops Desmodium 
in its contracted phase, while the poison which stops the 
heart in relaxation does the same for the plant. And 
while for the heart it has been known that one poison 
may be used as the antidote to the other, so it turns out 
with the poisoning of Desmodium. 

Yet another point of interest appears. The actively 
rhythmic muscle of the heart is more resistant to ex- 
ternal stimulus than is ordinary muscle : e.g. it resists 
tetanisation by external electric shock. Similarly for the 
active Desmodium leaflet. Thus that passive yielding 
of the organism or organ to external stimuli, of which 
we have so often seen cases above, has here its limit : 
and we see the internal energy of the organism now, as it 
were, vindicating itself against interferences from the out- 
side environment. We may thus still speak of ' automatic 
movements/ and concede a certain independence to the 
organism, and individuality to the organ. 

The general thesis that plant and animal physiology 
despite all differences of aspect and habit of life, and of 
organisms in detail are yet profoundly analogous is again 
strikingly confirmed. 

Turning next to the section on Growth, our knowledge 
is greatly advanced, as will be found in greater detail 
in a subsequent chapter. It is, however, enough here 
to note that for the vegetable physiologist the most 
interesting of all these new conceptions may lie in 
the reinterpretation of the growth-process, as itself 
a phenomenon of automatism, comparable to that 
of Desmodium pulsation. For here we have the 
rhythmic activity controlled by inner stimuli, which 
present a certain autonomy of their own, and yet are also 
dependent for their continuance upon energies ultimately 


derived from the environment and sensitive to its changes. 
In both cases depletion of energy by isolation stops activity. 
Yet from this state of standstill, growth can be renewed 
by fresh stimulus from outside. Even an organ in which 
growth has normally ended may be started anew, as demon- 
strated by Bose, by electrical or other appropriate stimuli. 
So here is, at any rate, some support for the ever-recurring 
dream of rejuvenescence. And even if this be no more, at 
least for the higher species, than a mirage of life, we may 
at least suggest the possible fruitfulness of discussion, 
perhaps even collaboration, between say one of Bose's 
experimental assistants and one of the young neurologists 
before whom the war has so strongly brought problems 
of this nature. 



As in the world of matter, so also in the world of thought, 
there is an inertia which retards movement and change ; 
and this is especially the case in the adoption of new 
methods of scientific inquiry. Bose's ' Plant Response ' and 
' Comparative Electro-Physiology ' (1906-7) gave detailed 
descriptions of his methods, but want of opportunity of 
following the practical demonstration stood in the way of 
their wider adoption. In spite of this drawback, various 
workers in different parts of the world followed closely 
Bose's work, and employed his method with success. The 
Optical Lever has been used in certain physiological 
investigations in the Cambridge Laboratory ; van der 
Wolk of Utrecht has followed with success Bose's lines 
of investigation ; while his electro-physiological investiga- 
tions have been incorporated in a course of advanced work 
under Professor Harper at Columbia University, New York. 

In response to a widely expressed desire that workers 
in the West should become acquainted first-hand with the 
practical working of his methods, the Government sent 
Bose in 1907, on his third scientific deputation, to England 
and America. After a short stay in England he visited 
the United States, and lectured before highly appreciative 
audiences in the different American Universities. 

On his return to India Bose concentrated his attention on 
the invention of a complete set of apparatus by which the 
experimental plant would be automatically excited at definite 



intervals of time by successive uniform stimuli. In answer 
to this the plant should make its own responsive records, 
and embark on the same cycle over again without any 
assistance at any point from the observer. After several 
years of trials and efforts, the problem was at last solved 
to the utmost particular, both in refinement and with 
high magnification. His instruments, embodying a new 
principle, will no doubt react towards the improvement 
of the relatively crude myograph of the physiologist. The 
most important of the series of these instruments the 
Resonant Recorder is based on the principle of sympathetic 
vibration. The difficulty of friction of contact, which 
made the direct record of the feeble plant-movement 
impossible, is here completely eliminated. The sensibility 
of the apparatus may be gauged from the fact that the 
automatic records obtained by this instrument give 
measurements of time as short as a thousandth part of a 
second ; the results obtained with the instrument show 
that the sensitiveness of the plant is not so feeble, and 
its power of perception so sluggish, as have been supposed. 
Inventions and discoveries are by some regarded as the 
fortunate products of flashes of insight, and such minds 
are reckoned as ' gifted ' accordingly, even up to ' genius ' 
a quality not further explained. For others genius 
seems but the highest development of patience, and its 
results as rewards of continuous attention and reflection. 
As a matter of fact, both processes intermingle. Hence 
for Newton the suggestive fall of the apple is insufficient 
without his own answer, when asked how he came to 
his discoveries : ' I know not, save it be by constantly 
intending my mind thereunto.' Indeed the man of science, 
despite his apparent gravity of aspect and of subject, is 
peculiarly continuous with his own childhood. Hence, 
when we watch a child striving to solve a puzzle, to make 
a mechanical toy, or to build his bricks into a tower, we 
see that very alternation of patient endeavours amid 
failures, with moments of new constructive insight, which 


make up the essential progress of science. In our day 
everywhere, and not least in India, one who can do any 
such things on the adult scale is reckoned an ' expert ' 
a term which again precludes further inquiry ; but the 
inventor and the discoverer alike know themselves better, 
and but advance in their childlike way by alternate steps, 
not unmingled with falls, but guided by flashes of freshened 
insight and hope. 

On such general grounds, as well as for coming to a 
further understanding of plant-movements, it is here worth 
the reader's while to look into this problem, of how to 
enable the plant to make its own record of its movements 
whether in nature or under stimulus of altered conditions. 
For one thing, the time-relations of every phase of move- 
ment must be found, and determined with the physicist's 
exactitude. Though for everyday use the second hand of our 
watches marks our ordinary limit, the starter and judge 
of a race, or the physician feeling a pulse, have to take note 
of fractions of a second ; hence the stop-watch, with its 
finer graduation, down to tenths of a second. But for 
physical measurements far smaller fractions are often 
necessary ; hence the interest of the tuning-fork, with its 
hundreds of vibrations per second. Better still than the 
tuning-fork is the vibrating reed ; for of this we may adjust 
the length to any required quickness of vibration, within 
a wide and sufficient range, say from ten to a thousand 
times per second. It may easily be made to write its 
tracings on a recording surface conveniently a smoked 
plate. The vibrating reed soon gives off its initial energy, 
but continuous vibration may be maintained by electric 
means. The steel reed, with its required frequency of 
vibration once adjusted, is made to dip its bent point into 
a small cup of mercury ; so that the metallic contact 
should start a current which passes through a small coil 
wire fixed above the reed, and containing a soft iron of 
core, which the current converts into a temporary magnet. 
The attraction of the magnet upon the reed pulls it up out 


of the mercury. But this stops the current. The small 
electro-magnet thus becomes inert ; the magnetic attraction 
ceases, and the reed is set free to swing and fall anew towards 
and into the mercury thus renewing the current and with 

FIG. io. Upper part of the Resonant Recorder. Thread 
from clock, not shown, passes over pulley (P), letting 
down recording smoked glass plate (G) ; C, coercing reed 
which by its vibration sets recorder (V) in sympathetic 
vibration. The axis of recorder (V) is supported per- 
pendicularly at centre of circular end of magnet. S S', 
adjusting screws ; M, micrometer ; T, tangent screw. 

it the magnet, pulling up the reed and so on. Thus the 
desired rhythm, appropriate to the reed's length, can be 
maintained steadily, and for any required length of time. 
So much for the Coercer of Bose's apparatus, which has 
to set the resonating writer in sympathetic vibration. 

This resonating writer a fine steel wire, with a bent 
tip, and of length suitable to the required rate of vibration 
is suspended vertically by means of pivots supported on 


jewel bearings. One of the bearings is fixed at the centre 
of a soft iron core, and the other bearing is carried by a 
flat metallic plate. The soft iron core is surrounded by a 
wire spiral through which flows the same current which 
activates the reed ; so this second iron core becomes an 
electro-magnet, and for exactly the same periods ; the reed 
and the writer are kept in perfect unison. The bent tip 
of the writer taps regularly upon a smoked plate, placed 
at right angles to it. These taps must always be on the 
same point so long as the recording surface is stationary ; 
but if it be made to travel we shall get a row of dots, 
made at the time-intervals predetermined. It was next 
found most conducive to good records to let the plate descend 
by its own weight, thus giving a vertical series of dots ; 
for though successive distances between them are slightly 
increasing in course of the acceleration of the falling plate, 
this matters little for time-measurements, since their numbers 
per second are identical. An ingenious compensatory device 
has, however, been provided for use when required. 

The tapping method has now secured a double advan- 
tage : (i) the precisely comparable time-records, and (2) the 
practical elimination of friction ; since the bent tip of the 
writer gives a series of taps, and is therefore not in continuous 
contact with the recording surface. A fine cocoon thread is 
securely tied to the leaf to be observed, and its other end is 
attached to the short arm of a very light wire lever which 
has been already fixed to the writer. The movement of 
the leaf pulls the writer to one side or other, giving dots 
no longer in mere vertical row, but now recording every 
movement of the plant. The conspicuous fall of the Mimosa 
leaf, or the minutest quiver in pulsating leaflet or of con- 
traction under a stimulus, will thus cause a pull on the 
attached thread ; and this will be transmitted and magni- 
fied by the writing lever. The dots are seen to lie in 
definite and characteristic order; and the dotted curve 
gives the whole history of the plant-movement from start 
to finish. 


The Resonant Recorder is shown complete and in use upon 
the accompanying illustration (Fig. n). An actual record is 

FIG. ii. General view of the Resonant Recorder and the electrical 
connections by which excitatory shock of a definite duration is 
given to the plant ; duration of shock determined by metronome, 
which completes electric circuit. 

given in the next figure which measures the time taken by 
the plant to perceive and answer to the shock given at 


the vertical line in the record. The successive dots are 
at intervals of two hundredth part of a second, and the 
leaf-movement began at the fifteenth dot after the shock 
(Fig. 12). The perception -time of the plant is thus 0-75 of 
a second. When the plant is fatigued, its perception- 
time becomes very sluggish : when excessively tired, it tem- 
porarily loses its power of perception. In that condition 
the plant requires at least half an hour's absolute rest to 
regain its equanimity. 

For some purposes, however, the Resonant Recorder 

FIG. 12. Record for determination of the latent period of leaf of Mimosa. 
Shock given at vertical line ; successive dots at intervals of 0-005 

has its limitation. It measures movements which are 
exceedingly quick ; there are, however, other movements 
which are relatively slow, and Bose still needed an instru- 
ment which could take slower records, lasting for hours 
and days. Moreover, some movements may be so slight 
and weak that even the recording system just described 
being necessarily of magnetisable metal though at its 
finest may be too heavy for the excessively limited 
mechanical power of certain plant -movements. 

Hence, instead of the writer oscillating so many times 
per second, he now set the smoked glass plate oscillating, 
to come up periodically against the point of the writer- 
The oscillation can now be as slow as we please, since by 
various ingenious adaptations of clockwork we can obtain 


any required period of oscillation in practice usually from 
once in a second to once in a quarter of an hour, as may be 
required while the oscillations and their dotted records 
can go on as long as the winding of the clock is attended to. 
Further, the mechanical mode of oscillation dispenses with 
the necessity for the steel writer, and a light grass awn, or a 
hair-drawn glass fibre, can take its place. In the Resonant 
Recorder the magnification is limited by the proportions 
of the writing lever, usually to 25 times or thereabouts ; 
but now in the Oscillating Recorder with a single lever 
this may easily be raised to 100 times, and with com- 
pound lever to 10,000 times. The Oscillating Recorder, 
moreover, admits of lateral extension, so as to carry four 
plates, and it may have as many plants recording 
themselves side by side at the same time under identical 

It is now time to see what results they have yielded. 
First of all they afforded complete verifications of the 
essential accuracy of the curves of plant-movements given in 
the ' Plant Response ' taken by the simpler method of the 
Optical Lever. The phenomena of nervous impulse were 
demonstrated by the ' Resonant Recorder 'against the 
generally accepted view that there was nothing in the 
plant comparable to the nervous system in animals. Bose's 
results were thus so convincing that the Royal Society 
accepted them for publication in their ' Philosophical 
Transactions ' (1913). Following this and the publication 
of his ' Researches on Irritability of Plants/ Bose received 
several invitations to lecture before different Universities 
and scientific societies of Europe and America, and was 
accordingly sent by the Government on his fourth scientific 
deputation in 1914. 

Bose determined not only to carry his delicate instruments 
but also the plant-specimens Mimosa and Telegraph- 
plant (Fig. 13) from India, so that they should give their 
autographic records before the audience. In Europe most 
of the plants go through their periods of hibernation in 


the season when the scientific societies are in full 
session. In a world-tour the carrying of his delicate 
instruments was difficult enough ; but to take tropical 
plants in hope of their retaining vigour and sensitiveness 
in the freezing climates of Europe, and particularly of 
America, seemed an impossible venture. But Bose, with 
his characteristic determination and resourcefulness, faced 

FIG. 13. The two plants Mimosa pudica and Desmodium 
gyrans that accompanied Professor Bose round the world. 
Ihe small leaflets of the Desmodium (to the right) 
pulsate up and down. 

the problem. A special glass case was provided for their 
journey and every possible care taken of them by his 
admirably devoted and skilled experimental assistant. 
Only half the number of the plants survived the voyage, 
but once in London they were safely housed in the Regent's 
Park tropical greenhouse. This done, Bose fitted up his 
temporary laboratory at Maida Vale, where the difficulties 
connected with experiments on tropical plants transferred 
to a cold climate were observed, and means devised to 
overcome them. 

He was now asked to lecture before various Universities, 
and first at Oxford, where his demonstrations were received 


with high appreciation. Next at Cambridge, Sir Francis 
Darwin presiding. Here also his audience was most 
enthusiastic. In London he lectured before the Royal 
College of Science. His Friday Evening Discourse before 
the Royal Institution was given in May 1914, and proved 
a great success. His Resonant Recorder registered the 
speed of transmission of excitatory impulse, the Oscillating 
Recorder traced the throbbing pulsations of the Telegraph- 
plant, and demonstrated their striking similarity with the 
pulse-beat of the animal heart. Finally, the Death 
Recorder indicated by its tracing the death-throe of the 

His private laboratory at Maida Vale was visited 
by various scientific and literary men. Among these 
were Sir William Crookes, then President of the Royal 
Society, and other leading men of science. A very distin- 
guished animal physiologist was so strongly impressed by 
the unexpected revelations made by the plants that he 
frankly blurted out : ' Do you know whose casting vote 
prevented the publication of your papers on Plant Response 
by the Royal Society ? I am that person. I could not 
believe that such things were possible, and thought your 
Oriental imagination had led you astray. Now I fully 
confess that you have all along been right/ 

Among the men of letters came Mr. Balfour, who at 
once saw the psychological importance of the discoveries. 
Mr. Bernard Shaw, being a vegetarian, was unhappy to find 
that a piece of cabbage was thrown into violent convulsion 
when scalded to death. Editors of leading journals also 
came, and the following departure from the usual gravity 
of The Nation will indicate the popular impression made 
by the new revelations of plant life : 

In a room near Maida Vale there is an unfortunate carrot 
strapped to the table of an unlicensed vivisector. Wires 
pass through two glass tubes full of a white substance ; 
they are like two legs, whose feet are buried in the flesh 
of the carrot. When the vegetable is pinched with a pair 


of forceps, it winces. It is so strapped that its electric 
shudder of pain pulls the long arm of a very delicate lever 
which actuates a tiny mirror. This casts a beam of light on 
the frieze at the other end of the room, and thus enormously 
exaggerates the tremor of the carrot. A pinch near the right- 
hand tube sends the beam seven or eight feet to the right, and 
a stab near the other wire sends it as far to the left. Thus can 
science reveal the feelings of even so stolid a vegetable as the 

The Royal Society of Medicine also became keenly 
interested in Bose's work on the effect of drugs on vegetable 
tissues, and asked him to deliver a discourse before the 
Society. Sir Lauder Brunton wrote to him : 

Ever since I began the study of Botany in 1863, and still more 
since I made some experiments on the action of poison on plants 
in 1865, the movements of plants had a great attraction for me. 
For Mr. Darwin I made some experiments on digestion in insecti- 
vorous plants in 1875. All the experiments I have yet seen 
are crude in comparison with yours, in which you show what a 
marvellous resemblance there is between the reactions of plants 
and animals. 

The lecture before the Royal Society of Medicine was 
highly appreciated by the leading members of the medical 
profession, and the Secretary of the Society officially 
addressed the Government of India, expressing their high 
appreciation of the work which was ' so entirely new in 
biological science.' 

He was next invited to lecture before leading Universities 
of the Continent. He first visited Vienna, where amongst 
his audience were many leading physiologists of Austria 
and Germany, who paid the generous tribute that ' Calcutta 
was far ahead of them in these new lines of investigation/ 
In Paris he met with similar success. He received cordial 
invitations from different German Universities for a series 
of lectures. He was to have begun these lectures from 
the 3rd of August, 1914, and was actually on his way 
to Bonn, but fortunately was just in time to retrace 


his steps and escape internment. Two nephews, then also 
in Germany, were less fortunate. 

He next visited America and lectured before a number 
of the principal Universities there. He also addressed the 
American Association for the Advancement of Science at 
Philadelphia, and the New York and Washington Academies 
of Science. At Washington he was invited to address 
the State Department and also the Bureau of Agriculture, 
where the great importance of his work in practical agri- 
culture was fully realised. He lectured at Harvard before 
the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, and also 
before Clark University, whose President, the well-known 
psychologist, Dr. Stanley Hall, had been keenly interested 
in Bose's work from his earliest publications. Everywhere 
Bose's work received the warmest appreciation. 

We may now return to the phenomena of Irritability, 
so successfully explored by the invention of Bose's new 
instruments. It is, however, impossible to give in such 
short space all the interesting results ; and it must suffice 
to give a few extracts from Bose's popular lectures. 

One of his inquiries related to the physiological effect of 
different gases on plants : 

According to popular science, what is death to the animal 
is supposed to be life for the plant : for does it not flourish 
in the deadly atmosphere of carbonic acid gas ? But instead 
of flourishing, the plant gets suffocated just like a human being ; 
note the relief on readmission of fresh air (Fig. 14). Only in 
the presence of sunlight is the effect modified, by photo-synthesis. 
In contrast to the effect of carbonic acid, ozone renders the 
plant highly excitable. 

The plant is intensely susceptible to the impurities present 
in the air. The vitiated air of the town has a very depressing 
effect. Sulphuretted hydrogen, even in small quantities, is 
fatal to the plant. Chloroform acts as a strong narcotic, 
inducing a rapid abolition of excitability. The ludicrously 
unsteady gait of the response of the plant under alcohol could 
be effectively exploited in a temperance lecture. But the 


next result is in the nature of an anticlimax, where the 
plant has drunk pure water not wisely, but too well. The 
gorged plant loses all power of movement. The plant was 
restored to normal condition by extracting the excess of liquid 
by application of glycerine. 

Does the plant feel the depressing effect of darkness ? Fig. 15 
records the effect of a passing cloud ; the slight variation of 
light was detected by the plant much earlier than by the 
observer. Any sudden change of light is found to [exert a 
marked depressing effect. The plant partially regains its 

FIG. 14. Depression of excitability under carbonic 
acid and revival on readmission of fresh air. 

sensibility when accustomed to darkness. When brought 
suddenly from darkness to ligrit, there is also a transient 
depression followed by enhanced excitability. 

Again as to the effect of wounds : 

I undertook three investigations, on the effect of wounds on 
plants. The first enquiry is as to the effect of injury on growth ; 
the second is the change manifested in the pulse-beat of rhythmic 
tissues in plants. The third investigation had for its object 
the study of the paralysing effect of wounds. 

In the first of these the normal rate of growth and change of 
that rate by injury were found from the automatic records given 
by the Crescograph. When the growing plant was pricked with 


a pin, the normal rate was at once depressed to a fourth, and it 
took about two hours for the plant to recover from the effect 
of the pin-prick. A slash made with a knife was found to 
arrest the growth, the inhibition persisting for a very long 
period. Severe shock caused by a wound thus retards the 
growth in normal healthy specimens. 

The reactions in exceptional cases are highly interesting. 
Certain plants, for reasons at present obscure, remain} stunted 

FIG. 1 5. Depressing effect of a passing cloud on the response of Mimosa. 

in growth, the branches and flea ves presenting an unhealthy 
look. Lopping off the offending limb, curiously enough, is found 
good for the plant. The stimulus of severe shock renews the 
growth that had remained arrested. 

Another series of investigations was carried out with the 
leaflet of the Telegraph plant, which pulsates up and down, 
like the movement of a semaphore. When the leaflet is cut 
from the parent plant, and the cut end placed in water, the 
pulsation is found to be arrested by the shock of operation. 
After a time the pulse-throb is slowly renewed, and maintained 
for nearly 24 hours. But death had found an unguarded 
spot at the wound ; and its march, though slow, is sure. The 
death-change thus reaches the throbbing tissue, which becomes 


permanently stilled" with the cessation of life (Fig. 16). But the 
rate of the death-march has been successfully retarded by means 
of nourishing solutions ; the throbbing life of the cut leaflet 
has thus been prolonged from one to seven days. 

In cutting off the leaf of Mimosa the sensibility of the plant 
is paralysed for several hours. The paralysing effect of the 
wound was determined by means of testing shocks, the response 
being at the same time taken down by the automatic recorder. 
The parent plant gradually recovered, and showed signs of 
returning sensitiveness. The detached leaf also recovered its 
sensibility in a few hours, and exhibited its normal responses. 
But this vehemence lasted only for a day, after which a curious 
change crept in ; the vigour of its responses began rapidly to 

FIG. 1 6. Abolition of pulsation at the death of the 

decline. The leaf, hitherto erect, fell over death had at last 
asserted its mastery. 

As regards the comparison of the general phenomenon 
of Irritability in plants and animals, Bose says : 

We find that the plant is not a mere mass of vegetative 
growth, but that its every fibre is instinct with sensibility. We 
find it answering to outside stimuli, the responsive twitches 
increasing with the strength of the blow that impinges on it. 
We are able to record the throbs of its pulsating life, and 
find these wax and wane according to the life conditions of the 
plant, and cease with the death of the organism. We find 
the different parts of the plant are connected together by 
conducting threads, so that the tremor of excitation initiated 
at one place courses through the whole, this nervous impulse, 
as in man, being accelerated or arrested under the several 
actions of drugs and poisons. In these and in many other 


ways the life reactions of plant and man are alike ; thus through 
the experience of the plant it may be possible to alleviate the 
sufferings of man. 

Bose thus concluded his Royal Institution Discourse : 

These our mute companions, silently growing beside our door, 
have now told us the tale of their life-tremulousness and their 
death-spasm in script that is as inarticulate as they. May it 
not be said that their story has a pathos of its own beyond any 
that we have conceived ? 

In realising this unity of life, is our final sense of mystery 
deepened or lessened ? Is our sense of wonder diminished 
when we realise in the infinite expanse of life that is silent and 
voiceless the foreshadowing of more wonderful complexities ? 
Is it not rather that science evokes in us a deeper sense of awe ? 
Does not each of her new advances gain for us a step in that 
stairway of rock which all must climb who desire to look from 
the mountain-tops of the spirit upon the promised land of 



THE movement of the leaf of Mimosa is very sudden and 
conspicuous, while the movement of growth is almost 
imperceptible. But the large movements of stems, leaves 
and roots under the action of various forces such as light, 
warmth and gravity are ultimately due to excessively 
minute variations in the rate of growth. The discovery 
of laws relating to the movement of growing organs thus 
depends on accurate measurement of normal growth and 
its changes. Apart from theory, the subject is a matter of 
great practical importance since the world's food supply 
is so intimately dependent upon vegetative growth. 

The extreme difficulty of the investigation arises from 
the extraordinary slowness of growth ; of this we may 
form some idea from the following examples. Taking 
the annual growth in height of a tree to be five feet, which 
is a liberal estimate, it would take a thousand years for 
growth to cover a mile. The slowness of the snail is pro- 
verbial, but its pace is 2000 times faster than the average 
movement of growth. Yet one more instance. We take 
a single step, covering two feet in about half a second ; 
during this period the plant grows through a length of 
i ooooo P ar t of an inch, or half the length of a single wave 
of light. It is evident that some very strongly magnifying 
arrangement must be employed to observe growth and 
its changes. The instrument hitherto used in the botanical 
laboratory the ' auxanometer ' magnifies about twenty 



times or so. Even here several hours must elapse before 
growth becomes perceptible ; but during this long period 
the external conditions such as light and warmth can 
hardly but change, thus confusing, if not even vitiating, 
the results. 

The external conditions can be kept constant only for 
a few minutes ; and it is therefore necessary to obtain 
growth-magnification to something like ten thousand 
times. The difficulty of obtaining such magnification is 
*so great that it took Bose about eight years to overcome 
it, and his ' High Magnification Crescograph ' (Fig. 17) 
may be regarded as a veritable triumph in invention. The 
apparatus not only produces this enormous magnification, 
but also automatically records the rate of growth and its 
changes, in a period as short as a minute. 

Bose employs for the purpose a compound system of 
two levers ; the first magnifies a hundred times, and the 
second enlarges the first a hundredfold, the total magnifi- 
cation being thus 10,000 times. But the double system 
of levers introduces difficulty on account of their weight ; 
this was surmounted by the employment of an alloy of 
aluminium, which combines great rigidity with excep- 
tional lightness. The friction at the bearings increased by 
the deposit of invisible dust particles introduced a further 
difficulty ; bearings even made of ruby did not obviate 
the trouble. Bose was finally able to devise a new form of 
suspension by which all difficulties were fully overcome. 

These high magnification records show that growth is 
often not steady and continuous, but proceeds in rhythmic 
pulses. In normal Calcutta conditions these average 
about three per minute. Each pulse exhibits a rapid 
uplift, and then a slower and partial recoil, amounting to 
a recession of about a fourth of the distance at first gained ; 
and from the resultant progress it starts for its next rise. 
Our mental image of the growth-process is thus transformed 
by these tracings from a steady mechanical progress to 
that of the wavelets of a rising tide. Still, there are also 


tracings in which growth appears as practically uniform ; 
but such may be due to the resultant of the growth-pulses 
at different levels and in different layers of tissue. Another 
2xample of the extreme sensitiveness of the apparatus is 

FIG. 17. The High Magnification Crescograph. P, 
plant ; C, clockwork for periodic oscillation of re- 
cording smoked glass plate (G) ; S S', micrometer 
screws ; K, crank ; R, eccentric ; W, rotating wheel. 

seen from the fact that it even detects the retardation of 
growth caused by a mere touch, while a more violent 
irritation arrests growth altogether. Though rough hand- 
ling is harmful to a vigorous plant, Bose found that its 
effect was, however, beneficial to a plant which had 
remained backward in its growth. Corporal punishment 
has therefore its uses ! 


Peculiarly obvious is the result of any temperature 
change upon the rate of growth. The application of cooled 
water of course depresses, until at the critical minimum 
all growth is arrested. Conversely, warmed water may 
effect an astonishingly rapid increase of growth, even by 
many times, up to the optimum ; beyond which growth 
is increasingly retarded, until at about 60 C. the death- 
spasm appears. 

By a further refinement of experimentation, an auto- 
matic method provides records of a plant's growth during 
gradual increase of temperature from minimum to maxi- 
mum ; and the inspection of this ' Thermo-crescent Curve ' 
informs the observer of the rate of growth at each and 
every temperature. The method hitherto employed was 
to place batches of plants to grow for a day in different 
temperatures, and to average the results of each batch ; 
but the new method is at once far simpler, speedier and 
far more accurate. 

Similarly the effect of manures and chemicals, drugs 
and poisons, may now each be determined in the course of 
a few minutes, and with unprecedented accuracy. Here 
too, as in the preceding cases, we realise the value of this 
high magnification apparatus : not merely because all 
the phenomena are rendered far clearer and more con- 
spicuous, but also because the result of any particular 
change of conditions can be detected in the course of a few 
minutes, during which the other conditions may remain 
constant, or be artificially kept so. 

It will be understood that it is only by the discovery of 
laws of growth that any marked advance in scientific 
agriculture is possible. We have been using only a few 
stimulating agents, whereas there are thousands of whose 
actions we have no conception. The rule of thumb method 
hitherto employed in the application of a few chemical 
stimulants and of electricity has, moreover, not been 
uniformly successful. The cause of the anomaly is found 
from the discovery of an important factor namely, the 


dose of application, which had hitherto not been taken 
into account. Thus Bose found that while a particular 
intensity of electrical current accelerated growth, any 
excess above a critical point retarded it. The same was 
true of chemical stimulants. A striking practical result 
was obtained with certain poisons which in normal doses 
killed the plant, but in quantities sufficiently minute 
acted as an extraordinarily efficient stimulant, the treated 
plants growing far more vigorous and flowering much 
earlier. The treated plants, moreover, successfully resisted 
the insect blights. Such facts lead to the inquiry into 
the critical point at which depressant passes into a stimu- 
lant, or conversely. At this point we see how a fresh line 
of research has here been opened for Pharmacology and 
Medicine. And similarly another for speedily testing the 
action of manurial agents, and other means of accelerating 
growth for Agriculture. The immediate test needs only a 
few minutes instead of a season, while the changing con- 
ditions of the latter are avoided. 

Very striking also is the personal equation of the given 
plant, i.e. its permanent ' constitution ' and its changing 
' tonus.' The latter is found to be experimentally modifi- 
able. Thus a given batch of similar seedlings was divided 
into three groups : one was kept normal for reference, 
another depressed by less favourable temperature to a 
sub-normal condition, and the third put in an optimum 
condition. The small dose of poisons which the normal 
plants could just survive after a period of struggle was 
found to produce immediate death in the sub-tonic speci- 
mens ; but the same dose actively stimulated and exalted 
the growth of the super-tonic ones. Here, again, suggestive- 
ness for medicine and for agriculture will be manifest. 

The most perplexing phenomena in the life of plants 
are the ' tropic movements/ which will be described in a 
subsequent chapter. They are generally brought about by 
the action of the environment inducing slight modifications 


in the rate of growth. No satisfactory explanation of these 
movements has been forthcoming, since the apparatus 
in use was too crude 'to detect the variation of growth- 
rate, which was itself very minute. But with the High 
Magnification Crescograph, Bose succeeded in obtaining 
tracings which measured the rate of growth as small as 
nnsVjnr i nc h P er second. He was thereby able to record 
changes induced in normal growth by the action of various 
agents, by contact, by variation of temperature, by radiant 
heat and light, by the stimulus of gravity, by electrical 
currents, and by various chemical agents. From these 
fundamental reactions he was able, as we shall see later, 
to offer a complete explanation of the diverse movements 
in plants. 

After observing in the laboratory the extraordinary 
sensitiveness of this Crescograph with its magnification of 
ten thousand times, the writer offered the opinion that 
surely the utmost perfection had at last been reached ; 
but to this Bose made the naive and cryptic rejoinder that 
' man is never satisfied ' ; and forthwith began to push on 
his investigations towards obtaining still higher magnifica- 
tion. He at first tried increasing his system of levers from 
two to three. But he soon found that, though theoretically 
possible, a limit to magnification is imposed on account 
of additional weight, and friction at the linking of one lever 
to another. He therefore thought of a weightless lever, 
and of linking without material contact. This he succeeded 
in effecting by the invention of his Magnetic Crescograph 
(Fig. 18) ; here the movement of the lever of his ordinary 
Crescograph upsets a very delicately balanced magnetic 
system. The indicator is a reflected spot of light from a 
mirror carried by the deflected magnet. In this way Bose 
obtained a range of magnification from one to a hundred 
million times. 

Our mind cannot grasp magnification so stupendous. We 
can, however, obtain some concrete idea of it by finding what the 


FIG. 18. The Magnetic Crescograph for magnifying imperceptible growth 
of plants ten million times. 

FIG. 23. Localisation of the geo-perceptive layer by means of the Electric 
Probe. Diagram represents the geo-perceptive layer in unexcited 
vertical and excited horizontal position (see text, p. 189). 


speed of the proverbial snail becomes when magnified ten million 
times by the Magnetic Crescograph. For this enhanced speed 
there is no parallel even in modern gunnery. The fifteen-inch 
cannon of the Queen Elizabeth throws out a shell with a muzzle 
velocity of 2360 feet per second or about 8 million feet per hour ; 
but the Crescographic snail would move at a speed of 200 million 
feet per hour or 24 times faster than the cannon shot. Let us 
turn to cosmic movements for a closer parallel. A point on the 
equator whirls round at the rate of 1037 miles per hour. But 
the Crescographic snail may well look down on the sluggish 
earth ; for, by the time the earth makes one revolution, the 
snail would have gone round nearly forty times ! 

Bose has been using his Magnetic Crescograph for 
demonstration purpose before large audiences. The move- 
ment of the spot of light indicating magnified growth is 
seen to rush across the screen. A stop-cock is turned on, 
admitting cooled water into the vessel containing the plant. 
The movement of the spot slows down and ultimately 
comes to a stop : the growth activity is now held in a 
state of arrest, a thermometer indicating the exact tem- 
perature-minimum. The plant-chamber becomes gradually 
warmed, and with the removal of lethargy the growth- 
movement is renewed, gathering increasing speed. Another 
stop-cock turns on a depressing agent, and the growth 
becomes paralysed ; but a dose of a stimulant instantly 
removes the depression. The life of the plant becomes 
subservient to the will of the experimenter ; he can exalt 
or depress its activity ; he may thus bring it near the 
point of death by application of poison, and when the plant 
is hovering in an unstable poise between life and death 
resuscitate it by the timely application of an antidote. It 
all looks like magic ! But are not the achievements of 
science more wonderful than magic ? 

'It is by the extension of man's power beyond his 
sense-limitations that he is enabled to probe into the 
deeper mysteries of nature.' 

The enthusiasm aroused during Bose's recent scientific 
visit to England (1919-20) is not a little due to the 


extraordinary advance in investigation rendered possible by 
his Crescograph. No experimental conditions for exhibition 
of growth could have been more difficult than in the depth of 
an English winter, when the plants were in a state of hiber- 
nation. In spite of this they were madejio shake off their 
stupor, and the rate of growth was exhibited by the indicating 
spot of light rushing across a jo-foot scale in the course of 
some twelve seconds, the actual rate being less than a hundred 
thousandth part of an inch per second. 

Bose's magnifying methods, which far surpass the 
powers of the ultra-microscope, are now calling him back 
to employ them for the continuation of his physical re- 
searches, which have been interrupted for nearly twenty 
years. He foresees the possibility of making a new Micro- 
Radiometer, also a galvanometer of surpassing sensitive- 
ness, and other finer detectors for the exploration of the 
effect of forces on inorganic matter. Though he is opposed 
to the classifying barriers used to divide the branches of 
knowledge, yet he is true to his old love. He is still a 
physicist without its implied limitations, trying to include 
in its imperial domain the realm of the living, and to use 
the subtler skill he has learned from its exploration to 
reveal activities which seem only to be veiled by the 
apparent inertness of matter. 



As a teacher of botany for nearly forty spring and summer 
seasons, and from the first interested in certain plant- 
movements, and also in trying to teach the elements of 
vegetable physiology in practical classes, the writer has 
had some experience of the intricacies and obscurities of 
the subject. From Sachs, the great teacher of vegetable 
physiology in our young days, he received inadequate light ; 
and though Darwin's ' Movements of Plants ' (1889) 
seemed helpful, and his discovery of ' circumnutation ' 
for him a common property of shoots and leaves, and 
even of roots, from which more specific movements might 
be viewed as evolutionary specialisations under definite in- 
fluences was highly attractive, yet this theory did not fully 
carry conviction. For such records of circumnutation might 
be but complex resultants of the plant's responses to many 
changing conditions. But how to analyse these ? Experi- 
ments and observations have of course increased, and 
also attempts to co-ordinate and interpret them ; witness 
the portly third volume of Pfeffer's great ' Vegetable 
Physiology,' which is very largely thus occupied, but still 
without bringing to the subject the needful simplicity 
and generalisation. We now see a twofold reason for this 
failure of vegetable physiology hitherto. First because the 
vegetable physiologists, despite many and praiseworthy 
endeavours, but with their imperfect instrumentation 
and correspondingly slow and little magnified records, could 


not fully succeed in the needful analysis of the different 
environmental factors and their resultant responses. But, 
as we have seen above, the experimental resources of 
instrumentation and record have now been raised to an 
entirely new level through Bose's labour. And secondly, 
because of the inadequate recognition of organic control 
in the plant, fully analogous to that presented by animal 
life in fact what we have always recognised in the animal 
as essentially associated with nerve action. 

The reader may here fairly ask, What clearer inter- 
pretation of plant-movements not only of the motile 
organs of Mimosa and its like, but of other movements 
associated with growth is now being obtained through 
these advances ? A fully adequate answer to the question 
will be found in Bose's recent volumes on ' Life Movements 
in Plants ' ; here we must endeavour to give such an outline 
of main results as may be possible within the present narrow 
limits, alike of space and of avoidance of technicalities. 
So instead of following the order of existing treatises, or 
even of Bose's own discoveries, which have been partly 
determined by circumstances, let us start with such move- 
ments of plant responses as seem simplest and most un- 
differentiated, and thence proceed to the subtler and more 
evolved . 

To realise concretely something of the problem of 
vegetable physiology in general and of plant-movement 
in particular, let the reader imagine himself accompanying 
a botanist among his students in the garden some day 
when he is pointing out to them many of the phenomena 
of plant-movement with which they have broadly to 
acquaint themselves in living nature before proceeding 
to their experimental studies. 

Here, then, are seedlings in abundance, alike in cultiva- 
tion and as springing weeds. Some are growing erect in 
ordinary light ; others in shaded corners are bending 
their stems to the light, and exposing their cotyledons and 
young leaves accordingly. This may lead us to notice the 


way in which the leaves of many plants expose their upper 
surfaces as fully as may be to the light, partly, as we may 
see, in terms of their spiral origin upon the stem, though 
with definite individual and collective adjustments, and 
of various kinds. Thus a rosette-plant, like Dandelion, 
may have its leaves all practically on the ground-level ; 
but where there is some little stem, the lower leaves may 
have longer stalks, so as not to be shaded by those 
above. In most herbs and shrubs, when we look at 
their leafage from the mid-day sun's point of view, 
we may often admire the co-adjustment by which leaves 
avoid shading each other, fitting themselves into a pattern, 
often recalling those of wall-papers, or stuffs adorned 
with decorative plant-designs. For this there is manifestly 
some adjustment : some movement has taken place to 
turn this and that leaf into a better position for light than 
that of their simple and regular development upon the 
stem. This further adaptation is effected through the 
varying growth and movement, not only adjusting the 
level of the leaf, but also, it may be, twisting it ; and we 
seek to note how this is done. It is often effected by 
the more or less enlarged and swollen-looking, because 
turgid, leaf -base, the ' pulvinus/ which is conspicuous 
in many plants, and highly sensitive in Mimosa. 

There are many other adaptations for that quest of 
light on which the whole green world depends, and to 
utilise which is the essential photo-synthetic activity of the 
leaf, on which all animal life also depends, directly or 
indirectly. Here, for instance, is the great practical value 
of the stem and copious branches of tall herbs and shrubs, 
and above all of trees ; for by the help of these they more 
and more increase their available leaf area for light exposure, 
so that a single tree of moderate magnitude is enabled by 
the vast collective surface of its leaves to absorb a very 
large amount of light. 

The light-quest of the plant-world appears in yet more 
striking ways, so that each organ may find its place in 


the sun. And there are many means besides that of 
individual strengthening of stem to attain stature. Weak 
stems, like those of roses on the lower levels, or of lofty 
climbers, may scramble up by help of hooking prickles upon 
the solid stem-plants, and so get the better of them. Others 
again climb in gentler though not less efficient ways, like many 
tendril-bearers, e.g. peas and vines. Yet others swing their 
slender growing shoots, and so become twiners, like the convol- 
vulus, the hop, and many more among herbs. Many have 
shrubby, tough and rope-like stems like clematises, or even 
attain the fullest loftiness, like the lianas, which often grow 
to almost tree-like stems, twisted constrictor-fashion round 
their victims. Some again can climb on rocks and walls, 
like Ivy with its adhesive stem-roots, or like Ampelopsis 
with its tendrils cementing their tips to their supports. 

Yet even of life-sustaining light, plants may have 
more than they can bear, especially when water, their 
other necessity, is scanty. Hence we note plants which 
turn their edges to the light, like many peas to some extent, 
and some eucalyptuses much more ; and others yet more 
completely, like the famous Compass-plant of America. 
And though the palms and bananas bear their immense 
leaves in full sunshine, even these are not without some 
moderative adaptations ; while many plants have reduced 
the ordinary size of leafage of their family, sometimes even 
to the leaf-stalks, or to the stipules, parts which every one 
may have noticed at the base of the rose-leaf. Thus the 
acacias of desert regions, as notably in great tracts in 
inland Australia, may lose the beautiful bipinnate leaves 
so characteristic of their genus, sometimes indeed only 
producing one or two in the seedling, and henceforward 
have but leaf-stalks, flattened out in somewhat leaf-like 
fashion, yet now vertically instead of horizontally so as to 
catch less light, and also of tough and leathery character, 
so as to reduce the transpiration of water. Extreme cases 
are found in the Cactus and the Euphorbia families ; for 
here the leaves may vanish early, or even be represented by 


mere prickles or hairs, leaving the swollen stem, which now 
remains green, to do such slow and limited vegetation as 
it can in their place whence sometimes its flattening as 
in the prickly pears, or its ridging in yet more reduced forms. 

Many other forms attract us ; for the plant in its evolu- 
tion is like Proteus in his changing dance through the 
world and throughout life, and with the same extreme and 
dramatic contrasts. Leaving the cactus forms standing 
immobile like pillars, or lying like stones upon their rocks 
(sometimes only distinguishable from rocks by the scrutiny 
needed for mimetic form), we turn to moister situations. 
Here we may even find a variety of plants increasingly 
sensitive, up to the Mimosa itself, for which Bose's long 
years of research serve to express, and to deepen, the 
age-long wonder of the children of every age since man was 
intelligent at all. Less conspicuous sensitives there are, 
which suggestively to evolutionists lead back to the 
common and passive forms (yet these as Bose has shown 
merely passive-looking) ; while conversely we also find 
that further marvel of the Telegraph-plant (Desmodium), 
which to Bengal children seems to move to the clapping 
of their hands. It moves child-like, but in its own way: 
with its restless signal-like leaflets rising and falling by 
day and night alike, while health endures, and through- 
out the season. From utmost apparent passivity, then, 
we find activity more tireless than any animal's, and 
seeming no less determined from within. 

So we might go on ; but questions meantime have been 
arising among the students assuming them to be students, 
and not merely those parrots of the cram-book cage, into 
which evil enchanters, of Eastern traditions and Western 
convention alike, have so largely transformed them. The 
botanist guide is asked at every turn How is this ? And 
how is that ? How did the seedling shoot grow up, and 
how does the root go down ? And how of this upset one, 
trying, and successfully, to right itself anew? The book 
answer of the crammed parrot is too much like that one 


for which Moliere's invaluable satire on would-be medical 
and scientific education two centuries and a half ago is still 
needed. ' Why does opium make one sleep ? ' ' Because 
it has a dormitive virtue/ replies the candidate, and 
passes with ' honours ' accordingly. So the earthward root 
has ' geotropism/ an earthward property. And why does 
the shoot ascend in the very opposite direction ? By 
' negative geotropism ' surely the very poorest term in 
science for this loftiest adventure of life upon the globe. 
And why does the branch of the leaf stand out laterally ? 
By ' dia-geotropism ' ! 

Again, how do leaves turn to light ? In virtue of their 
' heliotropism ' or ' phototropism.' Yet why sometimes 
also turn from the light ? By ' negative phototropism.' 
And so on. This facile verbalism gives us ' hydro- 
tropism ' for the root's water-quest, and ' rheotropism 
when roots in water are observed to bend against the 
stream ; ' chemotropism ' for its utilisation of salts, and 
so on. The tendril's touch is its ' thigmotropism ' ; and 
there are yet more uncouth names. 

Intellectual activities have their verbalisms, their 
confusions and misdirections, as well as emotional ones ; 
and these may also accumulate into what are practically 
diseases. Every science of course needs its technical 
terminology as definite, precise and full as need be ; 
but all have suffered from verbosity of nomenclature, 
and notoriously botany most of all. Thus apart from 
the systematic names for each and every species and order 
which are of course indispensable there are some fifteen 
or twenty thousand technical terms in the botanical 
dictionaries, of which the majority have lapsed; but too 
many still survive, even in modern text-books, to the 
perplexity of the student ; too many even of these are given 
him by his professor in lectures, and still he uses too many 
himself, though fewest of all. It is of real advantage 
for the advance of our science, as well as of necessity for 
its most general understanding, to reduce this nomenclature 


to its necessary technical and logical minimum, without 
impairing sufficiency. 

There are so many cases and kinds of plant-movements 
that terms have gone on multiplying far faster than the 
understanding of them. True, despite all this superficial 
nomenclature, and by the very authors of it, there have 
been many experimental endeavours to elucidate and 
interpret the real causes underlying these phenomena, 
i.e. to observe and measure the effects of various stimuli, 
as of light and others. Yet the terminology employed 
is not only redundant, but often wrong. And though 
Pfeffer summarises the literature of the subject up to 
the coming of Bose, and often with research and inter- 
pretation of his own, and uses these terms with 
moderation, since after all they do help to group the obvious 
phenomena, he so far sees their limitations. For the 
terms employed give no explanation of the phenomena 
they are used to connote. 

' When we say that an organ curves towards a source 
of illumination because of its heliotropic irritability, we 
are simply stating an ascertained fact in a conveniently 
abbreviated form without explaining why such curvature 
is possible, or how it is produced/ 1 

The weakness of the situation is recognised by 
Pfeffer's clear-headed translator, Professor Alfred Ewart, 
who also protests against this excess of names, and with 
the needed general criticism : ' Error lies in supposing that 
a dissimilar response necessarily indicates a totally distinct 
form of irritability, and hence needs a new term, or that 
phenomena are made simpler or easier to understand by 
giving them a classical terminology/ 

Great uncertainty thus prevails as regards the explana- 
tion of various movements of plants. Hence the need for 
Bose's thoroughgoing reinvestigation of the phenomena ; 
and these now taken in relation with the sensitiveness to 

1 H. Pfeffer, Vegetable Physiology (Clarendon Press), 1903, ii. 74. 


all forms of stimuli and the resulting response, which he 
has demonstrated in the growth and life of ordinary plants. 
Hence, too, the need of comparative study of all those 
vegetable responses, not only in relation to each other, 
but in comparison with the response of inorganic matter 
on the one hand, and of animal muscle and nerve on the 
other. But the study of such nervous phenomena, in 
higher animals and in man, have long been under inquiry 
by the psycho-physiologist or physiological psychologist ; 
and if their organic substratum, their physiological pro- 
cesses, be now demonstrated in the vegetable world, the 
study of some of their elemental psychological bearings 
can hardly but be of comparative and evolutionary 
suggestiveness also. In this way Bose is widening out 
our range of inquiry far beyond the initial outlooks of our 
gardens ; or rather, let us say, those outlooks are deepening, 
and beyond all previous anticipation. 

After this garden ramble, which might of course have 
been extended to notice many other examples of plant - 
movements, we start Bose (as it is happily easy to do, for 
no man can be fuller of his subject, or more willing to 
explain it) to give us a fresh outline of his discoveries and 
their interpretations. He cannot begin better than with 
his long-loved Mimosa ; and in this he first sets us clearly 
to observe the form and movements. We note the long 
leaf-stalk or petiole rising from the distinct and swollen 
leaf -base or ' pulvinus/ which we soon find to be the 
main sensitive organ, and especially its lower surface ; 
we also see it to be the pivot from which the leaf falls. 
Next, at the far end of the leaf-stalk, we note the four 
secondary petioles, which answer to the two basal pairs 
of pinnae in a compound Acacia leaf. As in this, they 
bear on each side a row of small leaflets, the pinnules, of 
which each has its base distinctly swollen, as a ' pulvinule.' 
But the leaflets show up-movement, whether independently 
excited, or when the main leaf falls. The main sensibility 


of their pulvinules is thus found to be more on their upper 
surface, the very opposite from that of the main pulvinus. 
Besides these two movements in opposite planes, down and 
up respectively, we see that the midway pulvini, those 
of the four main leaf divisions, behave differently again ; 
for though they may fall a little, their main movements 
bring all four almost close together from their normal 
divergent position, so their sensibility must obviously be 
in each case on their sides, and in right and left pairs. A 
wonderful leaf-mechanism, with its tri-dimensional con- 
trast ; yet after all in analogy with that of our own build. 

The leaf thus visualised, and its sensitive working 
practised on, till we can in various ways not only make a 
whole leaf fall, and thence all the rest, but also stir a single 
leaflet, and so compel the fall of the whole leaf, and even 
thence of other leaves through the plant. We thus prove 
conductivity of impulse in each direction. We are now 
ready for finer observation, experiment and interpretation. 
First the older explanation, still surviving in text- 
books ; Pfeffer had offered a hydro-mechanical theory of 
transmission of stimulus, and Haberlandt the very best of 
microscopic analysts of plant-tissues, since most devoted 
to applying his observations towards the interpretation 
of their uses and functionings in detail had offered, and 
with fairly general acceptance by physiologists, a too simple 
explanation of the fall of the Mimosa leaf. He compared 
its pulvinus to an indiarubber tube filled with water and 
tied in at both ends so having a definite hydrostatic 
pressure of turgescence, and which, when a pinch is given 
at one end, of course exhibiting an increase of pressure, and 
even a certain flow, which are transmitted along the tube 
as an undulatory wave. 

It is here worth noting clearly that in this contrast 
of interpretations of transmission of stimulus (i) as essen- 
tially hydro-mechanical, for most vegetable physiologists 
hitherto, but (2) as fundamentally ' excitatory ' for Bose 
that it is our physicist who has here taken up the 


essential physiological point of view, and the physio- 
logists who had so far lost it. For they were thinking 
but anatomically that, since their sections had not revealed 
any striking nervous tissue like that of animals, nothing 
nervous could be there : whereas, had they held to 
their own fundamental experience and conception of the 
physiology of living protoplasm that it presents respira- 
tion, though without gills ; digestion, though without 
stomach ; and movement, though without muscles they 
would have realised the possibility of conduction of excita- 
tion without a highly developed nervous system. Moreover, 
intercellular continuity between vegetable cells has now long 
been known to microscopists ; and this not only in many 
cellular tissues, but more distinctly in and throughout 
certain elements of nbro-vascular bundles, in which there 
is more or less protoplasmic continuity, which is essential 
for conduction of excitation, and to these it was not un- 
reasonable to suspect conducting powers. Just as Lavoisier 
at once grasped the universality of the principle of the 
respiration process in living beings, and boldly correlated 
this with the process of oxidation, from slow rusting to 
active combustion, on the inorganic plane, so Bose, with 
similar range of comparison, has made and verified the 
analogous step with regard to irritability in the plant and 
transmission of excitation to a distance, thus extending 
our conceptions of the highly evolved muscle and nerve 
of animals to the simpler, yet fully similar contractile cells 
and conducting tissues in plants. 

Bose's researches on conduction of excitation in plants 
have now received full acceptance, and his conclusions are 
published in the ' Philosophical Transactions ' of the Royal 
Society. 1 In this paper Bose was able to show that the 
transmission is not hydro-mechanical, as has been previously 
supposed, for the impulse was shown to be initiated in the 
complete absence of any mechanical disturbance. All the 

1 ' On an Automatic Method for the Investigation of Velocity of Trans- 
mission of Excitation in Mimosa,' Philosophical Transactions, vol. 204. 


characteristics of the nervous impulse in the animal were 
shown to be present in the corresponding impulse in the 
plant ; thus rise of temperature accelerated the velocity 
in both, lowering of temperature causing a retardation or 
arrest. Anaesthetics and poisons arrested the impulse in 
an identical manner. 

The crucial test of a new theory is in its power of pre- 
dicting phenomena hitherto unknown, and Bose's prediction 
of certain unexpected characteristics of impulse in animal 
nerve has recently been verified. Bose discovered that 
the nervous impulse in plant is of a dual character, a 
positive followed by a negative. The positive gives rise 
to expansion and erectile movement of the motile leaf ; 
the negative on the other hand gives rise to contraction 
and down movement of the leaf. Certain investigations 
now being carried out by Bose seem to indicate that the 
nervous impulse in the animal may also exhibit a dual 
character. Of still higher importance is the possibility 
of control of nervous impulse, for which Bose obtained his 
clue from investigations carried out with plants. He was 
thus able to confer on the nerve two opposite ' molecular 
dispositions ' at will. Under one disposition the nervous 
impulse was greatly enhanced during transit, and under 
the opposite disposition it was retarded or became arrested. 
We shall, in a subsequent chapter, dwell on the high 
significance of these results. 



THE distinction that used to be drawn between plants and 
animals, that the former did not possess any conducting 
tissue analogous to the nerve of the animal, has been by 
Bose's work proved to be groundless. It was nevertheless 
urged that the sensibility of plants was comparatively of a 
very low order. Bose undertook to show that this was by 
no means the case. The most sensitive organ for the 
perception of electric current is the tip of the human tongue, 
and a European can detect by his tongue a current 
as feeble as 6 micro-amperes, a micro-ampere being the 
millionth part of a unit of electric current. Bose's pupils, 
however, possessed a higher sensibility, inasmuch as some 
of them could detect a current which was only 4-5 micro- 
amperes. This highly sensitive tongue was then matched 
against the sensitive leaflet of the plant Biophytum. A 
very feeble current which could be gradually increased was 
passed through the tongue and the leaflet, and when it 
reached the intensity of 1-5 micro-ampere the leaflet 
wagged in response, while the overrated tongue had 
nothing to tell as regards its perception of the current, 
which had to be increased threefold before it was per- 
ceived. Thus by this test the plant was three times more 
sensitive than the Hindu and four times more so than 
the European ! 

A record has already been given in a previous chapter 
(Fig. 15), which shows that the plant becomes depressed 


by a slight diminution of daylight, which is hardly 
noticed by a human observer. 

Bose also found that the growth of plants was affected 
by changes in the environment which were below the limit 
of human perception. For this new range of investigation 
he had to turn his attention to a new type of apparatus, 
the sensitiveness of which had to surpass those which he 
had already invented. The High Magnification and the 
Magnetic Crescograph enabled him to measure the most 
minute rate of growth. For the detection of the effect of 
impact of external stimulus, he had first to measure the 
normal rate, and afterwards the changed rate induced by 
the stimulus. The effect of stimulus, whether stimulating 
or depressing, could be found from calculation of the 
difference in the two cases. He now wished to eliminate 
the necessity for calculation and the consequent loss of 
time. The idea that now possessed him was to devise a 
new method which would instantly show by the up or down 
movement of an indicator the accelerating or retarding 
effect of the agent on growth. 

The desideratum was to compensate the up-movement 
of growth by some regulating device ; this involved the 
problem of making the plant descend at the exact rate at 
which the growing tip of the plant was rising, whatever that 
rate may be. Some such regulator has to be introduced as 
in the compensating movement of an astronomical telescope, 
by which the effect of earth's movement round her axis once 
in twenty-four hours is neutralised. But the problem that 
confronted Bose was far more difficult, for instead of com- 
pensating a definite rate he had to obtain adjustment for 
widely varying rates of growth in different plants, and even 
of the same plant under different conditions. 

The difficult problem was successfully solved in his 
Balanced Crescograph (Fig. 19). A train of revolving clock- 
wheels, actuated by the fall of a weight, lowers the plant 
exactly at the same rate at which it is growing. The exact 
adjustment is obtained by the gradual turning of a screw 


to the right or to the left, by which the rate of compensating 
fall is retarded or accelerated. In this way the rate of 
growth becomes exactly compensated, and the recorder 
now dots a horizontal line instead of the former curve of 
ascent. The turning of the adjusting screw of the Balanced 

FIG. 19. The Balanced Crescograph. Compensation of growth-movement 
produced by equal subsidence of the holder containing the plant (P). 
Adjusting screw (S) regulates the speed of the governor (G). W, heavy 
weight actuating clock-work. 

Crescograph also moves an index against a circular scale (not 
shown in the figure) so graduated that its reading at once 
gives the rate at which the plant is growing at that instant. 
When balanced, the recording apparatus is extraordinarily 
sensitive. Any change, however slight, in the environment 
is at once indicated by the upset of the balance with up 
or down movement of the curve. This method is so 
extremely sensitive that Bose has been able to detect 
variation of rate of growth so excessively minute as 
millionth of an inch per second. 


As an illustration of the delicacy of this method, a 
record is given of the effect of carbonic acid gas on 
growth (Fig. 20). A jar is filled with this gas, and emptied 
over the plant ; the invisible gas, on account of its heavier 
weight, falls in a stream and surrounds the plant. The 

FIG. 20. Record showing the effect of car- 
bonic acid gas on growth. Horizontal 
line at the beginning indicates balanced 
growth. Application of carbonic acid gas 
induces enhancement of growth, shown 
here by up -curve, followed by depression, 
exhibited by down - curve. Successive 
dots at intervals of ten seconds. 

record shows that this gave rise to an immediate accelera- 
tion of growth, and this continued for two and a half 
minutes ; this preliminary acceleration was followed by 
retardation of growth as shown by the down curve. With 
diluted carbonic acid, the acceleration may persist for an 
hour or more. Thus the Balanced Crescograph not only 
shows us the beneficial effect of an agent, but also tells us 
the dose which prolongs the beneficial effect. 

Plants are regarded as extremely sluggish : and it is 


thought that they are unable to perceive a stimulus 
unless applied for a considerable length of time. Thus for 
the perception of geotropic stimulus it is supposed that 
' even in rapidly reacting organs there is always an interval 
of about one to one and a half hours, before the horizon- 
tally placed organ shows a noticeable curvature, and this 
latent period may in other cases be extended to several 
hours (Jost).' Bose finds that the latent period of geo- 
tropic perception is often as short as a second. 

As regards perception of light, it has been supposed 
that the period of effective exposure must at least be of 
seven minutes' duration. With his extraordinarily sensitive 
apparatus Bose investigated the question of the plant's 
capability to respond to stimulus of light of excessively 
short duration. We can hardly conceive of anything so 
fleeting as a single flash of lightning. Bose now subjected a 
growing plant, balanced in his Crescograph, to an artificial 
flash of lightning that is to say, to the light emitted. by a 
single electric spark between two metallic balls. The plant 
perceived this light of incredibly short duration, as was 
manifest from the upset of the balance, and the resulting 
automatic script made by the plant. 

So much as regards the perception of plants to minimum 
duration of stimulus. The next question is as regards their 
range of perception, and Bose's astonishing discovery of 
the response of plants to wireless stimulation has caused 
something like a sensation among the scientific public. 
The account of this discovery is best told in Bose's own 
words taken from the second volume of the ' Transactions ' 
of his Institute, and from his letter in Nature : 

A growing plant bends towards light ; this is true, not only 
of the main stem, but also of its branches and attached leaves 
and leaflets, This movement in response is described as the 
tropic effect of light. Growth itself is modified by the action 
of light : two different effects depending on the intensity are 
produced ; strong stimulus of light causes a diminution of rate 
of growth, but very feeble stimulus induces an acceleration of 


growth. The tropic effect is very strong in the ultra-violet 
region of the spectrum with its extremely short wave-length 
of light ; but the effect declines practically to zero as we move 
towards the less refrangible rays, the yellow and the red, with 
their comparatively long wave-length. As we proceed further 
in the infra-red region we come across the vast range of electric 
radiation, the wave-lengths of which vary from the shortest 
wave I have been able to produce (0-6 cm.) to others which may 
be miles in length. There thus arises the very interesting question 
whether plants perceive and respond to the long aether-waves, 
including those employed in signalling through space. 

At first sight this would appear to be very unlikely, for the 
most effective rays are in the ultra-violet region with wave- 
length as short as 20 x io~ 6 cm. ; but with electric waves used 
in wireless signalling we have to deal with waves 50,000,000 
times as long. The perceptive power of our retina is confined 
within the very narrow range of a single octave, the wave- 
lengths of which lie between 70 x io~ 6 cm. and 35 x io~ 6 cm. 
It is difficult to imagine that plants could perceive radiations so 
widely separated from each other as the visible light and the 
invisible electric waves. 

But the subject assumes a different aspect when we take into 
consideration the total effect of radiation on the plant. Light 
induces two different effects which may broadly be distinguished 
as external and internal. The former is visible as movement ; 
the latter finds no outward manifestation, but consists of an ' up ' 
or assimilatory chemical change with concomitant increase of 
potential energy. Of the two reactions, then, one is dynamic, 
attended by dissimilatory ' down ' change ; the other is potential, 
associated with the opposite ' up ' change. In reality, the two 
effects take place simultaneously ; but one of them becomes 
predominant under definite conditions. 

The modifying condition is the quality of light. With refer- 
ence to this 1 quote the following from Pfeffer : ' So far as is at 
present known, the action of different rays of the spectrum gives 
similar curves in regard to heliotropic and phototactic move- 
ments, to protoplasmic streaming and movements of the chloro- 
plastids, as well as the photonastic movements produced by 
growth or by changes of turgor. On the other hand, it is the 
less refrangible rays which are most active in photosynthesis.' 
The dynamic and potential manifestations are thus seen to 
be complementary to each other, the rays which induce 


photosynthesis being relatively ineffective for tropic reaction, 
and vice versa. 

Returning to the action of electric waves, since they exert 
no photosynthetic action they might conceivably induce the 
complementary tropic effect. These considerations led me to 
the investigation of the subject fourteen years ago, and my 
results showed that very short electric waves induce a retarda- 
tion of rate of growth ; they also produce responsive movements 
of the leaf of Mimosa when the plant is in a highly sensitive 
condition. The energy of the short electric waves is very 
feeble, and undergoes great diminution at a distance ; hence 
the necessity for employment of a plant in a highly sensitive 

I resumed my investigations on the subject at the beginning 
of this year. I wished to find out whether plants in general 
perceived and responded to long aether-waves reaching them 
from a distance. The perception of the wireless stimulation was 
to be tested, not merely by the responsive movement of sensitive 
plants, but also by diverse modes of response given by all kinds 
of plants. 

The Wireless System. For sending wireless signals I had to 
improvise the following arrangement, more powerful means not 
being available. The secondary terminals of a moderate-sized 
Ruhmkorffs coil were connected with two cylinders of brass, 
each 20 cm. in length ; the sparking took place between two 
small spheres of steel attached to the cylinders. One of the two 
cylinders was earthed and the other connected with the aerial 
10 metres in height. The receiving aerial was also 10 metres in 
height, and its lower terminal led to the laboratory, and connected 
by means of a thin wire with the experimental plant growing in a 
pot ; this latter was put in electric connection with the earth. 
The distance between the transmitting and receiving aerial was 
about 200 metres, the maximum length permitted by the grounds 
of the Institute. 

I may state here that with the arrangement described above 
I obtained very definite mechanical and electric response to 
wireless impulse. For the former I employed the plant Mimosa ; 
the latter effect was detected in all plants, sensitive and ordinary. 

Effect of Wireless Stimulation on Growth. For the detection 
of variation of growth it was necessary to devise the extremely 
sensitive Balanced Crescograph. In this apparatus a compensat- 
ing movement is given to the plant -holder by which the plant 


subsides exactly at the same rate as its growth-elongation, so 
that the tip of the plant remains at the same point. This perfect 
balance is attained by a variable regulator. The compound 
magnifying lever attached to the plant records the movement of 
growth. Under exact balance the record is horizontal. Any 
induced acceleration of growth upsets the balance and, with the 
particular arrangement of the apparatus, causes a resulting 

FIG. 21. Record of responses of plant to wireless stimulation, (a) Re- 
sponse to feeble stimulus by acceleration of growth ; (6) response to 
strong stimulus by retardation of growth ; (c) response to medium 
stimulation retardation followed by recovery. Down-curve repre- 
sents acceleration, and up-curve retardation of growth (seedling of 

down record ; induced retardation, on the other hand, brings 
about an upset in the opposite direction and an up curve. 
The results given above (Fig. 21) show that growing plants 
not only perceive, but also respond to the stimulus of electric 
waves. These effects were found in all growing plants. The 
records were obtained with the seedling of wheat. 

Effect of Feeble Stimulus. I first studied the effect of feeble 
stimulus. This was secured by decreasing the energy of 
sparks of the radiator. The response was an acceleration of 
rate of growth as seen in Fig. 21 (a). This is analogous 


to the accelerating effect of light stimulation of subminimal 

Effect of Strong Stimulus. The maximum energy radiated 
by my transmitter, as stated before, was only moderate. In 
spite of this, its effect on plants was exhibited in a very striking 
manner. The balance was immediately upset, indicating a 
retardation of the rate of growth (Fig. 21, b). The latent 
period, i.e. the interval between the incident wave and the 
response, was only a few seconds. The record given in the figure 
was obtained with the moderate magnification of 2000 times 
only ; but with my Magnetic Crescograph the magnification 
can easily be raised ten million times, and the response of 
plant to the space-signalling can be exalted in the same 

Under an intensity of stimulus slightly above the subminimal, 
the response exhibits retardation of growth followed by quick 
recovery, as seen in the series of records given in Fig. 21 (c). 
The perceptive range of the plant is inconceivably greater 
than ours ; it not only perceives, but also responds to the 
different rays of the vast sethereal spectrum. 

These revelations are as unexpected as they are start- 
ling. They show that the pretension of man and animals 
for undisputed superiority over their hitherto despised 
' vegetative brethren ' does not bear the test of close 



WE have now to refer to the various tropic movements 
of plants in response to the multifarious stimuli of their 
environment ; the stimulus may be (i) of touch, in conse- 
quence of which tendrils twine round their support ; (2) of 
the action of light, under which the plant-organs move 
sometimes towards, and at other times away from, light ; 
(3) of the action of gravity, which causes opposite move- 
ments in the shoot and the root, the shoot moving upwards 
and the root downwards. There are also numerous other 
complicated movements associated with the recurrence of 
day and night. The intricacies and apparent contradictions 
of the responsive movements are so baffling that no con- 
sistent explanation appeared possible. This led to the 
supposition that a particular movement was due to some 
unknown specific sensitiveness ; organs possessed of positive 
sensitiveness moved towards the stimulus, while others 
characterised by negative sensitiveness moved away from it. 
Such use of merely descriptive phrases is, however, no 
real explanation of the phenomena. The idea of specific 
sensibility is, moreover, quite untenable when we find cases 
where, under continued stimulation, an organ moves at first 
towards the stimulus and afterwards away from it. An 
identical organ cannot evidently be possessed of both the 
positive and the negative sensibility. 

Bose pursued for many years the quest of discovering 
some fundamental reaction which was at the basis of 

' 181 


phenomena so extremely diverse. What, then, is the 
characteristic reaction in response to stimulus, and what 
are the agents which cause stimulation ? The term 
' stimulus ' has been used, in vegetable physiology, in a vague 
and indefinite sense, giving rise to much confusion. Thus 
light and warmth have both been regarded as stimuli ; 
but Bose was able to show that they bring about physio- 
logical effects which are diametrically opposite to each 
other. He carried out long series of experiments, the results 
of which enabled him to classify factors which cause 
stimulation. He showed that, generally speaking, agents 
which cause a contractile twitch in animal muscle also 
bring about the contraction of plant- tissue. The following 
modes of stimulation are thus found effective in causing 
excitation of vegetable tissues : (a) Mechanical (contact 
or friction, prick or wound) ; (b) radiation (the entire 
aethereal spectrum including visible light, radiant heat 
and electric waves) ; (c) electrical (make or break of a 
current, induction shock and condenser discharge) ; 
certain chemical agents also act as stimuli. The first great 
generalisation established by Bose is that the direct appli- 
cation of all forms of stimuli, mechanical, electrical or radiant, 
cause similar physiological response of contraction. 

He next shows that the excitation caused by stimulus 
may remain localised or transmitted to a distance according 
to the conducting power of the particular tissue. In this 
respect there are numerous gradations of highly conducting, 
semi-conducting and non-conducting tissues. Taking the 
sensitive plant Mimosa as the type possessing high power 
of conduction and a motile pulvinus, he demonstrates the 
sensitiveness of the plant by all modes of stimulation and 
the consequent response. He shows how the sensitiveness 
of the under surface, eighty-fold greater than that of the 
upper, was measured ; as also how he determined the speed 
of transmission of excitation from petiole onwards, usually 
at 30 mm. per second. This speed, while inferior to that in 
higher animal nerve, notably surpasses that of lower animals, 


like the mussel, so that we are ready to understand how he 
and his assistants can now dissect out a petiole-pulvinus 
preparation for investigations as definite and complete as 
those long familiar to physiologists of the nerve and muscle 
of a frog, and with his present apparatus carry their in- 
quiries substantially further. 1 He shows in this connection 
that in Mimosa the conducting power in a transverse 
direction is only -^ that in the longitudinal direction of 
the stem. 

We may next take the case of tissues in which the power 
of conduction is exceedingly feeble ; the contraction caused 
by direct stimulus remains, in this case, localised. A very 
remarkable reaction is, however, produced at a distance, 
which is of a diametrically opposite character and distin- 
guished as the ' Indirect ' effect of stimulus. The effect 
of ' Direct Stimulus ' applied immediately on the responding 
surface is a diminution of turgor, a contraction and a 
negative electrical variation shown by the galvanometer. 
The effect of ' Indirect Stimulus ' is, on the other hand, an 
increase of turgor, an expansion and a positive electric 
indication. The discovery of this hitherto unsuspected 
effect of Indirect Stimulus is one of Bose's most far-reaching 
results ; for many of the apparent contradictions in the 
responsive movements in plants are shown to be due to this 
very important factor having remained so long unknown. 

We may next proceed to Bose's special contributions 
to the understanding of plant-movements. A very im- 
portant generalisation established by him is the unity of 
reaction in all plant -organs, growing and non-growing. 
Most significant of these advances towards the under- 
standing of the movements brought about by growth, is 
the conception, experimentally worked out, that the 
growing organ and its responses are like those of Mimosa 
pulvinus and its responses. He records the effect of 
all forms of stimulus on growth, and shows that direct 

1 Transactions of the Bose Institute, vol. i., 1918. 


stimulus checks growth or brings about an ' incipient ' 
contraction ; when the intensity of stimulus is increased, 
the effect culminates in an actual contraction. This is 
exactly parallel to the contraction in the pulvinus under 
direct stimulus. 

He next demonstrates the effect of Indirect Stimulus 
(applied at some distance from the responsive region of 
growth). This produces an expansion and acceleration of 
the rate of growth. The opposite effects of Direct and 
Indirect Stimulus are diagrammatically shown in Fig. 22 
(a and b). He thus establishes his Law of Effects of Direct 
and Indirect Stimulus : 

Direct Stimulus induces contraction ; Indirect Stimulus 
causes the opposite effect of expansion. 

The same law applies when stimulus acts on one side 
of the organ. When stimulus of any kind acts on the 
right side (Fig. 22, c), the directly stimulated right side 
contracts and the indirectly stimulated opposite, or left 
side expands, with the result of tropic curvature towards 
the stimulus. And from these fundamental reactions, 
experimentally demonstrated, Bose explains the diverse 
movements brought about by the various forces of the 

He thus leads us to the explanation of the movements 
of tendrils. Whether these be branch-like, i.e. at first 
uniform and radial, or from the first more or less bifacial, 
like the leaves, leaflets or stipules which also often develop 
into tendrils in all these the same reactions to direct and 
to indirect stimulus appear. Hence it is that the rubbed 
tendril contracts towards this direct stimulus, and its 
coiling in this useful direction is thus not a special marvel 
of natural selection between alternative chances, but is of 
the nature of all response (though of course the selectionist 
may then fairly emphasise its special and useful develop- 
ment). From this simple beginning onwards, all tendril- 
behaviour may be worked out in detail. 



The many cases of the lightward movement of plant- 
growth of which every one must have noticed some, as of 
plants grown in a window may next be understood in the 
main ; since the light acts upon the stem and leaf-stalks 

FIG. 22. Effects of Direct and Indirect Stimulus. 

(a) Stimulus applied Directly at the growing region inducing retardation 

of growth or contraction as represented by dotted line. Stimulated 
area represented in this and in following by shade. 

(b) Stimulus applied Indirectly (at some distance from growing region) 

gives rise to acceleration of growth and expansion. 

(c) Stimulus applied to right side of organ causes contraction of that 

side and expansion of the opposite side, thus giving rise to positive 
curvature towards stimulus. 

(d) Excitation transmitted to the opposite side causes neutralisation. 

(e) Excitation caused by intense stimulation is transmitted across and 

thus reverses the normal curvature to negative, i.e. away from 

just like the touch of the support upon the tendril. For 
in this case again the directly stimulated side is contracted 
and the opposite side is expanded, so bending the shoot 
light wards. 

When the light is very strong and long continued the 
over-excited plant-organs may begin to turn away : how is 
this effected ? Bose's experiments show that the strong 
excitation percolates into and traverses the stems and 


petioles, and provokes their contraction on the further 
side, thus neutralising their former bending (Fig. 22, d). 
The organ now places itself at right angles to the light, 
and this particular reaction has been termed dia-helio- 
tropism. In certain cases the transverse conductivity of 
the organ is considerable ; the result of this is an enhanced 
excitation and contraction of the further side, while the 
contraction of the near side is reduced on account of fatigue 
caused by over-excitation. The organ thus bends away 
from light or exhibits the so-called negative heliotropism 
(Fig. 22, e}. These effects are accentuated when one side of 
the organ is more excitable than the other. But in every 
one of these cases the tracings obtained by Bose's self- 
recording apparatus show first a movement towards light, 
then neutralisation, and finally a movement away from 
light. In this way a continuity of reaction is demonstrated, 
proving that the assumption of specific positive and 
negative heliotropic sensibility is unjustified. 

With this comprehension of the dual effects of light- 
stimulus, the adjustment of leaves to receive light and 
also in certain cases, as above noticed in the garden, to 
escape excess of it may alike be unravelled : since we now 
see that the more or less sensitive surface of the pulvinus on 
which the leaf -adjustment usually depends may be variously 
affected, even to definite twistings, as when a leaf-organ 
is placed edgewise to the light. 

So far, then, for these common phenomena we have 
now got a simple and uniform dynamic explanation behind 
the familiar utilitarian one. But every botanist knows 
cases of further difficulty. The common Indian cress 
(Tropaeolum) turns towards light in winter, but away 
from it in summer. Bose shows that the conduction of 
' nervous ' excitation in the plant is exalted, as in the 
animal, by the rise, and lowered by the fall, of temperature. 
The transverse conduction of excitation is thus enhanced 
by higher temperature in summer ; the excitation in 
this season more easily percolates across the stem, 


reversing the normal positive curvature seen in winter. It 
will thus be seen how diurnal, seasonal and climatic factors 
may bring about modification in the response. 

Next we pass to ' Geotropism, Positive and Negative/ 
the explanation of which offered difficulties almost un- 
surmountable. From the youngest seedling to the lofty 
tree, the shoot rises upwards, while the roots descend. 
When laid flat, or inverted, the plant begins to right itself, 
shoot and root turning in their respective directions. The 
righting of the shoot is very manifest, and on the great scale, 
in corn ' laid ' by the rain, of which the nodes soon renew 
growth-activity and so raise the shoot anew. In itself, 
the organism is thus as definitely bi-polar in its way as 
is a magnet in its own. In and for this characteristic 
behaviour gravity is evidently the external factor, to 
which the organism has to adjust itself. Yet to understand 
what may be this functional co-adjustment of organism 
and environment has long been puzzling botanists. It 
was at first thought that the descending root might be 
merely sinking under its weight ; but with a basin of mercury 
set below it, the root forces its way down against this potent 
resistance, which would, of course, float it w r ere it passive. 
Again, how can the shoot rise tens, even hundreds, of feet 
against gravity ? And how can the same uniform stimulus 
of gravity produce dual and contrary effects ? 

For the solution of these most difficult problems Bose 
undertook investigation on the following subjects : 

1. What is the mechanism of the movement of response 
under the stimulus of gravity ? 

2. Which is the particular layer of cells which perceives 
the stimulus and acts as the sense-organ ? 

3. What is the reason of the opposite signs of response 
in the shoot and in the root ? 

The research necessitated the invention of new methods 
of investigation of extreme delicacy and reliability ; of 
these may be specially mentioned the Method of Geo- 
electric Response, and the Localisation of Geo-perceptive 


Layer by means of the Electric Probe. A description of 
the methods and their applications will be given presently. 

As regards the mechanism of the up-curving of a hori- 
zontally laid stem, it may be due either to the expansion of 
the lower or contraction of the upper surface ; and no 
experimental test had been devised to decide between the 
two alternatives the prevalent opinion, however, being 
that the movement was due to expansion. Here then is 
an apparent exception to Bose's demonstration that all 
forms of stimulus induce contraction as their direct effect, 
and expansion as the indirect effect. 

In order to subject the question to a crucial test, Bose 
devised his extremely delicate electric method to find 
whether the upper side of the horizontally laid stem remains 
passive or exhibits an active state of excitation. He had 
in his previous work on ' Comparative Electro- physiology ' 
demonstrated that the state of excitation in a vegetable 
tissue is exhibited by two simultaneous reactions of con- 
traction and of an electric change of negative sign. Thus 
the state of active excitation of any point of the tissue can 
be detected with the greatest certainty by means of a 
galvanometer. Bose connected two sides of a stem with the 
galvanometer, and the displacement of the stem from the 
vertical to the horizontal position was immediately followed 
by the clearest indication that the upper was the excited 
side. The electrical response w r as found to increase as the 
angle of inclination to the vertical was increased from zero 
to 90 degrees. This direct stimulus of the upper surface 
involves its contraction and results in the geotropic 
curvature of the stem upwards. 

The next puzzling question is in regard to the sense-organ 
which enables the plant to perceive the vertical direction and 
move accordingly. We get our idea of direction of force 
of gravity by means of plumb-lines, and our own orienta- 
tion in space is so far understood as dependent on the 
semicircular canals associated with the internal ear ; and 


these are believed to function through the effect of gravity 
on their contained fluid in our varying positions, and its 
changing flow and pressure with our movements. In 
water animals, whose specific gravity is little different 
from that of the water they inhabit, heavy solid bodies 
come into service : the large ' otoliths ' of the fish's ear, 
and the sand-grains, mingled with tactile hairs, in the 
lobster's. So if it be by such stimulus of solid particles, 
with their always vertical fall, that animals are oriented, 
must not the solid granules of various composition, albu- 
minoid, starchy and other, which are found free in many 
vegetable cells, have a similar action on their protoplasm 
and practically serve as otoliths, giving the needed signal 
and stimulus for proper orientation? Definite layers of 
starch grains have been found in microscopic sections of 
the plant, and from anatomical considerations of their dis- 
tribution the theory of statoliths has been ably advocated 
by Noll, Haberlandt, Nemec and others. 

The direct test needed for the localisation of geo- 
perceptive layer is, however, the physiological reaction 
of the living plant, giving unmistakable signal of its 
perception of geotropic stimulus as it is disturbed from 
its normal vertical position. Bose now worked out the 
highly original device of his Electric Probe, by means of 
which he is able to explore the interior of the plant and 
detect the state of excitation in its different layers . Suppose 
G and G 1 to be the layers of cells in a stem concerned in 
the perception of the stimulus of gravity, G G 1 being the 
longitudinal section of an annular ring (Fig. 23, p. 158). As 
long as the stem remains vertical, geotropic stimulation will 
be absent, but inclination to the vertical will cause irritation. 
Bose's Electric Probe consists of an exceedingly fine platinum 
wire, enclosed in a capillary glass tube, the probe being 
electrically insulated except at the extreme tip. When 
the probe, suitably connected with a galvanometer, is 
slowly thrust into the stem so that it enters one side and 
comes out at the other, the galvanometer will by its 


deflection show the state of irritation of every layer of cell 
throughout the organ. Holding the stem vertical, Bose 
sent his exploring probe step by step across the organ and 
found no sign of local excitation. The passage of the probe 
itself, it is true, causes a slight irritation, but this is reduced 
to a minimum by making the probe excessively fine and by 
making the passage of the probe very slow. 

The case will be very different w r hen the stem is dis- 
placed from the vertical to a horizontal position. The 
geotropically sensitive layer now perceives the stimulus 
and becomes the focus of irritation ; the state of excitation 
is, as explained before, detected by negative electric response 
exhibited by the galvanometer, and the electric variation 
would be most intense at the perceptive layer itself ; the ex- 
citation at the perceptive layer will irradiate into the neigh- 
bouring cells in radial directions with intensity diminishing 
with distance. Hence the intensity of responsive electric 
change will decline in both directions outwards and inwards. 

The distribution of the excitatory change, initiated at 
this perceptive layer and irradiated in radial directions, is 
represented in the right hand of Fig. 23 (p. 158) by the depth 
of shading, the darkest shadow being on the perceptive 
layer itself. Had excitation been attended with change of 
light into shade, we should have witnessed the spectacle of 
a deep shadow, vanishing tow r ard the edges, and spreading 
over the different layers of cells during displacement of 
organs from vertical to horizontal ; the shadow would have 
disappeared on the restoration of the organ to the vertical 

Different shades of excitation in different layers are, 
however, capable of discrimination by means of the insu- 
lated electric probe, as it is pushed into the organ from 
outside. In actual experiment the probe exhibited in- 
creasing excitatory electric change during approach to the 
perceptive layer, which reached its climax when the 
probe came in contact with that layer. When it passed 
beyond this point, the electric indication of excitation 


underwent rapid decline and abolition. The electric indi- 
cation at the perceptive layer itself became abolished as 
soon as geotropic stimulus was removed by the restoration 
of the organ to the vertical position. Bose is thus able 
to map out the contour lines of physiological excitation 
inside a living organ. 

After localising by means of his electric explorer the 
perceptive layer, Bose made section of the organ and found 
that the particular cells contained large-sized starch-grains, 
which were instrumental in causing gravi-perception by 
their weight. 

If the fall of the heavy particles on the sensitive ecto- 
plasmic layer of the lower side of the cells be the cause of 
geotropic excitation, then the geotropic response should 
take place after an interval necessary for the heavy particles 
to fall from the base to the side of the cell. This period 
could not exceed more than a few seconds, but the geo- 
tropic reaction, as hitherto observed, seemed to be initiated 
much later after periods varying from several minutes 
to an hour or more. Bose, however, with his magnifying 
recorder, was able to detect the commencement of geotropic 
curvature in less than a minute ; his electric method also 
showed the latent period not to exceed a few seconds. 

In geotropic response the only anomaly that remained 
was in regard to the response of the root being opposite to 
that of the shoot. Bose showed that every cut portion of 
the growing region of the shoot responds to the stimulus 
of gravity by bending upwards. The growing region of the 
shoot is therefore both sensitive to stimulus and responsive 
to it. Hence geotropic stimulation of the shoot is direct. 
But this is not the case with the root. Here it is the tip 
of the root which perceives the stimulus, for Darwin showed 
that when the root-tip is amputated the root loses its 
orientation. The actual geotropic bending takes place 
in the growing region at some distance from the tip. 
The stimulus is received at the tip and transmitted to 
the distant responding region of growth. Hence geotropic 


stimulus acts indirectly in the root. Bose had shown that 
the effects of direct and indirect stimulus on growth are 
antithetic ; it therefore follows that the responses 'of shoot 
and root to the direct and indirect stimulus must be of 
opposite signs. 

Bose went further and carried out direct experiments 
on the characteristic responses of the root. He applied 
various forms of stimuli, first directly on the responding 
growing region of the root, and found that the induced 
curvature was "towards the stimulus; he next applied the 
same stimuli on one side of the root-tip, and the response 
was by movement away from the stimulus. His generalisation 
that direct stimulus and indirect stimulus induce opposite 
responsive movements became verified even in the case 
of roots. 

Objections had been raised about Darwin's experiment 
on the decapitation of roots abolishing geotropic response ; 
it was urged that the shock of operation might of itself 
abolish all sensibility. In order to meet this objection 
Bose carried out his electric experiments on the reaction 
of different zones of intact root under the stimulus of 
gravity. When he made his electric contact at one side 
of the root-tip, displacement of the root from vertical to 
horizontal position at once gave the negative electric response, 
showing that the root-tip had become directly stimulated. 
Restoration of the root to the vertical position was followed 
by disappearance of all signs of irritation. He next applied 
his electric contact at the responding growing region of the 
root, which on displacement from a vertical to a horizontal 
position gave rise to positive electric response, which is the 
indication of indirect effect of stimulus. By this crucial 
experiment carried out on an intact plant Bose was able 
to establish an underlying unity even in responses which 
appeared to be so diametrically opposite. 



DIFFERENT organs of plants are in a state of constant 
movement which is not immediately noticeable. But a 
striking change is observed in their respective positions 
at day and night. The explanation of this particular 
phenomenon of Nyctitropism has hitherto proved very 
baffling, as will be seen from the following summary given 
by Jost in his ' Physiology of Plants/ 

Many plant organs, especially foliage and floral leaves, take 
up towards evening positions other than those they occupy by 
day. Petals and perianth leaves, for example, bend outwards 
by day so as to open the flower, and inwards at night so as to 
close it. ... Many foliage leaves also may be said to exhibit 
opening and closing movements, not merely when they open and 
close in the bud, but also when arranged in pairs on an axis they 
exhibit movements towards and away from each other. In 
otru cases, speaking generally, we may employ the terms 
night-position and day-position for the closed and open con- 
ditions respectively. The night-position may also be described 
as the sleep-position. ... A completely satisfactory theory of 
nyctitropic movements is not yet forthcoming. Such a theory 
can only be established after new and exhaustive experimental 

Bose has recently carried out a complete investigation 
on the subject, the results of which are given in Vol. II of 
the 'Transactions of the Bose Institute/ Without enter- 
ing into details, it may be said that the new advance 
here consists in distinguishing for a series of simple 

193 o 


cases chosen as typical the various factors which are 
predominant, as notably the response (i) to variation of 
temperature, (2) to variation of light, and (3) to the varia- 
tion geotropic response under daily variation of tem- 
perature. This last phenomenon, hitherto unsuspected, is 
the determining cause of a very large number of day and 
night movements. In many instances the resulting effect 
is due to different combinations of various factors. Light 
and heat may be strong or weak ; moreover, radiant heat 
has quite the opposite effect to that of mere raising of 
temperature ; light may give rise to after-effects, and the 
plant's responses may also vary from simple to more or 
less multiple and automatic. Thus the independent 
variables are many. Calculation shows the possible 
variety of effects to be enormous, and observation in- 
creasingly shows that nature has realised no small number 
of these. Bose's demonstration of the reaction in typical 
cases will enable the inquirer to predict the effect of 
combination of different factors. 

His success in these investigations is due to the 
perfection of his newly invented apparatus by which the 
movement of the plant becomes automatically recorded 
throughout the day and night. The periodic variation 
of environmental conditions is also recorded at the same 
time by his thermograph and recording photometer. 
Confirmatory experiments are carried out where light 
is maintained constant, the plant being subjected to the 
daily variation of temperature ; in others the temperature 
is maintained constant, and it is the diurnal change of 
light and darkness that affects the plant. The results of 
such protracted investigation enabled him to unravel the 
complexities of the daily movement of different plants. 
The following extract from Bose's popular lecture given 
at his Institute will be found interesting as regards the 
' sleep ' and ' waking ' movements of the water-lily 
Nymphaea, and the investigation which led to the discovery 
of the cause of this movement. 



The poets have forestalled the men of science. Why does the 
water-lily Nymphaea keep awake all night long and close her 
petals during the day ? Because the water-lily is the lover of 
the Moon, and like the human soul expanding at the touch of 
the Beloved, the lily opens out her heart at the touch of the 
moon-beam, and keeps watch all night long ; she shrinks 
affrighted by the rude touch of the Sun, and closes her petals 
during the day. The outer floral leaves of the lily are green, 
and in the day-time the closed flowers are hardly distinguishable 
from the broad green leaves which float on the water. The 
scene is transformed in the evening as if by magic, and myriads 
of glistening white flowers cover the dark water. The recurrent 
daily phenomenon has not only been observed by the poets, but 
an explanation offered for it. It is the moon-light then that causes 
the opening of the lily, and the sun-light the movement of 
closure. Had the poet taken out a lantern in a dark night, 
he would have noticed that the lily opened its petals at night 
in total absence of the moon ; but a poet is not expected to 
carry a lantern and peer out in the dark ; that inordinate 
curiosity is characteristic only of the man of science. Again 
the lily does not close with the appearance of the sun ; for the 
flower often remains awake up to eleven in the forenoon. A 
French dictionary maker saw Cuvier the zoologist about the 
definition of the crab as ' a little red fish which walks backwards.' 
' Admirable ! ' said Cuvier. ' But the crab is not necessarily 
little nor is it red till boiled ; it is not a fish, and it cannot walk 
backwards ; but with these exceptions your definition is perfect.' 
And so also with the poet's description of the movement of the 
lily, which does not open to moon-light nor yet close to the sun. 

Nor has the scientific explanation hitherto offered proved 
more satisfactory. The eminent plant-physiologist Pfeffer 
regarded the ' sleep and waking movements ' to be due to 
the recurring action of light and darkness, of sunrise and 
sunset. The opening and closing of the water-lily has, 
however, little or no connection with the rising or setting 
of the sun ; the opening could not be due to setting sun 
for the flower remains open in light up to about n o'clock 
in the morning ; neither could it be due to the rising sun, 


since the flowers are already open at night. Finding that 
light exerted little or no effect, Bose turned his attention 
to the action of daily variation of temperature. 

We may next enquire whether the daily variation of tempera- 
ture has any effect in producing the alternate movement of 
opening and closing of the lily. If the curve of movement of the 
flower resembled the curve of variation of temperature, we 
should then have no hesitation in ascribing the floral movement 
to diurnal change of temperature. In the determination of the 
influence of temperature on the movement of the flower it is 
therefore necessary to obtain a diurnal record of the movement 
of the petal, and also that of the change of temperature through- 
out the 24 hours. 

The automatic recorder should thus fulfil two different 
requirements. It should, in the first place, record the magnified 
movement of the petal, and indicate the time when such move- 
ment took place ; it should also trace the fluctuation of tempera- 
ture, both the rise and fall, throughout day and night. For 
obtaining magnification of movement, one of the petals of the 
flower is attached by a fine thread to the arm of a light lever 
made of fine aluminium wire. The lever is supported on jewel 
bearings which reduce the friction to a minimum. The tip of the 
longer arm of the lever is bent so as to serve as a writing point. 
This traces the magnified record of the movement of the petal 
on a smoked piece of glass, which is moved by clockwork through 
its entire length in 24 hours. The tip of the writer rubs off the 
smoke where it touches, and thus leaves a white line on a dark 
background. The difficulty met here is that there is a consider- 
able friction at the point of contact of the writer with the glass 
plate. The free movement of the flower is thus greatly ham- 
pered and the record thus becomes distorted. This difficulty is 
overcome by keeping the glass plate, for a greater part of the 
time, away from contact with the writing point. By a special 
contrivance of clockwork, the plate is made to approach the 
writing point intermittently, say once every fifteen minutes. 
The successive dots thus record the movement of the leaf during 
successive quarters of an hour during day and night. 

There now remains the method of recording the diurnal 
variation of temperature. For this I use the simple device 
of a compound strip, made of the more expansible strip 
of brass, soldered to the less expansible strip of steel. 


When temperature rises, the brass expands more than the 
steel ; hence the compound strip undergoes a curvature, the 
brass surface becoming convex. The free end of the strip is 
attached to a second magnifying lever which thus records the 
variation of temperature. 

The curves of daily variation of temperature, and the move- 
ment of the petals, show an astonishing resemblance to each other. 
There can therefore be no doubt that the cause of the opening 
and closing of the flower is the diurnal change of temperature. 
The flower is in a position of ' sleep ' during the day ; a rapid 
fall of temperature occurs from 6 P.M. and the petals begin to 
open at first slowly, then very rapidly. The flower becomes 
completely open and fully expanded by 10 P.M. at night. Though 
the temperature continues to fall, there is no further possibility of 
expansion beyond the maximum. At about 6 A.M. the tempera- 
ture begins to rise, and the reverse movement of closure sets in. 
The flower continues to close very rapidly till the closure or 
' sleep ' movement becomes complete before n A.M. 

It is thus seen that the closure of the flower is brought about 
by a rise of temperature, the opening being due to a fall of 
temperature. Both sides of the petals are in a state of growth, 
but the outer side is the more sensitive to changes of temperature. 
Thus it happens that during rise of temperature the growth 
of the outer side is relatively fast ; during cooling it becomes 
relatively slow. The two opposite reactions give rise to two 
different curvatures, namely of closure during rise, and of opening 
during fall of temperature. Other flowers are known, e.g. the 
Tulip, where the inner side is relatively the more sensitive. 
Pfeffer has shown that in this flower, rise of temperature brings 
about an accelerated growth on the inner side of petal. Hence 
the flower opens during rise and closes during fall of temperature. 

Thus different flowers through their sensitiveness to heat and 
cold execute the so-called movements- of ' sleep ' and of ' waking.' 
Some of them have the healthy habit of normal humanity to 
sleep at night and keep awake in the day-time. Others turn 
night into day and make up for their long night-watch by 
sleeping it off in the day-time ! 

The daily movement of the water-lily is thus shown to 
be due to the predominant effect of variation of temperature 
on growth. Bose next describes the effect of variation of 
light and darkness on organs which are sensitive to light. 


This type is exemplified by the leaflet of Cassia alata. A 
rapid movement of closure of leaflets is initiated in this 
plant at 5 P.M., when the light is undergoing a rapid 
diminution. The movement of closure is completed by 
9 P.M., and the leaflets remain closed till 5 A.M. next 
morning, after which they begin to open; the opening is 
completed by 9 A.M., and the leaflets remain open till the 
afternoon. The plant is so extremely sensitive to light that 
any slight fluctuation is immediately followed by responsive 
movement. Thus the transitory passage of a cloud is 
marked in the record by a short-lived closure movement. 

Of the vast number of daily movements, perhaps the 
largest proportion is due to a characteristic physiological 
reaction which had so long remained undiscovered. Bose 
spent many years in an attempt to trace the unknown 
cause till his perseverance was crowned with success. This 
discovery was due to a fortunate incident. When present 
by the invitation of the good people of Faridpur to their 
celebration of the yearly Mela (mentioned above as 
established half a century ago by his father), they told him 
of a wondrous ' Praying Palm ' growing in their neighbour- 
hood. First then the natural history phenomenon, so far 
as generally observed and interpreted : 

Perhaps no phenomenon is so remarkable and shrouded with 
greater mystery as the performances of a particular Date Palm 
near Faridpur in Bengal. In the evening, while the temple bells 
ring, calling upon people to prayer, this tree bows down as if to 
prostrate itself. It erects its head again in the morning, and 
this process is repeated every day of the year. This extra- 
ordinary phenomenon has been regarded as miraculous, and 
pilgrims have been attracted in large numbers. It is alleged 
that offerings made to the tree have been the means of effecting 
marvellous cures. It is not necessary to pronounce any opinion 
on the subject ; these cures may be taken to be as genuine as 
other faith-cures now prevalent in the West. 

This particular Date Palm, Phoenix dactylifera, is a full-grown 
rigid tree, its trunk being 5 metres in length and 25 cm. in 
diameter. It must have been displaced by storm from the 

FIG. 24. The 'Praying' Palm. 1 he upper photograph represents the 
morning, and the lower photograph the afternoon position. 


vertical, and is now at an inclination of about 60 degrees to the 
vertical. In consequence of the diurnal movement, the trunk 
throughout its entire length is erected in the morning, and 
depressed in the afternoon. The highest point of the trunk thus 
moves up and down through one metre ; the ' neck/ above the 
trunk, is concave to the sky in the morning ; in the afternoon the 
curvature disappears, or is even slightly reversed. The large 
leaves which point high up against the sky in the morning are 
thus swung round in the afternoon through a vertical distance of 
several metres. To the popular imagination the tree appears 
like a living giant, more than twice the height of a human being, 
which leans forward in the evening from its towering height and 
bends its neck till the crown of leaves presses against the ground 
in an apparent attitude of devotion. Two vertical stakes, 
each one metre high, give a general idea of the size of 
the tree and movements of the different parts of the trunk 
(Fig. 24, p. 198). 

A difficulty arose at the beginning in obtaining sanction 
of the proprietor to attach the recorder to the tree. He 
was apprehensive that its miraculous power might disappear 
by profane contact with foreign-looking instruments. 
His misgivings were removed on the assurance that the 
instrument was made in Bose's laboratory in India, and 
that it would be attached to the tree by one of his assistants 
who was the son of a priest. 

The phenomenon above described is not a marvel of 
the mystical East : a similar thing had happened among 
the prosaic surroundings of Liverpool ! An English friend 
sent to Bose the following extract from the Liverpool 
Mercury dated December 13, 1811. 

Remarkable Phenomenon. There is at present a willow tree 
of considerable height and about three yards in circumference, 
growing on the banks of a rivulet on a farm called Yubsill, the 
property of the Rev. Mr. Wasney, near Shipton, which actually 
appears animated : it will, at times, prostrate itself at full length 
on the ground, and then rise to its original perpendicular position. 
Incredible as this may appear, it is a fact, and has been the 
astonishment of hundreds who have seen it ! ! ! 


Bose's investigation on the ' Praying Palm ' is thus 
enunciated : 

For obtaining an explanation of the phenomenon it was 
necessary : 

1. To obtain an accurate record of the movement of the 
tree day and night, and to determine the time of its maximum 
erection and fall. 

2. To find whether this particular instance of movement 
was unique, or whether the phenomenon was universal. 

3. To discover the cause of the periodic movement of the tree. 

4. To determine the relative effects of light and temperature 
on the movement. 

5. To demonstrate the physiological character of the move- 
ment of the tree. 

6. To discover the physiological factor whose variation 
determines the directive movement. 

For the details of this inquiry, the original paper must be 
referred to : enough here to summarise the main results- 
The curve recording the ' prostration ' of the tree towards 
evening, with its nightly rise anew, very closely corresponds 
to that of the daily rise and nightly fall of temperature, 
though naturally lagging a little behind. This the reader 
will see on comparing the curves, which represent the 
variation of temperature and the movement of the 
palm (Fig. 25). Investigation on a younger and less 
bent palm of the same species growing in Bose's garden, 
down-stream from Calcutta, 200 miles from Faridpur, 
showed an even more exact correspondence of the tree's 
movements with the temperature changes, the more since 
this smaller tree admitted of the erection of a tent over 
it during its observation, so as to prevent wind from 
disturbing the record, and also to mitigate any possible 
effect of the alternation of sunlight with darkness. 

The objection next arises May not this diurnal 
rhythm be but a physical effect of temperature, not a 
physiological one ? The question, however, was finally 
settled by the unfortunate death of the tree, which took 
place a year after the commencement of the investigation. 



Bose was officially informed that ' the palm tree was dead, 
and that its movements had ceased.' 

Further experiments enabled Bose to show that 
movements similar to that of the palm tree occur in all 

FIG. 25. Records of the daily movement of the Palm Tree, of 
Tropaeolum, and of the Palm Leaf. The upper record 
gives the daily variation of temperature. 

trees and their branches and leaves. 1 He was further 
able to trace the cause of the movement to the joint effects 
of geotropism and temperature ; he designates the new 
phenomenon as therm o-geotropism. Under the action of 
the stimulus of gravity stems, branches and leaves tend 
to erect themselves against the force of gravity, and a 

1 Trans. Bose Inst., vol. i., 1918. 


curvature is thus produced. Rise of temperature reduces 
the geotropic effect and flattens this curvature, while fall 
of temperature accentuates it. Hence under the daily 
variation of temperature, all branches of trees and their 
leaves exhibit a periodic up and down movement. This 
is clearly seen in the records given in Fig. 25 of the diurnal 
movement of the palm tree, that of the procumbent stem 
of Tropaeolum, and of the leaf of the palm. In the tropics 
the thermal noon or the period of highest temperature 
is about 3 P.M., while the thermal dawn or temperature 
minimum is about 6 A.M. The different plant-organs 
are seen to move continually upwards from the thermal 
noon to the thermal dawn. The reverse movement takes 
place after 6 A.M., and the maximum fall is attained at 
the thermal noon at 3 P.M. Several hundreds of records 
obtained with different plants show that their daily 
movements hitherto unexplained are brought about by 
therm o-geotropic action. 

An animal experiences a daily cycle of change passing 
through the stages of what we know as sleeping and waking. 
The fanciful name of sleep has been given to the closure 
of the leaflets of certain plants at night. Bose has shown 
how these opening and closure movements are brought 
about, these being in no way related to true sleep. The 
question as to whether plants sleep or not can be put in 
the form of a definite inquiry : Is the plant equally 
excitable throughout the day and night ? If not, is there 
any period at which it practically loses its sensibility ? 
Is there again another period at which it wakes up, as it 
were, to a condition of maximum excitability ? 

This problem was solved by Bose by means of a 
specially invented apparatus which delivers a questioning . 
shock to the Mimosa plant every hour of the day and 
night, and records automatically the answering response 
of the plant. The size of the answering twitch gives a 
measure of the ' wakefulness ' of the plant during twenty- 


four hours. In this way it was found (Fig. 26) that the 
plant is a late riser, waking up very gradually and very 
slowly ; it becomes fully alert by noon, remaining so until 
evening. It is, however, quite awake until midnight. It 
then begins to grow somewhat lethargic, but does not lose 
its sensibility until the early hours of the morning, when its 
excitability disappears, and the plant ceases to give any 

FIG. 26. Diurnal record showing variation of sensibility of Mimosa from 
5 P.M. to 5 P.M. next day. 

The anomalies and intricacies of plant-movements, 
though so baffling, served only, as we have seen, to spur 
Bose to renewed efforts. As regards the possibility of 
unravelling the complexity, he spoke with confidence : 

The extent of our range of investigation is limited ultimately 
by our power of detecting movement and measuring the rate 
of movement, that is to say in measurements of length and time. 
I have shown elsewhere how the employment of my Resonant 
Recorder enables us to measure time within a thousandth part 
of a second. We are, on the other hand, able by means of 
the Crescographic amplification to obtain records of movements 
magnified a million times. These possibilities and increasing 
refinement in our experimental methods cannot but lead to 
important advances towards a deeper understanding of the 
physiological reactions in living organisms. 


His confidence has been fully justified. The varied 
phenomena of life-movements in plants, apparently so 
capricious, had hitherto been regarded as incapable of 
any rational generalisation. Bose, however, has succeeded 
in showing that all these diverse movements the complex 
variations of growth, the twining of tendrils, the curvature 
towards or away from light, and even the diametrically 
opposite movements of root and shoot under the identical 
stimulus of gravity result from two fundamental reactions : 
that of Direct Stimulus inducing contraction, and Indirect 
Stimulus, expansion. Few contributions to vegetable 
physiology can be of wider application and significance 
than this great generalisation, which in the phenomenon of 
life will rank as high as the universal theory of gravitation 
in the world of matter. 



Boss, as we have seen, had gone to England in 1900 in 
hopes of making over his researches on the borderland of 
physics and physiology to the physiologists ; and he 
expected to return to continue his physical work, with its 
many opening perspectives. But the opposition of the 
physiologists challenged him to his new course of investi- 
gations. His physical turn of thinking had always repelled 
him from metaphysical speculation ; and he had not 
taken much, if any, interest in' experimental psychology. 
But unexpected results in his investigations made him 
realise that there were important analogies even in the 
field of psycho-physics, and these parallels increasingly 
compelled attention, though for a long time with some 

Bose's attention was first attracted to the responsive 
peculiarities of various forms of ' artificial retina ' which 
he had constructed. He found that the stimulus of light 
has not only an immediate effect but also an after-effect ; 
and that the after-effect of a strong stimulus persists for 
a longer time than that of a feeble one. He describes very 
interesting visual analogues where he was actually able to 
see better when the eyes were shut. He had been observing 
an experiment of Sir William Roberts-Austen on the 
quick fusion of metals, where owing to the glare and dense 
fumes it was impossible to see what happened in the 


crucible ; but on quickly closing the eyes the visual after- 
effect of the smoke, being of less luminescence, cleared 
away first, leaving the after-image of the molten and boiling 
metal growing clearer on the retina. 

Under continuous action of light the artificial retina 
exhibited periodic fluctuations in response. In trying 
to determine the corresponding phenomenon in human 
vision, he discovered ' the curious fact that in normal eyes 
the two do not see equally well at a given instant, but the 
visual effect in each eye undergoes fluctuation from moment 
to moment, in such a way that the sensation in the one 
is complementary to that in the other, the sum of the two 
sensations remaining approximately constant. Thus they 
take up the work of seeing, and then, relatively speaking, 
resting, alternately.' This division of labour, in binocular 
vision, must be of obvious advantage. 

For demonstration he uses a stereoscope carrying, 
instead of stereo-photographs, an incised plate, through 
which we look at the light. The design consists of two 
slanting cuts, one eye looking at one and the second at 
the other. In this way not only is the different binocular 
alternation of vision demonstrated, but also the after- 
effects. When the design is looked at through the stereo- 
scope, the right eye will see the right slanting cut R, and 
the left the other incised cut L ; the two images will appear 
superimposed, and we see an inclined cross. When the 
stereoscope is turned towards the sky, and the cross looked 
at steadily for some time, it will be found, owing to the 
alternation already referred to, that while one arm of 
the cross begins to be dim, the other becomes bright, and 
vice versa. The alternate fluctuations become far more 
conspicuous when the eyes are closed ; the pure oscillatory 
after-effects are then obtained in a most vivid manner. 
After looking through the stereoscope for ten seconds or 
more, the eyes are closed. The first effect observed is 
one of darkness, due to the rebound. Then one luminous 
arm of the cross first projects aslant the dark field, and 


then slowly disappears, after which the second (perceived by 
the other eye) shoots out suddenly in a direction athwart 
the first. This alternation proceeds for a long time, and 
produces the curious effect of two luminous blades crossing 
and recrossing each other. These alternating after-images 
persist for a very long period. The recurrent after-image 
is very distinct at the beginning, and becomes fainter at 
each repetition ; a time comes when it is difficult to tell 
whether the image seen is the objective after-effect due 
to strain caused by stimulus or merely an after-effect of 
memory. In fact there is no line of demarcation between 
the two. One simply merges into the other. 

The visual impressions and their recurrence often persist for 
a very long time. It usually happens that owing to weariness 
the recurrent images disappear ; but in some instances, long 
after this apparent disappearance, they will spontaneously 
reappear at the most unexpected moments. In one instance 
the recurrence was observed in a dream about three weeks 
after the impression was made. It thus appears that in addition 
to the images impressed on the retina of which we are conscious, 
there are many others which are imprinted without our 
knowledge. We fail to notice them because our attention 
is directed to something else. But at a subsequent period, 
when the mind is in a passive state, these impressions may 
suddenly revive owing to the phenomenon of recurrence. This 
observation may afford an explanation of some of the pheno- 
mena connected with ocular phantoms and hallucinations.' 

He then investigates certain other phenomena connected 
with ' Memory/ 

Of that mental revival of past experience -which we call 
memory, we may notice two different types. One is the spon- 
taneous and recurrent revival of some strong impression from 
which we cannot escape : in the second case the primary im- 
pression has faded away, and it is only after an effort that we 
succeed in reviving the latent image. As regards spontaneous or 
recurrent revival of impression, I have shown elsewhere that in 
living tissues a very intense stimulus gives rise not to a single, but 
to multiple or repeated responses. Since an intense excitation is 


liable to recur spontaneously, without the action of the will or 
even in spite of it, it follows that any single impression, when 
very intense, may become dominant and persist in automatic 
recurrence. Instances of this are only too familiar. 

A more interesting form of memory is the revival of an 
impression, the after-effect of which has faded out. Here 
we find that when no tangible effect of the impression remains, 
it may still be recalled by an effort or impulse of the will. It 
is clear that such a revival of impression can only take place 
by bringing about the original condition of excitation ; in other 
words repeating the effect of original stimulus in its complete 

As a concrete example we may take the visual impression 
of a bright cross against a dark background. Under primary 
stimulus, it is clear that we have in the sensory field two areas 
under differential excitation. The one the excited area 
in the form of a cross ; the other outside this, remaining 
unexcited. The image of the cross is therefore due to the 
differential excitation of a definite region in the sensory field. 
It is therefore obvious that in order to revive the picture we have 
to reproduce, in the absence of the primary stimulus, the same 
state of differential excitation as was originally induced. 

Bose next shows that by the shock of stimulus, the 
surface acted on undergoes a molecular distortion from 
which there is slow recovery ; but the recovery is never 
quite complete. Traces are left of the impression made 
by the stimulus. These, though invisible, remain latent, 
and beyond ordinary means of detection. Under certain 
conditions, however, this invisible script could once more 
be rendered conspicuous. Bose was able to form impressions 
on metallic surfaces, of which no sign whatever was visible 
even under the microscope. But when the plate was 
subjected to a diffused shock, these latent images were 
found revived. Similarly all the impressions made on 
the sensory surface by the localised action of stimulus 
remain dormant as a latent memory-image. The localised 
effect of this primary stimulus is to render the affected 
part of the tissue more excitable or a better conductor 
of excitation. Under the action of any form of diffuse 


stimulation these potentially more excitable areas become 
more intensely stimulated than their less active background, 
thus reproducing the original picture. Ordinarily such 
memory-revival takes place under the diffuse stimulus 
of the effort of the will. Here then is a wide range of 
inquiry, its subjects ranging from metal to plants, and 
lastly to man himself. And Bose concludes that ' in 
this demonstration of continuity, it has been found that 
the dividing frontiers between physics, physiology, and 
psychology have disappeared.' 

This of course means the older conventional frontiers, 
and does not deny to each view-point such reasonable 
distinctness as may be. And while the physicists were 
sympathetic to these inquiries from the first, and the 
physiologists, though slower to convince, have come from 
these volumes and their successors essentially to accept 
them, it would seem that the psychologists are as yet 
insufficiently in touch with the results. Yet there are 
notable exceptions, President Stanley Hall of Clark 
University, for example, having been so interested as to 
have introduced the books into his syllabus for workers 
in psychology. 

Bergson's and others' interpretations of ' Memory ' 
need to take note of this differing one ; and Bergson and 
Bose alike have also to discuss interpretations like those 
of Semon's. The psychologist, the physiologist, and the 
physicist have here peculiarly to collaborate in a most 
important field of investigation ; while, as has once and 
again been pointed out, the mystery of Heredity is also 
correlated ; for is not this the organic race-memory ? 

As psychological reaction must be related to under- 
lying physiological change, Bose next - investigated the 
effect of increasing stimulus from the sub-minimal to 
maximal. From his results there arises a fresh consideration 
of that famous ' Weber- Fechner's Law ' which to so many 
has long seemed the very foundation of psycho-physiological 


inquiry, though to others less satisfactory. According 
to this, the strength of stimulus must be increased 
in geometrical ratio, in order that the intensity ol 
psycho-physiological reaction may increase arithmetically. 
According to Weber's Law the relation between stimulus 
and response is quantitative ; it does not take into account 
that the quality or sign of response is also liable to change. 
But Bose's experiments have here yielded significant results. 
Their many records of living tissues bring out the striking 
fact that the sign of response is modified by the strength 
of stimulus. Hence the relation between stimulus and 
response is by no means so simple as Weber, Fechner, and 
their successors have assumed ; for tracings obtained with 
Bose's finer recording instruments show that what seemed 
formerly a subminimal stimulus may really produce 
appreciable effects. Moreover, a very feeble stimulus gives 
a distinct response of positive sign, i.e. expansion the 
very opposite to the contractile response under usual 
stimulation. The continuance or even moderate increase 
of the feeble stimulus shows a diminishing result, going back 
to a point of no apparent response at all. Yet this is not 
a true zero, but a balance of opposite responses ; for with 
a continued increase of stimulus the opposite and usual 
response begins, and increases to its maximum, as Weber 
observes. The fresh observation just noted introduces an 
element of qualitative transformation previously unsus- 
pected, and in fact overlooked. 

By employing very delicate methods of mechanical 
and electrical response, Bose discovered two distinct 
impulses of opposite signs which occur in the conducting 
nerve according to whether the stimulation be feeble or 
intense. A feeble stimulus applied at some distance 
from the responding pulvinus of Mimosa (which acts like 
contractile muscle) gives rise to an impulse which causes 
a positive or expansive reaction, by which the leaf becomes 
erected. A strong stimulus, on the other hand, gives rise 
to an impulse which induces precisely the opposite reaction 


namely, that of contraction and fall of the leaf. The effects 
of feeble and strong stimulus are therefore not merely 
quantitatively different but qualitatively, being of different 
signs, positive and negative. He obtained identical results 
from his electric mode of investigation, feeble stimulus 
causing a positive and strong stimulus a negative electric 

Moderately feeble stimulation brings about an increase 
of energy ; excessive stimulation, on the other hand, causes 
a run-down of energy ; and between these extreme cases is 
a long range of variation in which either may predominate. 
But anything which raises the tonic condition is for the 
well-being and health of the organism, and is associated 
with positivity ; and so of course conversely. Of the two 
tones of sensation the positive is associated with what may 
be regarded as pleasant or not-painful, and the negative 
with the unpleasant or the painful. Various experiments 
lent support to this conclusion, at least in typical cases, 
and with ' grounds of reconciliation to those who hold on 
the one hand that the motor reaction is secondary to the 
mental, and on the other that sensation is merely an accom- 
paniment of movements reflexly induced/ in fact between 
the common view and the Lange- James theory. 

That the different sensation-tones have their physical 
concomitants of opposite characters is also supported 
by Miinsterberg, who holds that ' the feeling of agree- 
ableness is the mental accompaniment and the outcome 
of reflexly-produced movements of extension, and disagree- 
ableness of the movement of flexion/ An ordinary observer 
is familiar with the expanded and rounded outline of the 
kitten purring with delight under gentle caresses, and the 
sudden change of its attitude and aspect in contraction and 
flexion, with the accompanying jump, under a pinch or a 

Bose next employed his very delicate method of experi- 
mentation to determine the characteristics of the nervous 


impulse, which is the basis of sensation. He begins with 
the simplest type of nervous tissue in plants like Mimosa. 
He uses his Resonant Recorder for determination of speed 
of nervous impulse and its variation the Automatic 
Recorder enabling him to measure accurately to the 
thousandth part of a second. He shows that there is no 
physiological characteristic of the animal nerve which is 
not also to be found in the plant nerve. The various 
physiological ' blocks ' which arrest the nervous impulse in 
the animal are shown to arrest the corresponding impulse 
in the "plant. Agents which accelerate the nervous impulse 
in the animal are shown to exalt the impulse in the plant. 
Thus within the normal range, a rise of temperature of 
about 9 C. doubles the speed in animal nerve ; this is also 
found to be the case in the plant. 

He next determines the latent period or the perception- 
time of contractile tissue in Mimosa. This latent period 
in Mimosa, as previously stated, is 0-076 sec., or one-eighth 
the value in an energetic frog. We are of course prepared 
for slower reaction in plants, the difference between the 
plant and animal being one of degree and not of kind. Our 
perception-time is slowed down under fatigue ; exactly 
parallel is the effect on plants. 

Bose's further investigations give again very significant 
results as regards the power of stimulus to fashion its 
own conducting path. Thus a plant carefully protected 
under glass from the stimulating buffets of the elements 
looks sleek and flourishing, yet in 'reality it is flabby. Its 
conducting power is found to be in abeyance. But when a 
succession of blows rain on this effete and bloated specimen, 
the shocks themselves create nervous channels and arouse 
anew its deteriorated nature. ' And is it not shocks of 
adversity, and not cotton-wool protection, that evolve 
true manhood ? Thus we see how organism is modified by 
its environment, and how an organ is, as it were, created 
by the cumulative effect of stimulus/ These discoveries 


show that the nervous impulse in plants has the same 
characteristics as that of animals ; they also demon- 
strate how the inquiry into the simpler life helps towards 
the understanding of the more complex. 

Since the tone of sensation is dependent on the intensity 
of transmitted excitation, Bose next asks himself whether 
it be possible to control the intensity of nervous impulse 
at will. He now enters into a new field of inquiry perhaps 
his most daring. In regard to sensation two extreme 
cases may be considered : in the first the external stimulus 
is too feeble for the resulting impulse to cause perception ; 
here we would desire to exalt the conducting power of 
the message-bearmg vehicle, the nerve, so that what was 
subliminal shall become perceptible. Excessively strong 
external stimulus, on the other hand, on account of its 
character or intensity causes sensation which is intolerably 
painful. Could such a message be altogether blocked by 
arresting the nervous impulse during transit ? The problem 
is thus stated by Bose : 

There is an apparent resemblance between the conduction 
of electric impulse by metallic conductor, and the excitatory 
nervous impulse by a nerve-conductor. In metal the power 
of conduction is constant, and the electric impulse will depend 
on the intensity of electric force that is applied. If the con- 
ducting power of the nerve were constant, then the intensity 
of the nervous impulse and its resulting sensation will depend 
inevitably on the intensity of shock which starts the impulse. 
In that case modification of our sensation would be an im- 
possibility. But there may be a likelihood that the power of 
conduction possessed by a nerve is not constant, but capable 
of change. Should this surmise prove to be correct, then we 
arrive at the momentous conclusion that sensation itself is 
modifiable, whatever be the external stimulus, For the modifi- 
cation of nervous impulse there remains only one alternative, 
namely, some power to render the vehicle a very much better con- 
ductor or a non-conductor according to particular requirements. 
We require the nervous path to become supra-conducting in 
order that the impulse due to sub-minimal stimulus might be 


brought to sensory prominence. When the external blow, on 
the other hand, is too violent we would block the pain- 
causing impulse by rendering the nerve a non-conductor. 

Under narcotic the nerve becomes paralysed, and we can 
thus by its use save ourselves from pain. But such heroic 
measures are to be resorted to only in extreme cases, as when we 
are under the surgeon's knife. In actual life we are confronted 
with unpleasantness without notice. A telephone subscriber 
has the evident advantage, for he can switch off the connection 
when the message begins to be unpleasant. But it is not every- 
one that has the courage of Mr. Herbert Spencer, who openly 
resorted to his ear-plugs when his visitor became tedious. 

Bose then proceeds to consider the characteristics 
of nervous impulse. Stimulus causes a molecular upset in 
the excitable living tissue, and the propagation of nervous 
impulse is a phenomenon of the transmission of molecular 
disturbance from point to point. This molecular upset 
and propagation of disturbance may be pictured simply 
by means of a row of standing books. A certain intensity 
of blow applied, say, to the book on the extreme right would 
cause it to fall to the left, hitting its neighbour, and 
making the other books topple over in rapid succession. 
If the books have previously been tilted towards the left, a 
disposition would have been given to them which would 
bring about an upset under a feebler blow and accelerate 
the speed of transmission of disturbance. A tilt in the 
opposite direction would, on the other hand, be a pre- 
disposition to retard or inhibit this. Thus, by means of a 
directive force, we may induce a predisposition in the 
system which would enhance or retard the transmitted 
impulse. In a similar manner Bose imagined that opposite 
reactions of a polar character might be discovered by 
which molecular dispositions of opposite character could 
be induced in a nerve so as to enhance or to retard the 
conduction of nervous impulse. 

The possibility of such a control of nervous impulse 
at will must be tested by experiment. Can opposite 
molecular dispositions be induced in the nerve, in conse- 


quence of which its conducting power would be appropriately 
enhanced or inhibited ? 

Bose was able to realise his theoretical anticipations 
in a striking manner, by application of electric force 
of a polar character. By conferring on the plant nerve 
a favourable molecular disposition, a feeble stimulus, 
previously below the threshold of perception, now produced 
an extraordinarily large response. Conversely, an intense 
excitation was arrested during transit by inducing opposite 
molecular disposition on the nervous tissue. A climax was 
reached when Bose was able by similar methods to confer 
on the same nerve of an animal a supra-conducting or 
non-conducting property at will. Thus, under a particular 
molecular disposition of the nerve, the experimental frog 
responded to stimulus which had hitherto been below 
its threshold of perception. Under the opposite disposition 
the violent spasm under salt- tetanus was at once quelled. 
On the cessation of the directive force the nerve immediately 
regained its normal property. 

Bose was thus able to demonstrate experimentally the 
possibility of conferring two opposite * molecular disposi- 
tions ' to the nerve by which the nervous impulse could be 
accentuated or inhibited. And we are now able to obtain 
a true insight of various phenomena within our experience 
the effect of attention, for example, in increasing the power 
of perception. The influence of suggestion, moreover, now 
becomes understood. The most important to us is the 
power of auto-suggestion or the power of Will. Who can 
define this power of Will intensified by practice and con- 
centration ? In the concluding portion of a recent address 
there occurs the following passage on the potentiality 
that is in man to rise victorious over circumstances : 

In the determination of sensation, then, the internal stimulus 
of Will may play as important a part as the shock from outside. 
And thus through the inner control of the molecular disposition 
of the nerve, the character of the resulting sensation may 
become profoundly modified. The external then is not so 


overwhelmingly dominant, and man is no longer passive in 
the hands of destiny. There is a latent power which would 
raise him above the terrors of his inimical surroundings. It 
remains with him that the channels through which the outside 
world reaches him should at his command be widened or become 
closed. It would thus be possible for him to catch those in- 
distinct messages that have hitherto passed by him unperceived ; 
or he may withdraw within himself, so that in his inner realm, 
the jarring notes and the din of the world should no longer 
affect him. 



THOUGH parents, kindred, and home surroundings cannot 
but count for much in every life, Eastern and Western, 
it is an old and standard observation of comparative 
psychology that these influences are even deeper and 
more enduring in the communal family systems of 
the Orient than in the smaller and more individualistic 
family systems of the West, with their greater dis- 
persiveness. Hence, though every happily educated and 
productive life must rightly and gratefully recognise its 
early and formative influences, these tend in the East to 
be more frequently and clearly remembered, indeed more 
enduringly in evidence. Thus Bose's father's character 
and example, so full of varied activities and bold initiatives, 
has been a great impulse and continual inspiration through- 
out his son's life ; while only second to this has been the 
deep affection of his mother, strongly returned, while her 
settlement of her son's studies in England, in spite of the 
decision of the family council on them, seems to have been 
the emphatic incident of her gentle, purposive guidance. 
Both parents, too, lived with the Boses after their retirement, 
' and to the last the father dying at sixty-two, when Bose 
was thirty-two, and the mother at about the same age two 
years later. 

Bose's eldest sister, later Mrs. A. M. Bose, was his 
constant friend and companion in childhood, and that her 
influence too must have been helpful is evidenced not 



only from her own literary power in later life, but by her 
keen observation of nature. At her country house, Fairy 
Hall, at Dumdum, outside Calcutta, she drew her brother's 
attention to the peculiar movements of leaflets of Biophytum, 
which led to his discovery of multiple response, and its 
continuity with the automatic response of the Telegraph- 

Her husband, Ananda Mohun Bose, also affected his life 
deeply. A. M. Bose was one of the earliest batch of students 
from India to Cambridge in 1870, and was the first Indian 
Wrangler. His oratorical power was of the highest order. 
Professor Fawcett asked him to address his constituents, 
and declared that he could not have produced such an 
influence as had his young Indian friend. After his return 
to India he became one of the leaders of his countrymen, 
alike by his ability and by his saintly character. He was one 
of the founders of the Indian Association, and was President 
of the National Congress at Madras in 1902. He was a 
member of the Educational Commission, and founded in 
Calcutta the City College which has since been one of the 
most important in the University. He was also one of 
the founders of an Institution for the Higher Education of 
Indian Women. Bose's younger sisters have also, each 
in her own way, followed lives of intellectual activity; 
and one has trained a son to follow the footsteps of his 
uncle, as already an active investigator of radio-activity. 

Most important, however, of all these influences from 
youth onwards has of course been that of his life companion 
of now some thirty-three years. She had an education in 
science, having been a medical student for four years. 
Fortunately too for her, in view of long-continued scanty 
means and strenuous saving to pay off family debts, 
she had been trained to skilled and thrifty house-keep- 
ing : yet here has been no simple housewife's life, but 
one full of active culture-interests also, not only appre- 
ciating her husband's many scientific problems and tasks, 
and hospitality to his students and friends, but sharing all 


his cares and difficulties, and so lightening them not a little. 
For his impassioned temperament in younger days doubt- 
less fiery, and still excitable enough her strong serenity and 
persistently cheerful courage have been an invaluable and 
ever active support, like the fly-wheel steadily maintaining 
and regulating the throbbing energies of the steam-engine. 
Pilgrimages in India and visits to Europe and America have 
been made always together, and their one great common 
sorrow the loss of their only babe in early infancy has 
made them more completely at one. Alike for physical 
health, on the whole well maintained, yet once and again 
nursed back from danger, and for steadiness of intellectual 
output, for consolation in times of trial, difficulty and 
depression, as well as cheerful acceptance and constant 
lightening of long years of poverty and self-denial which 
cannot but press more closely upon a wife than on a husband 
Bose has indeed been rarely fortunate in such a helpmeet ; 
and no friend or biographer could fail to recognise the 
greatness of her share in his life's productivity and success. 

The advantages of celibacy to the intellectual life have 
so long been urged and acted on in East and West alike 
that it is as well that those whose experience and career 
have had the yet higher advantages of wedlock at its best 
should also bear their testimony. And that even such 
devoted companionship may be fully compatible for the 
wife as well as for the husband with cultural usefulness and 
influence beyond the home is demonstrated by a life like 
that of Lady Bose, whose leadership in administration of 
the highly efficient Girls' High School opposite her Calcutta 
home is the fit pendant to her husband's activities in his 
Institute beside it. 

Before we pass to his other enduring friendships, we 
must understand his outlook on life and immediate duties. 
His early childhood was, as we have seen, deeply impressed 
by the traditions of the heroic epoch of ancient India, 
and he had the unshaken belief ' that the past shall yet be 
reborn in a nobler future through the efforts of their lives/ 



He had no patience with the easy talk about inter- 
nationalism or about the virtues of renunciation. For 
about the former they had no right to talk of inter- 
nationalism until their own country had won recognition as a 
nation ; and of the latter he thought ' the weakling who has 
refused the conflict has acquired nothing, and has nothing 
to renounce ; only he who has striven and won can enrich 
the world by giving away the fruits of his victorious 
experience.' He felt that the strong must bear the 
burden and deliberately choose the difficult in preference 
to the easy path ; to him this was the true function of 
nationality. With this conviction there mingled another 
no less imperative. His studies had revealed to him the 
workings of a strange Cyclic Law how inertness passed 
into climax of activity and how that climax was perilously 
near its antithetic decline. When we have raised ourselves 
to the highest pinnacle, through some oversight we fall 
over the precipice. Men have offered their lives for the 
establishment of truth ; a climax is reached after which 
the custodians of knowledge themselves bar further 
advance. Those who have fought for liberty impose on 
others and on themselves the bond of slavery, and patriotism 
often degenerates into the worst form of tyranny. He 
resolved that his love for India should never stand in the 
way of his wider love for humanity ; and two great friend- 
ships came to him at this phase of life which laid his 
misgiving to rest, and enabled him to realise fully the unity 
of all human efforts. 

In 1899 Mrs. Ole Bull and Miss Margaret Noble (Sister 
Nivedita), having heard much of Bose's discoveries, came 
to see him in his Calcutta laboratory and to learn what 
they could. The mutual interest awakened that day 
ripened into a deep friendship only interrupted by death. 
Mrs. Ole Bull, an American, was the widow of the great 
Norse violinist who inspired a generation of writers and 
musicians Ibsen, Bjornson, Grieg and others to win 
European eminence for their country as well as for them- 


selves. The acquaintance ripened quickly during her short 
stay in Calcutta in 1899, and Mrs. Bull urged on the Boses 
to visit her some day in America. After Bose's attendance 
at the International Science Congress at Paris in 1900 and 
subsequent cares, his health broke down, and he was in 
imminent danger, when Mrs. Bull, hearing of this, came 
over from the Continent, found him an expert surgeon, 
and helped to nurse him back to health. From this time 
a deep friendship grew up, and Bose found in her anew 
the great qualities of his own mother. When the Boses 
went to America in 1907 her home was theirs, and head- 
quarters for his visits to different Universities. They 
also came to know Mrs. Bull's brother, Mr. J. G. Thorp, 
a very influential and honoured citizen of Boston, and his 
wife, the poet Longfellow's daughter ; and on a second 
visit in 1914, after Mrs. Ole Bull's death, Mr. Thorp's house 
was their home and centre for making new contacts with 
leading minds of Boston and Harvard. 

Latest among these friendships, but in some ways of 
the very highest importance, came that with Margaret 
Noble better known as Sister Nivedita after her dedication 
to the Order of Ramakrishna, which the great person- 
ality and teaching of Swami Vivekananda had launched 
upon its career of varied usefulness, educational and social. 
Nivedita's interests were too large and varied and eager 
to be confined within any single round of duties or system 
of doctrine ; and she keenly realised the importance of 
Bose's work at once for science in general and for the fuller 
arousal of scientific activities in India in particular. After 
his serious illness, and while convalescing, Bose found a 
home with Nivedita's mother at Wimbledon ; and later 
Mrs. Bose during an illness found the same hospitality, 
so that the two families were intimately and permanently 
drawn together even for the young and rising generation. 

Nivedita's combination of intellectual and personal 
idealism was fully aroused by Bose's discoveries and his 
difficulties in those days in convincing others of them. 


Her fervid faith in the long-dreamed-of Research Institute, 
its possibilities for science and its promise for India, was 
no small impulse and encouragement towards its realisation ; 
and thus is explained the memorial fountain with its 
bas-relief of ' Woman carrying Light to the Temple ' which 
adorns the entrance of his Institute. 

Nivedita did not live to see the foundation of the 
Institute, for her over-strenuous efforts on behalf of those 
amongst whom she dwelt caused her untimely death in 1911. 
In the memorial volume which he prepared, Mr. S. K. 
Ratcliffe wrote of Nivedita : ' Those to whom she gave 
the ennobling gift of her friendship hold the memory of that 
gift as this world's highest benediction.' Lady Bcse, who 
felt deeply the loss of her friend, wrote : ' As a woman, I knew 
her in everyday life, full of austerity and possessed with a 
longing for righteousness which shone round her like a pure 
flame. Others will know her as the great moral and 
intellectual force which came to us in time of great national 

Turning now to Bose's friendships among men, foremost 
and greatest (appropriately first also for their present order 
of treatment) has been that with the poet Rabindranath 
Tagore. On the occasion of Bose's return from his success- 
ful visit to Europe in 1896, Tagore called to congratulate 
him and, not finding him at home, left on his work-table 
a great blossom of magnolia, as a fitting and characteristic 
message of regard. Since that time the two have been 
increasingly together, each complementing and thereby 
widening and deepening the other's characteristic outlook 
on nature and life, and stimulating to his expression 
accordingly. Once, on receiving an invitation from the poet 
to stay with him at his house at Silaida on the river Padma, 
Bose accepted it with the demand of the fullest and highest 
hospitality his friend could render him that of a new story 
to be written every day, and read to him every evening ! 
It was in this fashion that one of the most beautiful series 
of Tagore's short stories came to be written. 


Tagore, though occupying the foremost literary position 
in India, was not at that time known in Europe, and Bose 
felt keenly that the West had not the opportunity of 
realising his friend's greatness. So during his second 
visit to England, in 1900, he had one of his stories, ' The 
Kabuliwalla/ translated into English. Prince Kropotkin 
a good critic in letters as well as science declared it to 
be the most pathetic story he had ever heard, reminding 
him of the greatest writers among his countrymen ; and 
Bose submitted it to Harper's Magazine. It was declined, 
because the West was not sufficiently interested in Oriental 
life ! The time had not yet come : but Bose during his last 
visit to America in 1915, when Tagore's fame was reaching 
its meridian, did not fail to utilise the opportunity to 
rub this in when Harper was publishing one of his own 

Though Bengali literature has as yet culminated in 
Tagore, he had had predecessors ; he has contemporaries 
and promising writers among the young generation. With 
these active groups of men of letters, Bose has had most 
cordial relations ; and one of his activities has been in 
connection with the Parishad, the Academy of Bengali 
Literature, of which he was the President for several years. 
There is another important institution, the Ram Mohan 
Library, of which he is the President ; this Institution 
organises regular lectures for popular diffusion of knowledge. 
With the now increasingly successful and appreciated group 
of painters Gaganendra Nath and Abanindra Nath Tagore 
and their pupils who are carrying their part in the con- 
temporary Bengali renaissance, and making Calcutta more 
and more correspond in such activities to one of the greater 
culture-cities of the West, Bose has long been in closest 
sympathy. His Calcutta drawing-room contains a striking 
frieze from the ' Mahabharata ' by Nanda Lai Bose, and 
now the adjacent lecture-hall of the Institute has a large 
symbolic painting, ' The Quest/ by the same hand. 

Among scientific friends may be specially mentioned 


Sir P. C. Ray, the chemist. On his return from his 
Edinburgh studies he found welcome and a home at Bose's. 
The spirit of departmental trade unionism which stood 
in the way of Indians securing responsible positions in 
education was, as usual, fully active. But Bose who can 
be tactful for his friends, as well as combative in defence 
of principles managed to disarm the reluctance of the 
Education Department to appoint another Indian in the 
Science professoriate of the Presidency College, and with long 
colleagueship a very close friendship has grown up between 
them. Bose's active championship of Ray's promise and 
powers has long been amply justified by the high appreciation 
of brother chemists and the success of his pupils. 

Bose has also been on terms of closest friendship with 
the leaders of educational, social, and political movements. 
Among these may be mentioned the late G. K. Gokhale 
and Mr. M. K. Gandhi. Special mention must be made 
here of his medical adviser and friend, Sir Nilratan Sircar, 
the leading physician of Calcutta, who in addition to his 
professional work has rendered such services in the cause 
of higher education as to make the Indian Government 
select him for the Vice-Chancellorship of the Calcutta 
University. Fairly near neighbours in Calcutta, he and 
Bose are next door in Darjeeling, and to Sir Nilratan's 
promptitude and skill Bose has on more than one occasion 
already owed his life, while his fairly continued health 
depends much on his old friend's vigilance. 

Reference may here be made to his numerous students, 
of whom he thus spoke in one of his addresses : ' Perhaps 
as a reward for years of effort, I find all over India those 
who have been my pupils occupying positions of the highest 
trust and responsibility in different walks of life. I do 
not merely count those who have won fame and success, 
but I also claim many others who have taken up the burden 
of life manfully and whose life of purity and unselfishness 
has brought gleams of joy into suffering lives.' 

Of friends both in Europe and in America much might 


be said, for they have been many ; and it must be a matter 
of satisfaction that even out of his past fights he has won 
some of his staunchest friends. 

In recognition of the unique services rendered to the 
cause of science, the Imperial Government has conferred 
on him honours on successive occasions. This recognition 
for the first time by the State of the importance of Indian 
contributions for the advancement of world's science was 
received with satisfaction by his countrymen. With 
Bose's fully developed Indian personality, yet with the best 
of world culture fully incorporated in his own, and high 
humanistic views, one can wish for no better link between 
East and West, of interchange and ever increasing under- 

Bose was to have retired in 1913, on the completion of 
his fifty-fifth year ; but the Bengal Government, in recog- 
nition of his services to the Presidency College and of his 
great influence over students, extended his period of service 
for two years, so that he retired in November 1915. As 
a further acknowledgment the Government gazetted him 
as Professor Emeritus, on full pay instead of pension 
a distinction so far unique in the Education Service of 
India. Thus was secured his permanent connection with 
the Presidency College, whose renown he had so largely 
enhanced. Further than this, he received a knighthood 
and the Companionship of the Star of India. 

Most men, under such gratifying conditions, would 
accept their honours and emoluments as their due reward 
for strenuous effort and would feel justified in seeking the 
ease of retirement ; but such was not Bose's attitude, for 
his goal was not yet reached. 

One need only recall how his life-long efforts for the 
establishment of a laboratory for research had so often 
seemed on the point of realisation only to be thwarted 
each time, to appreciate the irony of the fact that when 
eventually the properly equipped physical laboratory of his 


college was built, it was only on the eve of his retirement, 
and hence too late for the continuation of his researches. 
All these disappointments only made Bose more resolved to 
carry out his own project ; so that he worked with tireless 
energy, during the two years subsequent to his retirement, 
at the final planning, building and organisation of the 
Research Institute. His own researches were not, however, 
interrupted, for he continued to carry them out at his 
summer home at Darjiling and at Sijberia on the Ganges, 
some twenty miles down stream from Calcutta, with its 
pleasant little bungalow and tree-bordered grounds quietly 
and picturesquely situated at the junction of a minor 
stream with the great river. But such centres of personal 
activity made all the more imperative the creation of the 
long-dreamed- of Research Institute. 

This he at length opened, on his fifty-ninth birthday, 
November 30, 1917, in commemoration and repetition of 
his vow to research twenty-three years before. Though 
his oft-repeated journeys to England and other countries 
of the West had made Bose a citizen of the world in an 
unusual degree, yet his fundamental attitude to life and 
knowledge was primarily Indian, with its ideality which 
embraced the service of humanity. His object and outlook 
will be best understood from the inaugural address, repro- 
duced in the next chapter. 



I DEDICATE to-day this Institute not merely a Laboratory 
but a Temple. 

The power of physical methods applies to the estab- 
lishment of that truth which can be realised directly 
through our senses, or through the vast expansion of the 
perceptive range by means of artificially created organs. 
We still gather the tremulous message when the note of 
the audible reaches the unheard. When human sight fails, 
we continue to explore the region of the invisible. The 
little that we can see is as nothing compared to the vastness 
of that which we cannot. Out of the very imperfection of 
his senses man has built himself a raft pf thought by which 
he makes daring adventures on the great seas of the Un- 
known. But there are other truths which will remain beyond 
even the super-sensitive methods known to science. For 
these we require faith, tested not in a few years but by an 
entire life. And a temple is erected as a fit memorial for 
the establishment of that truth for which faith was needed. 
The personal, yet general, truth and faith whose establish- 
ment this Institute commemorates is this : that when one 
has gained the vision of a purpose to which he can and 
must dedicate himself fully, then the closed doors will 
be opened and the seemingly impossible become fully 

1 Sir J. C. Bose's inaugural address in dedication of the Bose Institute, 
November 30, 1917. , 



Thirty-two years ago I chose the teaching of science as 
my vocation. It was held that by its very peculiar con- 
stitution, the Indian mind would always turn away from the 
study of Nature to metaphysical speculations. Even had 
the capacity for inquiry and accurate observation been 
assumed to be present, there were no opportunities for their 
employment ; there were neither well-equipped laboratories 
nor skilled mechanicians. This was all too true. It is not 
for man to complain of circumstances, but bravely to 
accept, to confront and to dominate them ; and we belong 
to that race which has accomplished great things with 
simple means. 


This day twenty-three years ago, I resolved that as far 
as the whole-hearted devotion and faith of one man counted, 
that would not be wanting, and within six months it came 
about that some of the most difficult problems connected 
with Electric Waves found their solution in my laboratory, 
and received high appreciation from Lord Kelvin, Lord 
Rayleigh, and other leading physicists. The Royal Society 
honoured me by publishing my discoveries and offering of 
their own accord an appropriation from the special Parlia- 
mentary Grant for the advancement of knowledge. That 
day the closed gates suddenly opened, and I hoped that the 
torch that was then lighted would continue to burn brighter 
and brighter. But man's faith and hope require repeated 
testing. For five years after this the progress was uninter- 
rupted ; yet when the most generous and wide appreciation 
of my work had reached almost the highest point there came 
a sudden and unexpected change. 


In the pursuit of my investigations I was unconsciously 
led into the border region of physics and physiology and was 
amazed to find boundary lines vanishing and points of contact 


emerge between the realms of the Living and Non-living. 
Inorganic matter was found anything but inert ; it also 
was athrill under the action of multitudinous forces that 
played on it. A common reaction seemed to bring together 
metal, plant and animal under a general law. They all 
exhibited essentially the same phenomena of fatigue and 
depression, together with possibilities of recovery and of 
exaltation, yet also that of permanent irresponsiveness 
which is associated with death. I was filled with wonder 
at this great generalisation ; and it was with great hope 
that I announced my results before the Royal Society 
results demonstrated by experiments. But the physiologists 
present advised me, after my address, to confine myself to 
physical investigations in which my success had been assured, 
rather than encroach on their preserve. I had thus un- 
wittingly strayed into the domain of a new and unfamiliar 
caste system and so offended its etiquette. An unconscious 
theological bias was also present which confounds ignorance 
with faith. It is forgotten that He, who surrounded us with 
this ever-evolving mystery of creation, the ineffable wonder 
that lies hidden in the microcosm of the dust particle, 
enclosing within the intricacies of its atomic form the 
mystery of the cosmos, has also implanted in us the desire 
to question and understand. To the theological bias was 
added the misgivings about the inherent bent of the Indian 
mind towards mysticism and unchecked imagination. 
But in India this burning imagination which can extort 
new order out of a mass of apparently contradictory 
facts, is also held in check by the habit of meditation. 
It is this restraint which confers the power to hold the 
mind in pursuit of truth in infinite patience, to wait, 
and reconsider, to experimentally test and repeatedly 

It is but natural that there should be prejudice, even in 
science, against all innovations ; and I was prepared to 
wait till the first incredulity could be overcome by further 
cumulative evidence. Unfortunately there were other 


incidents, which need not be dwelt on ; and there were 
misrepresentations which it was impossible to remove 
from this isolating distance. Thus no conditions could 
have been more desperately hopeless than those which 
confronted me for the next twelve years. It is necessary 
to make brief reference to this period of my life ; for one 
who would devote himself to the search for truth must 
realise that for him there awaits no easy life, but one of 
unending struggle. It is for him to cast his life as an offering, 
regarding gain and loss, success and failure, as one. Yet 
in my case this long persisting gloom was suddenly lifted. 
My scientific deputation in 1914, from the Government of 
India, gave the opportunity of giving demonstrations of 
my discoveries before the leading scientific societies of the 
world. This led to the acceptance of my results, and the 
recognition of the importance of the Indian contribution 
to the advancement of the world's science. My own experi- 
ence told me how heavy, sometimes even crushing, are the 
difficulties which confront an inquirer here in India ; yet it 
made me stronger in my determination, that I should make 
the path of those who would follow me less arduous, and 
that India should never relinquish what has been won for 
her after years of struggle. 


What is it that India is to win and maintain ? Can 
anything small or circumscribed ever satisfy the mind of 
India ? Has her own history and the teaching of the past 
prepared her for some temporary and quite subordinate 
gain ? There are at this moment two complementary and 
not antagonistic ideals before the country. India is drawn 
into the vortex of international competition. She has ,to 
become efficient in every way through the spread of educa- 
tion, through performance of civic duties and responsibilities, 
through activities both industrial and commercial. Neglect 
of these essentials of national duty will imperil her very 


existence ; and sufficient stimulus for these will be found in 
success and satisfaction of personal ambition. 

But these alone do not ensure the life of a nation. Such 
material activities have brought in the West their fruit, in 
accession of power and wealth. There has been a feverish 
rush even in the realm of science, for exploiting applications 
of knowledge, not so often for saving as for destruction. 
In the absence of some power of restraint, civilisation is 
trembling in an unstable poise on the brink of ruin. Some 
complementary ideal there must be to save man from that 
mad rush which must end in disaster. He has followed 
the lure and excitement of some insatiable ambition, not 
pausing for a moment to think of the ultimate object for 
which success was to serve as a temporary incentive. He has 
forgotten that far more potent than competition are mutual 
help and co-operation in the scheme of life. And in this 
country through millenniums, there always have been some 
who, beyond the immediate and absorbing prize of the hour, 
sought for the realisation of the highest ideal of life not 
through passive renunciation, but through active struggle. 
The weakling who has refused the conflict, having acquired 
nothing, has nothing to renounce. He alone who has striven 
and conquered can enrich the world by the generous bestow- 
ing of the fruits of his victorious experience. In India such 
examples of constant realisation of ideals through work have 
resulted in the formation of a continuous living tradition. 
And by her latent power of rejuvenescence she has readjusted 
herself through infinite transformations. Thus while the 
soul of Babylon and the Nile Valley has transmigrated, ours 
still remains vital and with capacity of absorbing what the 
time has brought, and making it one with itself. 

The ideal of giving, of enriching, in fine, of self-renuncia- 
tion in response to the highest call of humanity is the other 
and complementary ideal. The motive power for this is not 
to be found in personal ambition but in the effacement of all 
littlenesses, and in the uprooting of that ignorance which 
regards anything as gain which is to be purchased at others' 


loss. This I know, that no vision of truth can come except 
in the absence of all sources of distraction, and when the 
mind has reached the point of rest. 

Public life, and the various professions will be the appro- 
priate spheres of activity for many aspiring young men. 
But for my disciples, I call on those very few, who, realising 
some inner call, will devote their whole life with strength- 
ened character and determined purpose to take part in 
that infinite struggle to win knowledge for its own sake and 
see truth face to face. 


The work already carried out in my laboratory on the 
response of matter, and the unexpected revelations in plant 
life, foreshadowing the wonders of the highest animal life, 
have opened out very extended regions of inquiry in Physics, 
in Physiology, in Medicine, in Agriculture and even in 
Psychology. Problems, hitherto regarded as insoluble, have 
now been brought within the sphere of experimental investi- 
gation. These inquiries are obviously more extensive than 
those customary either among physicists or physiologists, 
since demanding interests and aptitudes hitherto more or 
less divided between them. In the study of Nature, there 
is a necessity of the dual view-point, this alternating yet 
rhythmically unified interaction of biological thought with 
physical studies, and physical thought with biological studies. 
The future worker with his freshened grasp of physics, his 
fuller conception of the inorganic world, as indeed thrilling 
with ' the promise and potency of life ' will redouble his 
former energies of work and thought. Thus he will 
be in a position to winnow the old knowledge with finer 
sieves, to re-search it with new enthusiasm and subtler 
instruments. And thus with thought and toil and time he 
may hope to bring fresher views into the old problems. 
His handling of these will be at once more vital and more 
kinetic, more comprehensive and unified. 


The further and fuller investigation of the many and 
ever-opening problems of the nascent science which includes 
both Life and Non-Life are among the main purposes of the 
Institute I am opening to-day ; in these fields I am already 
fortunate in having a devoted band of disciples, whom I have 
been training for the last ten years. Their number is very 
limited, but means may perhaps be forthcoming in the future 
to increase them. An enlarging field of young ability 
may thus be available, from which will emerge, with time 
and labour, individual originality of research, productive 
invention and some day even creative genius. 

But high success is not to be obtained without corre- 
sponding experimental exactitude, and this is needed to-day 
more than ever, and to-morrow yet more again. Hence 
the long battery of the highly sensitive instruments and 
apparatus, designed here, which stands before you in the 
cases in our entrance hall. They will tell you of the pro- 
tracted struggle to get behind the deceptive seeming into 
the reality that remained unseen ; of the continuous toil 
and persistence called forth for overcoming human limita- 
tions. In these directions through the ever-increasing 
ingenuity of device for advancing science, I see at no distant 
future an enhancement of skill and of invention among our 
workers ; and if this skill be assured, practical applications 
will not fail to follow in many fields of human activity. 

The advance of science is the principal object of this 
Institute and also the diffusion of knowledge. We are here 
in the largest of all the many chambers of this House of 
Knowledge its Lecture Room. In adding this feature, 
and on a scale hitherto unusual in a Research Institute, 
I have sought permanently to associate the advancement 
of knowledge with the widest possible civic and public 
diffusion of it ; and this without any academic limitations, 
henceforth to all races and languages, to both men and 
women alike, and for all time coming. 

The lectures given here will not be mere repetitions 
of second-hand knowledge. They will announce, to an 


audience of some fifteen hundred people, the discoveries 
made here, which will be demonstrated for the first time 
before the public. We shall thus maintain continuously 
the highest aim of a great Seat of Learning by taking 
active part in the advancement and diffusion of knowledge. 
Through the regular publication of the Transactions of the 
Institute, these Indian contributions will reach the whole 
world. The discoveries made will thus become public 
property. Besides the regular staff there will be a selected 
number of scholars, who by their work have shown special 
aptitude, and who would devote their whole life to the 
pursuit of research. They will require personal training 
and their number must necessarily be limited. But it is 
not the quantity but quality that is of essential importance. 
It is my further wish that, as far as the limited 
accommodation would permit, the facilities of this 
Institute should be available to workers from all countries. 
In this I am attempting to carry out the traditions of my 
country, which, so far back as twenty-five centuries ago, 
welcomed all scholars from different parts of the world 
within the precincts of its ancient seats of learning at 
Nalanda and at Taxila. 


With this widened outlook, we shall not only maintain 
the highest traditions of the past but also serve the world 
in nobler ways. We shall be at one with it in feeling the 
common surgings of life, the common love for the good, 
the true and the beautiful. In this Institute, this Study 
and Garden of Life, the claim of art has not been forgotten, 
for the artist has been working with us, from foundation to 
pinnacle, and from floor to ceiling of this very Hall. And 
beyond that arch, the Laboratory merges imperceptibly 
into the garden, which is the true laboratory for the study 
of Life % There the creepers, the plants and the trees are 
played upon by their natural environments sunlight 


and wind, and the chill at midnight under the vault of 
starry space. There are other surroundings also, where 
they will be subjected to chromatic action of different 
lights, to invisible rays, to galvanic current or electrically- 
charged atmosphere. Everywhere they will transcribe in 
their own script the history of their experience. From 
this lofty point of observation, sheltered by the trees, the 
student will watch this panorama of life. Isolated from 
all distractions, he will learn to attune himself with Nature ; 
the obscuring veil will be lifted and he will gradually 
come to see how community throughout the great ocean 
of life outweighs apparent dissimilarity. Out of discord 
he will realise the great harmony. 


These are the dreams that wove a network round my 
wakeful life for many years past. The outlook is endless, 
for the goal is at infinity. The realisation cannot be 
through one life or one fortune but through the co-operation 
of many lives and many fortunes. The possibility of a 
fuller expansion will depend on very large endowments. 
But a beginning must be made, and this is the genesis of 
the foundation of the Institute. I came with nothing and 
shall return as I came ; if something is accomplished in the 
interval, that would indeed be a privilege. What I have 
I will offer, and one who has shared with me the struggles 
and hardships that had to be faced, has wished to bequeath 
all that is hers for the same object. In all my struggling 
efforts I have not been altogether solitary ; while the world 
doubted, there had been a few, now in the City of Silence, 
who never wavered in their trust. 

Till a few weeks ago it seemed that I should have to 
look to the future for securing the necessary expansion of 
scope and for permanence of the Institute. But response 
is being slowly awakened in answer to the need. The 
Government have intimated their desire to sanction grants 


towards placing the Institute on a permanent basis, the 
extent of which will be proportionate to the public interest 
in this undertaking. Out of those who would feel an 
interest in securing adequate endowment, the very first 
contributions have come from two from a distant province, 
to whom I had been personally unknown. 


The excessive specialisation of modern science in the 
West has led to the danger of losing sight of the funda- 
mental fact that there can be but one truth, one science 
which includes all the branches of knowledge. How chaotic 
appear the happenings in Nature ! Is Nature a Cosmos, 
in which the human mind is some day to realise the uniform 
march of sequence, order and law ? India through her 
habit of mind is peculiarly- fitted to realise the idea of 
unity, and to see in the phenomenal world an orderly 
universe. This trend of thought led me unconsciously to 
the dividing frontiers of different sciences and shaped the 
course of my work in its constant alternations between 
the theoretical and the practical, from the investigation of 
the inorganic world to that of organised life and its multi- 
farious activities of growth, of movement, and even of 
sensation. On looking over the different lines of investi- 
gations carried on during the last twenty-three years, I 
now discover in them a natural sequence. The study 
of Electric Waves led to the devising of methods for 
the production of the shortest electric waves and these 
bridged over the gulf between visible and invisible 
light ; from this followed accurate investigation on the 
optical properties of invisible waves, the determination of 
the refractive powers of various substances opaque to light, 
the discovery of the effect of air film on total reflection and 
the polarising properties of strained rocks and of electric 
tourmalines. The invention of a new type of self-recovering 


electric receiver made of galena was the forerunner of 
,the application of crystal detectors for extending the range 
of wireless signals. In physical chemistry the detection of 
molecular change in matter under electric stimulation 
led to a new theory of photographic action. The fruitful 
theory of stereo-chemistry was strengthened by the pro- 
duction of two kinds of artificial molecules, which like the 
two kinds of sugar, rotated the polarised electric wave 
either to the right or to the left. Again the ' fatigue ' of 
my receivers led to the discovery of universal sensitiveness 
inherent in matter as shown by its electric response. It 
was next possible to study this response in its modification 
under changing environment, of which its exaltation under 
stimulants and its abolition under poisons are among the 
most astonishing outward manifestations. And as a single 
example of the many applications of this fruitful discovery, 
the characteristics of an artificial retina gave a clue to the 
unexpected discovery of ' binocular alternation of vision ' 
in man ; each eye thus supplements its fellow by turns, 
instead of acting as a continuously yoked pair, as hitherto 


In natural sequence to the investigation of the response 
in ' inorganic ' matter, has followed a prolonged study of 
the activities of plant-life as compared with the corre- 
sponding functioning of animal life. But since plants for 
the most part seem motionless and passive, and are indeed 
limited in their range of movement, special apparatus of 
extreme delicacy had to be invented, which should magnify 
the tremor of excitation and also measure the perception 
period of a plant to a thousandth part of a second. Ultra- 
microscopic movements were measured and recorded ; 
the length measured being often smaller than a fraction 
of a single wave-length of light. The secret of plant-life 
was thus for the first time revealed by the autographs of 


the plant itself. This evidence of the plant's own script 
removed the long-standing error which divided the vegetable 
world into sensitive and insensitive. The remarkable 
performance of the ' Praying ' Palm Tree of Faridpore, which 
bows, as if to prostrate itself, every evening, is only one of 
the latest instances which show that the supposed insensi- 
bility of plants and still more of rigid trees is to be ascribed 
to wrong theory and defective observation. My investi- 
gations show that all plants, even the trees, are fully 
alive to changes of environment ; they respond visibly 
to all stimuli, even to the slight fluctuations of light caused 
by a drifting cloud. This series of investigations has 
completely established the fundamental unity of life- 
reactions in plant and animal, as seen in a similar periodic 
insensibility in both, corresponding to what we call sleep 
as seen in the death-spasm, which takes place in the plant 
as in the animal. This unity in organic life is also exhibited 
in that spontaneous pulsation which in the animal is heart 
beat ; it appears in the identical effects of stimulants, 
anaesthetics and of poisons in vegetable and animal tissues. 
This physiological identity in the effect of drugs is regarded 
by leading physicians as of great significance in the scientific 
advance of Medicine ; since here we have a means of testing 
the effect of drugs under conditions far simpler than those 
presented by the patient, far subtler too, as well as more 
humane than those of experiments on animals. 

Growth of plants and its variations under different 
treatment is instantly recorded by my Crescograph. 
Authorities expect this method of investigation will advance 
practical agriculture ; since for the first time we are able 
to analyse and study separately the conditions which 
modify the rate of growth. Experiments which would 
have taken months, their results vitiated by unknown 
changes, can now be carried out in a few minutes. 

Returning to pure science, no phenomena in plant-life 
are so extremely varied or have yet been more incapable 
of generalisation than the ' tropic ' movements, such as 


the twining of tendrils, the heliotropic movements of some 
towards and of others away from light, and the opposite 
geotropic movements of the root and shoot, in the direction 
of gravitation or away from it. My latest investigations 
have established a single fundamental reaction which 
underlies effects so extremely diverse. 

Finally, I may say a word of that other new and un- 
expected chapter which is opening out from my demonstra- 
tion of ' nervous ' impulse in plants. The speed with which 
the nervous impulse courses through the plant has been 
determined ; its nervous excitability and the variation of 
that excitability have likewise been measured. The nervous 
impulse in plant and in man is found exalted or inhibited 
under identical conditions. We may even follow this 
parallelism in what seem extreme cases. A plant carefully 
protected under glass from outside shocks, looks sleek and 
flourishing ; but its higher nervous function is then found 
to be atrophied. But when a succession of blows is rained 
on this effete and bloated specimen, the shocks themselves 
create nervous channels and arouse anew the deteriorated 

A question long perplexing physiologists and psy- 
chologists alike is that concerned with the mystery that 
underlies memory. But now, through certain experiments 
I carried out here, it is possible to trace ' memory im- 
pressions ' backwards even in inorganic matter, such 
latent impressions being capable of subsequent revival. 
Again the tone of our sensation is determined by the 
intensity of nervous excitation that reaches the central 
perceiving organ. It would theoretically be possible to 
change the tone or quality of our sensation, if means could 
be discovered by which the nervous impulse would become 
modified during transit. Investigation on nervous impulse 
in plants has led to the discovery of a controlling method, 
which was found equally effective in regard to the nervous 
impulse in animal. 

Thus the lines of physics, of physiology and of psychology 


converge and meet. And here will assemble those who 
would seek oneness amidst the manifold. Here it is that 
the genius of India should find its true blossoming. 

The thrill in matter, the throb of life, the pulse of growth, 
the impulse coursing through the nerve and the resulting 
sensations, how diverse are these, and yet so unified ! 
How strange it is that the tremor of excitation in nervous 
matter should not merely be transmitted but transmuted 
and reflected like the image on a mirror from a different 
plane of life in sensation and in affection, in thought and 
in emotion. Of these which is more real, the material 
body or the image which is independent of it ? Which of 
those is undecaying, and which of these is beyond the 
reach of death ? 

It was a woman in the Vedic times, who when asked to 
take her choice of the wealth that would be hers for the 
asking, inquired whether that would win for her deathless- 
ness. What would she do with it, if it did not raise her 
above death ? This has always been the cry of the soul of 
India, not for addition of material bondage, but to work 
out through struggle her self -chosen destiny and win; 
immortality. Many a nation had risen in the past and 
won the empire of the world. A few buried fragments 
are all that remain as memorials of the great dynasties that 
wielded the temporal power. There is, however, another 
element which finds its incarnation in matter, yet transcends 
its transmutation and apparent destruction : that is the 
burning flame born of thought which has been handed 
down through fleeting generations. 

Not in matter but in thought, not in possessions nor 
even in attainments but in ideals, is to be found the 
seed of immortality. Not through material acquisition 
but in generous diffusion of ideas and ideals can the true 
empire of humanity be established. Thus to Asoka, to 
whom belonged this vast empire, bounded by the inviolate 


seas, after he had tried to ransom the world by giving 
away to the utmost, there came a time when he had nothing 
I more to give, except one half of an Amlaki fruit. This 
was his last possession, and his anguished cry was that since 
he had nothing more to give, let the half of the Amlaki 
be accepted as his final gift. 

Asoka's emblem of the Amlaki will be seen on the 
I cornices of the Institute, and towering above all is the 
I symbol of the thunderbolt. It was the Rishi Dadhichi, 
j the pure and blameless, who offered his life that the divine 
weapon, the thunderbolt, might be fashioned out of his 
! bones to smite evil and exalt righteousness. It is but 
half 'of the Amlaki that we can offer now. But the past 
7 shall be reborn in a yet nobler future. We stand here 
I to-day and resume work to-morrow, so that by the efforts 
of our lives and our unshaken faith in the future we may 
all help to build the greater India yet to be, 

- a 



WE have given in Bose's own words the ideals that animated 
him in the foundations of his Institute, and his inaugural 
address produced a profound impression not only in India 
but also in the West. We may in this connection quote the 
following passage from a leading article in The Times : 

When Sir Jagadis chose the teaching of Science as his vocation 
a generation back, it was generally held that by its very con- 
stitution the Indian mind would always turn away from the study 
of Nature to metaphysical speculation. At that time, even 
had the capacity for enquiry and accurate observation been 
assumed, there were no opportunities for their employment ; 
neither well-equipped laboratories nor skilled mechanicians 
existed. Little or nothing had then been done to break the 
almost exclusively literary mould into which higher Indian 
education had been directed. To bringing abcut the scientific 
renaissance Sir Jagadis has influentially contributed. Indians 
are justly proud of the possession of a few men who have gained 
world-wide reputation in their particular fields of activity, and 
this pride reacts strongly on public opinion. At the Research 
Institute a group of Indian post-graduate students devote their 
lives to research. The published Transactions of the Institute 
show that under the leadership of this eminent Bengali, Indian 
research is making substantial contribution to scientific know- 
ledge ; that in this field there is no fundamental difference 
between the Western and the Eastern mind, as was assumed 
when Sir Jagadis began his work. It may be, as one writer 
said, that the bent of research and the colour of theories will 
take something from the inherent qualities of the Indian mind ; 
but the faith in ascertainable truths and the appeal to facts can 



underlie that research and those theories equally well in India 
and in Europe. In this no less than in other fields of knowledge 
India has her special contributions to make. Sir J. C. Bose's 
work has shown that through her meditative habit of mind 
she is peculiarly fitted to realise the idea of unity and to see 
in the phenomenal world an orderly universe, and this habit 
confers the power to hold the mind in pursuit of truth in infinite 

The Athenceum wrote : 

The foundation of an Institute for research in pure science 
is an event in the history of India. The publication of the 
Transactions, the firstfruits of its activity, shows that it is an 
event also in the history of science. 

We may now describe the Institute with its great 
scheme of continuing the researches of its founder, and 
of carrying on his large conceptions of the investigation of 
the processes of life with the help of all the resources and 
refinements of the physical sciences. 

The building stands conveniently central for the intel- 
lectual activities and for the public of Calcutta. The 
building is of striking and dignified design, constructed of 
fine greyish purple sandstone, in Indian style of the pre- 
Mahommedan period, with symbolic ornament and details 
throughout. In front is a small garden, appropriately of 
sensitive plants, in which are a fountain and pool, and a 
sun-dial and an electrically controlled clock-dial for mutual 
comparison. A distinctive sign of the Institute and its 
work is a large double tracing, being automatically made 
in two parallel curves before the eyes of the observer. 
One of these curves records the result of the essential 
changes of the atmospheric environments temperature, 
light, etc. while the other summarises the responses of 
a large tree to those changing conditions for every minute 
of the twenty- four hours. This autograph of the tree 
gives striking and vivid demonstration that all plants, 
including even rigid trees, are fully sensitive to the changes 
around them. Even the passage of a drifting cloud 


is perceived and recorded by the tree in its own peculiar 
script and by an instrument devised for the purpose. 
Here, too, we have an illustration of the significance of the 
Institute as no mere laboratory of this or that peculiar 
line of physical or physiological research, but as from 
the first aiming at the concentration of the main resources 
and methods of the physical sciences, and their bearing 
upon the central problem of all the biological sciences 
the problem of the essential processes of life itself. 

The spacious Entrance Hall has a long series of glass 
cases which at once exhibit and preserve the essential 
apparatus of many past years of inquiry, from physical 
researches on electric waves to physiological researches 
on life. These are arranged in sequence of increasing 
perfection in observation and record. Step by step one 
passes from instruments direct and simple, sometimes 
rough and ready, to the present wellnigh magical elabora- 
tion of delicacy and exactitude. Here we have Bose's 
first apparatus for space signalling so far back as 1895. 
Recent instruments record the hitherto imperceptible 
pulsation of a plant's growth, marking perception-time 
within the thousandth part of a second and measuring 
ultra-microscopic movements. Thus the significance of 
the Institute as a centre of new invention of the most 
delicate apparatus, and as a centre of exceptional skill in 
construction, with the importance of these to science and 
eventually to industry, becomes apparent. For it is here 
worth noting that most of the great physical discoverers 
and inventors, as from Watt to Kelvin, or back to Galileo 
and Leonardo da Vinci, or onwards to Bell and Edison, 
arid now to Bose himself, have been their own instrument- 
makers. For hand and brain alternately stimulate each 
other, to the complemental advances we call respectively 
' discovery ' and ' invention.' 

Passing by the great Lecture Hall, we may look into 
the actual Laboratories, where researches are in progress. 
These are partly in the main building, but in greater number 


in the annex ; and indeed primarily in the Garden around, 
with which we may therefore best begin. Here sensitive 
and other moving plants preponderate, like twiners and 
climbers, which cover a long and shady pergola ready to 
serve as a college cloister with its ' Philosophers' Way.' 
The nearer ground is laid out with pleasant lawns, fountain 
and tank for water-plants, and a group of trees, some old 
inmates of the Garden, others lately transplanted hither, 
at full size, under anaesthetics. Under these trees is a 
variety of apparatus, and above is perched an open platform 
for observation and thought by turns, since this alternation 
of keen outlook and meditative interpretation is the very 
process of science, the rhythm of its intellectual life. 

From these and other beginnings of the Bio-physical 
Garden we enter the Laboratories. Here beyond the small 
marble entrance porch, again kept free for observation and 
meditation, are glass-houses white, red and blue -for the 
study of the growth and behaviour of plants under light 
from opposite ends of the spectrum, as compared with 
normal conditions. Beyond are the larger laboratories 
electrical, chemical, mechanical, microscopical, and 

Having thus broadly surveyed the new Institute, and 
seen, or foreseen, something of its working, we may now 
enter the great Lecture Hall, which is seated for some 1500 
auditors. Here the inauguration of the Institute took 
place, and courses of lectures by the Director and others 
are regularly given embodying the main results of the work 
of the Institute. 

As the laboratories and grounds of the Institute afford 
various departures from conventional design, so too does 
this Hall, perhaps as yet the very best of environments 
for scientific exposition. It is of simple, efficient and 
beautiful plan, in which a large audience can at once see 
and hear without the visual interruption and the acoustic 
defects too common in auditoria designed without the 
collaboration of the physicist. Its purpose is neither 


restrictedly scientific, as its magnitude shows, nor yet 
simply popular. The essential idea is that of providing 
for the scientific exposition of new knowledge, and this 
at its highest appeals to the intelligent public. 

The ornamentation of the hall appeals alike to scholar, 
artist, and the student of science. The ceiling design, with its 
great radiating lotus, is freely adapted from one of the 
cathedral caverns of Ajanta, and is bordered with the 
sensitive plants so specially connected with the work of the 
Institute. The body of the Hall is left quiet and plain, as 
befits its purpose of attention ; but above the lantern screen 
an allegorical frieze has been painted ' The Quest/ by 
Nandalal Bose, a well-known member of that little group 
of Calcutta artists who are recovering the traditions of 
Indian painting, and adapting them to modern interest and 
to individual expression. Starting from the sacred river at 
dawn, strides forth the tall and keen-braced figure of 
Intellect, feeling the sword-edge with which he has to 
cleave his way, and companioned in his adventurous 
journey by his bride Imagination, who inspires him with her 
I _magic flute. The final and focal ornament of the Hall is a 
great relief in bronze, silver and gold, of the sun-god rising 
in his chariot to the daily cosmic strife of light with darkness. 

How this new Institute may act and react with Indian 
thought and life, as well as with the world's science, and 
how also it may advance here industry, there agriculture, 
there again medicine, and above all the needed emancipation 
and renewal of higher education, it is too soon to predict. 
Enough for the present that this flowering of a creative life 
should now fully be opened. Its fruits will ere long be 
maturing, and its seeds of new activities spreading through- 
out India and flying over the world. 

The substance of the foregoing description was written 
immediately after the opening of the Institute. Two 
years have since elapsed, and already the hopes then enter- 
tained are in the way of ample fulfilment. Two large 


volumes of ' Transactions ' of the Institute have so far been 
published. They contain more than two score of papers, 
which embody many of Bose's initiatives, worked out 
under his continual direction and with the help of the 
research scholars and assistants, who by this means are 
brought into closest contact with their leader and enabled 
to catch his spirit and enthusiasm. 

There remain, however, many needs to be provided for, 
if the enterprise is to be prepared for covering the vast 
fields of clearly conceived research. Much is still wanting 
before space and equipment can be deemed adequate ; 
much before such provision can be made for the scholars 
that they may continue their work unhampered by anxiety 
for the future. In this service they can look for no worldly 
advantage, nor is any honour likely to be conferred on them 
by the University. For the test applied in the examinations 
of the Indian Universities is that of knowledge thoroughly 
accepted and established in the West ; and it cannot be 
until after the passage of many years that Bose's discoveries 
will reach the academic centres through the medium of 
standard text-books. 

Hence the permanence of the Institute, and the con- 
tinuance and progressive expansion of its activity, were 
realised as a matter of great urgency. Bose, it is true, 
has made over all his fortune to the Trustees ; but an 
international Institute of Science cannot be built up on 
an endowment of necessity so inadequate. And it will 
be obvious that for such a man as Bose to be beset by 
business and financial anxieties could not fail to be 
disastrous. His one consuming desire is and must be to con- 
centrate the whole of his powers upon his work, in order to 
secure the full initiative, and wherever possible the com- 
pletion, of the many fresh lines of discovery to which his 
researches incessantly lead lines which, it would appear, no 
other has so clearly discerned, if indeed conceived at all. 

But this necessary quiet and leisure for the pursuit of 
work is plainly not yet to be his for several years. He has 


had to train his successors for the administration of the 
Institute. He had the initial good fortune to secure as 
Assistant Director an old pupil who proved his ability 
and his devotion in the pursuit of research. To those who 
are working under him Bose has given every opportunity 
of developing their individuality. 

It was towards the end of 1919 that Bose felt impelled, 
in the interests of his Institute, to visit England there to 
convince, fully and finally, the scientific public of the 
importance of the modern Indian contribution to science. 

But the time chosen for this purpose did not at all seem 
promising. Bose's English friends uttered abundant 
warning as to the distracted political and social conditions 
of England. The national affairs, the national temper, had 
made little apparent progress, in the first year of nominal 
peace, towards a recovery of the normal. He would find it 
impossible, they said, to arouse any interest in such scientific 
work as his, still less in such a scheme as the Calcutta 
Institute. The discouragement was powerful and various ; 
but in spite of it Bose persisted in his plans and reached 
London in the middle of November. 

His reception was extraordinarily different from what 
he had been led, by friendly voices in England and India, 
to expect. It was as though the entire British world 
had been prepared, by every sort of experience, to receive 
and acclaim the discoveries which, in previous years, had 
seemed to be problematical and remote. It was as though 
all doors were flung wide open. 

What may be described as the authentic recognition 
by leading thinkers came in December, in the form of a 
meeting at the India ^Office, arranged by Mr. Montagu, 
the Secretary of State for India, who had been deeply 
interested in Bose's work ever since, a good many years 
before, during his tour as Under Secretary, he had met with 
it in Calcutta. Bose was invited to give a lecture and 
demonstration, with Mr. Arthur Balfour in the chair. There 
can be no exaggeration in saying that the occasion was 


without parallel in the records of the India Office, and we 
may take it as a fine and peculiarly agreeable promise of a 
new spirit in the governmental conception of India. The 
lecture-room was filled with a distinguished and highly 
representative audience, whose response was immediate 
and enthusiastic. They were shown a typical series of 
results, and were given a demonstration of the powers of 
the Magnetic Crescograph, which was doubtless for those 
present a startling revelation of the widening world of 
experimental knowledge. 

So great was the interest excited that full summaries 
of the lecture were cabled to the Continent and to America, 
while the British Press accorded to the discourse an amount 
of space, and to the Indian savant a warmth of apprecia- 
tion, which is unusual in newspaper treatment of scientific 
events. A leading article in The Times contained the 
following passage : 

Sir Jagadis Chunder Bose is a fine example of the fertile 
union between the immemorial mysticism of Indian philosophy, 
and the experimental methods of Western science. Whilst we 
in Europe were still steeped in the rude empiricism of barbaric 
life, the subtle Eastern had swept the whole universe into a 
synthesis and had seen the one in all its changing manifestations. 
. . . He is pursuing science not only for itself but for its applica- 
tion to the benefit of mankind. We welcome the additions to 
knowledge which he has made, but most of all we welcome in 
him the evidence that India and Great Britain can unite their 
genius to mutual advantage. 

Professor J. Arthur Thomson wrote in the course of an 
article in the New Statesman : 

It is in accordance with the genius of India that the in- 
vestigator should press further towards unity than we have 
yet hinted at, should seek to correlate responses and memory 
impressions in the living with their analogues in inorganic 
matter, and should see in anticipation the lines of physics, of 
physiology and of psychology converging and meeting. (These 
are) questionings of a prince of experimenters whom we are 
proud to welcome in our midst to-day. 

R 2 


Within a month, therefore, of his arrival in London 
Bose had overflowing evidence of the most eager and wide- 
spread interest in his work and its significance for the 
world. As regards his fellow-investigators and the educated 
public in general, this interest is not to be wondered at. 
The years of the war, the years since his last visit to England, 
have been a period of unexampled mental upheaval and, 
in the sphere of applied science, of experiment and achieve- 
ment surpassing everything hitherto known. With this 
there has come an intense stimulus to all inquiry and 
discussion relating to the mysterious activities of life, and 
more particularly to the phenomena in the borderland 
between the animate and the so-called inanimate. In that 
curiosity to-day the average person shares as never before. 

As regards the interest of the leaders in thought and 
scientific inquiry, Bose has fully secured it in recent years. 
When, before the war, he set up a temporary laboratory in 
Maida Vale, he was continually called upon by men 
distinguished in many walks of life. During the spring of 
1920 his laboratory in Bloomsbury Square was visited by 
almost all the leading men of science. He was invited 
by both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and 
gave his addresses and demonstrations before highly 
appreciative audiences. The Vice-Chancellor of Leeds 
University sent him a most cordial invitation to lecture. 
In offering him the welcome of the University, Sir Michael 
Sadler, who had recently been in India as Chairman of the 
Commission for the Reform of Calcutta University, spoke 
with the authority of personal knowledge of Bose's work in 
India as University teacher as well as original investigator. 
' India/ he said, ' needed more science in her secondary 
and higher education, and needed to be delivered from 
the tyranny of excessive examinations. When he and his 
colleagues were inquiring into the educational work in the 
Presidency of Bengal, he realised more vividly than before 
what Sir Jagadis's work meant not only to Bengal but to 
India. It was the genius of the Indian and the genius of 


the Englishman to do the finest work under conditions of 
freedom and under the stimulus of a master mind. The 
great work in 'science and in arts would be done not under 
the punctual and meritorious preparation for an examina- 
tion, under a syllabus designed by a Sanhedrin, but in 
institutes devoted to the free investigation of some great 
problem. Sir Jagadis Bose's name, and the name of the 
Research Institute he founded in Calcutta, acted to thousands 
in India as a beacon light, because science was studied for 
the love of science, and with freedom and zeal.' 

There followed an honour from the University of Aber- 
deen, which awarded Sir Jagadis Bose the honorary degree 
of LL.D., in recognition of the important contributions 
which he had made for the advance of general physiology 
and for his investigations on the Irritability of Plants. 

Finally, in relation to this matter of formal acceptance 
and recognition by his European peers, a word remains to 
be said touching the most significant incident of all. The 
honour recognised by men of science throughout the British 
Dominions as the proudest of all is the award of the Fellow- 
ship of the Royal Society. That is being conferred upon 
Bose as this volume goes to press (May 1920), in recognition 
of his contributions, not only in physics, but in physiology 
also. It comes to him as the culmination of a series of 
discussions and incidents spread over two decades, and at 
the last in a collective decision which had in it something 
of dramatic unanimity and completeness. In May 1901 
Bose had communicated to the Royal Society his first results 
in plant response ; and, as has been recorded in this 
narrative, his paper was rejected. It took almost twenty 
years for the truth to make its way completely into the 
light twenty years of persistent and unswerving labour 
devoted to the working out of new methods of inquiry ; the 
victorious following out of the experiments which, questioned 
and belittled in the first stage, have since added a marvellous 
new province to the empire of human knowledge. What was 


deemed, in 1901, to be dubious and obscure was, in 1920, 
acknowledged and acclaimed. Bose's former opponents 
had now become his warmest and staunchest friends ; 
and in the Royal Society, physicists, physiologists, and 
psychologists united in according the honour of the Fellow- 
ship to their fellow-worker and revealer from the East. 

Two things in particular seem worthy of clear state- 
ment in this connection. The first is that among men of 
science full recognition conies earliest to those whose 
labours lie in clearly defined paths and well within the 
frontiers laid down by the orthodox classification of the 
sciences. It comes last and most hardly to men like Bose, 
who find themselves impelled over the frontiers as drawn, 
moving among the conceptions of different sciences and 
pursuing experiments in territory where, inevitably, they 
are looked upon as intruders. 

The second thing is this. There are some who regarded 
the prolonged delay in the grant of official recognition by 
the high court of scientific judgment as due to prejudice 
against a stranger. In Bose's case any such hypothesis 
would be absurd. From beginning to end he has stood 
among his fellows simply as a man of science. In the 
discussions over the nature and final value of the extra- 
ordinary results with which his name and fame are identi- 
fied, there has never been any hint of misunderstanding, 
or collision between East and West. His great work has 
won for him the enthusiastic admiration of scientific men 
all over the world ; and this became strikingly evident 
on a recent occasion. A persistent opponent of his wrote 
to The Times questioning the reliability of the crescograph 
and suggesting that a demonstration should be given at 
a physiological laboratory before leading experts. Bose 
accepted the challenge, and the result of his demonstration 
was the occasion of a conjoint tribute so remarkable that 
it probably stands by itself in recent science. The following 
appeared in Nature, May 6, 1920 : 


Sir Jagadis Bose's crescograph is so remarkably sensitive 
that doubt was recently expressed as to the reality of its indica- 
tions as regards plant growth : and the suggestion was made 
that the effects shown by it were due to physical changes. A 
demonstration in University College, London, on April 23, has 
however led Lord Rayleigh and Professors Bayliss, V. H. 
Blackman, A. J. Clark, W. C. Clinton, and F. G. Donnan to 
state in The Times of May 4 : ' We are satisfied that the growth 
of plant tissues is correctly recorded by this instrument, and 
at a magnification of from one million to ten million times.' 
Sir W. H. Bragg and Professor F. W. Oliver, who have seen 
similar demonstrations elsewhere, give like testimony that the 
crescograph shows actual response of living plant tissues to 

The following extract is reproduced from Bose's dignified 
letter to The Times, May 5 : 

Criticism which transgresses the limit of fairness must 
inevitably hinder the advance of knowledge. My special in- 
vestigations have by their very nature presented extraordinary 
difficulties. I regret to say that during a period of 20 years 
these difficulties have been greatly aggravated by misrepresenta- 
tions and worse. . . . The obstacles deliberately placed in my 
path I can now ignore and forget. If the result of my work, by 
upsetting any particular theory, has roused the hostility here 
and there of an individual, I can the more take comfort in the 
warm welcome which has been extended to me by the great 
body of scientific men of this country. 

The difficulty among the orthodox, in science as in 
religion, is the relation of new truth to old theory. The 
innovator whose word or work cannot be accepted without 
the modification or rejection of established dogma knows 
of a surety what his destiny is. He must fight his way. 
The kingdom of knowledge is taken by storm. In the case 
of J. C. Bose, the Royal Society has admitted the innovator 
and crowned his work. 

The life-story of Jagadis Bose is worthy of close and 
ardent consideration by all young Indians whose purpose 
is shaping itself towards the service of science or other 


high cause of the intelligence or the social spirit. It is 
possible that, looking upon the triumph of the end and 
knowing nothing of the long uphill road, the slow costly 
attainment of ends, they may think that a fine laboratory 
or other material endowment the antecedent condition of 
successful achievement in intellectual creation. The truth, 
indeed, is far otherwise. The countless obstacles which 
had to be surmounted only called forth in Bose all the en- 
durance and all the effort which are latent in manly natures, 
welding them to the fullest strength of character and 
intensity of thought by which alone a great life-task can be 
accomplished. In contemplating the great career of his 
countryman, the young Indian will be stimulated to put 
brain and hand to fine tasks, nothing fearing. Thus will 
he be inspired not only to recover the noble intellectual 
traditions of the Indian past, but to restate these traditions 
in modern terms, and find the greatest challenge for mind 
and soul in achieving their vital relation with the coming age. 
By impassioned inquiry and research, by resolute and un- 
fearing work, by direct and personal action on positive lines 
and in the constructive spirit by these things, and by 
nothing short of these, can India or Europe or the vast 
enduring brotherhood of mankind be carried further along 
the road to their deeply needed and long awaited recon- 

But now the question may be asked many indeed will 
find themselves impelled to ask it What of the teeming 
and toiling millions of India : what part have they in these 
great schemes of science, and what can such schemes do for 
them ? Of course, with only too great readiness the same 
question may be asked in respect of the millions of Europe and 
America for it is clear that their full awakening to science 
is still far off, their incorporation into the best that 
civilisation has to offer. The answer in both cases must 
be essentially the same : the arousal and incorporation 
must in the end come, unless our modern world of know- 
ledge and society is to go down in tragic failure. 


As regards India, it is profoundly true, as it is still 
true of the European multitudes, that illiteracy does 
not necessarily connote darkness. The Indian villager is 
not nearly so ignorant as by the average of literates he 
is judged to be. The needed popularisation of science 
is commonly thought of by us as a matter of definite 
exposition to the untaught ; but that is only part of it. 
In the meantiine, and continuously, the traditional life 
of the people, with its spiritual roots in the organic being 
of Society and its folk-knowledge linking the generations, 
enables the people to get at something of the greater know- 
ledge in their own fashion. The story of a Moslem villager 
who invited Bose to enter his liouse so that his women- 
folk might see him is delightfully to the point. It was 
soon after the Indian Press had spread the news that the 
Bengal wonder-worker had been received with acclamation 
in every country he visited during his tour round the world. 
' But am I not a stranger ? ' Bose asked, ' and do you not 
maintain the seclusion of your zenana ? ' ' You/ replied 
the Moslem triumphantly, ' are no stranger. You are one 
of us. Has not your voice reached everywhere ? ' So, 
too, with Bose's village neighbours at Sijberia. Of his 
experimental garden there they say, ' That is where, at 
night, the plants talk to him ! ' 

In their own way then a very real way the simple 
labouring folk may be, and even now are being reached by 
such vital movements of quickening and renewing litera- 
ture and advancing knowledge as their poets and men of 
letters, headed by Rabindranath Tagore, their men of 
science headed by Jagadis Bose, are opening out to them 
to them, and above all to their children ; for manifestly 
it is only with the coming generations that such sowings 
can be brought to harvest, and thence again to fresh sowings 
on ever widening fields. 

It is here, perhaps, in the quietude of his village that 
we might have left him at the close of this record. But I 
seem to hear his words of protest : ' No, it is not in the 


village that my work is to end ; from thejvillage I came out, 
to discover a larger world. Like that of my boyhood's 
hero, Kama, my life has been ever one of combat^ and 
must be to the last. It is not for man to complain of 
circumstances, but bravely to accept, to confront, and to 
dominate them. The faith in which my long-dreamed-of 
Temple of Science has been at last brought within reach 
of fulfilment, is the faith that when one has gained the 
vision of a purpose to which he can and must dedicate him- 
self wholly, then the closed doors will be opened and the 
seemingly impossible become attainable/ 

Hence, accordingly, the symbol of Bose's life, struggle, 
and achievement is to be found less in the village that 
nourished his childhood and provides the periodic retreat 
for his maturity, than in the abounding energy of the great 
cit in which, of necessity, his Institute is placed and 
from which it draws its power and inspiration. He alone 
who has striven and conquered can enrich the world by a 
generous bestowing of the fruits of his victorious experience. 


ABERDEEN, honorary degree, Uni- 
versity of, 251 

JEther waves, effect of, on plants, 

Allotropism, conductivity method 
in detection of, 75 

American Association for the Ad- 
vancement of Science, 148 

Asoka, inscription of, 119 

AthencBum, The, 243 

Automatic response in plant and 
animal, 135 

Automatism, 134 

BALFOUR, A. J., 146, 248 
Berlin, lecture at, 65 
Bose, Ananda Mohan, 32 
Bose, Bhagaban Chunder, 4, n, 39 
Bose, Lady, 91, 218, 222 
Bose, Nandalal, 223 
Bose Institute, the, 119, 242 
British "Association, Bradford meet- 
ing of, 92 

Liverpool meeting of, 61 
Brunton, Sir Lauder, 147 
Bull, Mrs. Ole, 221 

CAMBRIDGE, lecture before the Uni- 
versity of, 146, 250 
undergraduate days at, 28 
Carbonic acid, effect of, on growth, 


effect of , on irritability, 149 
Clark University, lecture at, 148 
Coherer, 57, 71, 72 

inadequacy of the theory of the, 

Conducting path, fashioning of, by 

stimulus, 212 
Cornu, M., 40, 64 

Crescograph, the Balanced, 174 
the High Magnification, 158 
the Magnetic, 159, 160 

Crookes, Sir William, 146 

DACOIT, incidents connected with, 7 
Darwin, Sir Francis, 31, 146 
Death-march, rate of, 151 
Death-Recorder, the, 133 
Dedication, the, 227 
Deputation, scientific, to Europe, 

44, 88, 137, 144, 159 
Desmodium gyrans, 134, 145, 150 

ELECTRIC Probe, localisation of 

sense-organs by, 189 
response of metals, 88, 93, 94, 

95, 96, 97, 98 
response of ordinary plants, 94, 

103, 104, 105 
Touch, periodicity of, 73 
Touch, positive and negative, 

73, 77 
waves, researches on, 57, 58, 59 

FATIGUE in metal, 72, 93 

in plants, 132 
Foster, Sir Michael, 30, 96 

GALENA as receiver of radiation, 85 
Gandhi, M. K., 224 
Geo-electric response, 188 
Geo-perception, latent period for, 

176, 191 
Geo-perceptive layer, localisation 

of, 190 
Geotropism of root, explanation of, 

of shoot, 1 88 




Gokhale, G. K., 224 

Growth, automatic record of, 154 

effect of carbonic acid on, 175 

effect of light on, 176 

effect of minute and large doses 
of poison on, 157 

effect of stimulus on, 182 

effect of touch on, 155 

effect of wireless stimulus on, 179 

effect of wounds on, 149 

pulsation in, 155 

rejuvenescence and renewal of, 

HALL, President Stanley, 148 

Harper, Professor, 137 

Hartley, Dr., 83 

Harvard University, lecture at, 148 

Heliotropism, explanation of, 186 

positive and negative, 166 
Hertz, 52 
Howes, Professor, 103, 105 

INORGANIC matter, electric response 

of, 89 
electric response of, effect of 

fatigue on, 93 
electric response of, effect of 

minute and large doses of 

' poison ' on, 96 
electric response of, effect of 

stimulant on, 94 

KARNA, 17, 256 
Kelvin, Lord, 40, 61, 67 

LAFONT, Father, 23 

Latent period, determination of, in 

plants, 212 
Light, continuity of effect of, and 

electric radiation, 79 
Lighthouse, electro-magnetic, 63 
Linnean Society, 103 
Lipmann, 64 

'MAHABHARATA/ the, 16 
Medicine, Royal Society of, 147 
Memory, impression on metal, 208 

revival of, 208 
Molecular disposition, effect of, on 

nervous impulse, 215 
Molecular strain, theory of, 79, 80 

in solution of metallic nitrates, 83 
Montagu, E. S., 248 

Mother, determining influence of, 

25, 37 

Multiple response, 134 
Miinsterberg, 211 

NALANDA, ruins of, 119 

Nation, The, 146 

Nature, 252 

Nervous impulse, control of, 213, 

214, 215 

dual character of, 171 
' Nervous ' impulse in plants, 212 
New York, lecture at, 148 
Nivedita, the Sister, 221 
Nyctitropism, 193 
Nymphaea, night-watch of, 195 

OPTICAL Lever, the, 129 
Oxford, lecture at, 145, 251 

PARIS, International Congress of, 88 

Pfeffer, 160, 167 

Photographic action, strain theory 

of, 80 

throughout entire spectrum, 81 
Photography, fading of latent 

image, 81 
without light, 83 
Phototropism. See Heliotropism 
Physique, Societe de, Paris, elected 

honorary member of, 64 
Plant response, abolition of, at 

death, 151 
automatism and continuity with 

multiple, 134 
death spasm in, 133 
electric spasm in, 133 
effect of carbonic acid on, 148 
effect of chloroform on, 148 
effect of cloud on, 148 
effect of fatigue on, 132 
effect of sulphuretted hydrogen 

on, 148 

effect of wounds on, 149 
Plants, sensitiveness of, 172 

sleep and waking movements in, 

195, 198 

' true ' sleep of, 203 
Poincare, M., 57 
' Praying ' Palm, the, 198 
Presidency College, Calcutta, 33, 

QUINCKE, Professor, 65 



RAY, Sir P. C., 223 

Rayleigh, Lord, 30, 61, 93, 100 

Reay, Lord, 65 

Research Institute, memorial for, 

Response in the Living and Non- 
living, 87 
of inorganic matter, 88, 94, 95, 96 

Ripon, Lord, 32 

Roscoe, Sir Henry, 65 

Royal Institution, Friday Evening 
Discourse at, 61, 63, 98, 146 

Royal Society, the, 39, 99, 121 
elected Fellow of the, 251 

Royal Society of Medicine, the, 147 

SADLER, Sir Michael, 250 
Shaw, Bernard, 146 
Sircar, Sir Nilratan, 224 
Sleep of plants, 193 
Spectator, The, 107 
Spencer, Herbert, 107 
Statesman, The New, 249 

Stimulus, Bose's Law of Direct and 

Indirect Effects of, 184 
classification of, 182 
Strain-cell, 79 

TAGORE, Abanindra Nath, 223 
Tagore, Gaganendra Nath, 223 
Tagore, Rabindranath, 222 
Taxila, 114 

Thermo-crescent curve, 156 
Thomson, Professor Arthur, 249 
Thorp, J. G., 221 
Times, The, 67, 249, 253 
Tropisms, 181 

VIENNA, lecture at, 147 

Vines, Professor Sidney H., 30, 103 

Vivekananda, 91 

WARBURG, Professor, 65 
Washington, lecture at, 148 
Weber- Fechner's Law, inadequacy 

of, 210 
Wireless stimulation, response of 

plant to, 1 76 

Colchester, London <& Eton, England 


2101 Valley Life Sciences Bldg. 642-2531 






JUN 1 / "02 -JO w" 

24M 4-00 

Berkeley, California 94720-6500 





=? ^ \ , A A rrv^-A ^