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  • Pilani Rajasthan Shridhar University Remembers Chandra Nobel Laureate Dr Subramanyan Chandrasekhar

    Published on October 19, 2011

    It is for sure that no one in India today can afford to forget or ignore the centenary of a top ranking scientist of the caliber of Chandra. “Chandra probably thought longer and deeper about our universe than anyone since Einstein,” said Martin Rees, Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal. Dr Subramanyan Chandrasekhar known world over as Chandra was awarded in 1983 the Physics Nobel Prize for his “theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars”. Chandra’s most famous success was the astrophysical Chandrasekhar limit which describes the maximum mass of a white dwarf star, ~1.44 solar masses, or equivalently, the minimum mass, above which a star will ultimately collapse into a neutron star or black hole (following a supernova).

    He was born on 19 October 1910 in Lahore which is presently in Pakistan and moved to Madras (now known as Chennai) in 1918. He did his schooling from Hindu High School, Triplicane and obtained his Physics Honours degree from Presidency College. During 1930-1933 he did his Ph.D  at Cambridge, under R.H. Fowler and had the epic battle with another renowned astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington on 11 January 1935 at Royal Astronomical Society – RAS which probably resulted in Chandra shifting to Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago in January 1937.

    His work on White Dwarfs, Stellar structure and Dynamics, Hydrodynamic and Hydeomagnetic stability, Figures of equilibrium, GR and Relativistic Astrophysics as well as the mathematical theory of Black Holes go to reiterate the quote that information is just bits of data while Knowledge is putting them together and Wisdom is transcending them. He died on 21 August 1995 at Chicago and in 1999 NASA named the third of its four Great Observatories after Chandrasekhar. An important dimensionless number of magnetohydrodynamics which represents the ratio of the Lorentz force to the viscosity has been named as Chandrasekhar number in his honour. According to Nobel laureate Hans Bethe, “Chandra was a first-rate astrophysicist and a beautiful and warm human being. I am happy to have known him.”

    Chandra’s research explored nearly all branches of theoretical astrophysics and he published ten books, each covering a different topic, including one on the relationship between art and science. He was a popular teacher who guided over fifty students to their Ph.D.s. For 19 years, Chandra had the honour of serving as editor of the Astrophysical Journal and turned it into a world-class publication.

    Addressing the students and faculty of Shridhar University on 19 October 2011, Prof BR Natarajan Pro Vice Chancellor shared the above details and concluded his talk with the quote of Dr Sanjib Mishra, http://www.physics.sc.edu/People/FS/mishra.html who holds a double M.Sc.  (Hons) in Mathematics & Physics with Distinction from Birla Institute of Technology and Science – BITS Pilani in addition to MA, MPhil, PhD from Columbia  University USA and presently Professor of Physics & Astronomy University of South Carolina and guest scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratories “No one shines in the firmament of Astronomy as brightly as Chandrasekhar.” For more details about Shridhar University see  http://www.shridharuniversity.ac.in