Jagadish Chandra Bose and the politics of science in colonised India

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A talk by Christin Hoene

Christin Hoene looks at the role of Jagadish Chandra Bose, who created a philosophy of science in colonised India that was resolutely independent.

Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858–1937) was an Indian scientist and polymath, who first gained international reputation for his work as a physicist in the 1890s. His research on millimetre waves, for example, was instrumental for the invention of the radio – although it was Guglielmo Marconi who got all the credit for that, including the Nobel Prize in 1909. Yet, throughout his scientific career, which span four decades, Bose had to fight prejudices amongst his colleagues in the west concerning his skills and credibility as a scientist. As he recalled in a speech at the University of Punjab in 1924, the prevailing prejudice in the west was that 'no great contribution to exact knowledge could be made in India, since the Indian temperament was merely speculative and dominated by exuberant imagination'. Moreover, western scientists were suspicious in regards to Bose’s interdisciplinary approach to science. Bose attacked these prejudices repeatedly in his writings, and particularly in his numerous public speeches. He argued that imagination and science are not mutually exclusive, and he criticised the strict disciplinary boundaries of western science and instead promoted a holistic philosophy of science. Thus, Bose created a philosophy of Indian science that was resolutely independent. 

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Christin Hoene is the Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of English at the University of Kent and a Researcher in Residence at the British Library. She is the author of Music and Identity in Postcolonial British South-Asian Literature. Her current work focuses on depictions of sound and sound technology in colonial literature and on the history of the radio in the context of the British Empire.

Image: Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937), British Library 10607.h.2.

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Name: Jagadish Chandra Bose and the politics of science in colonised India
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