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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Dr. Bose on Living and Non-Living

 By Juhi Wagle

Dr. J. C. Bose began research on radio waves, followed by electrographic responses of “living” and “non-living” matter. He developed many instruments to record these responses, the finest of which was the crescograph, which has a magnifying power of 10 million. Dr. Bose subjected animal skins, plant skins, and metals to various stimuli (light, temperature, plucking, pricking, drugging) and found little difference between the responses. In 1902, he published a paper “Responses in the Living and Non-Living,” where he made a controversial conclusion that the distinction between living and non-living beings is arbitrary and quoted from the Rig Veda, saying that this truth was known to his ancestors all along.

This, however, led many scientists to question his integrity as a scientist. During Bose’s time India was under British rule. Britishers believed that while Indians were adept in languages and metaphysics, they had no aptitude for science; that Indians did not possess the requisite temperament for exact sciences. And this notion spread. Many felt that Bose’s deep philosophical convictions "possibly motivated him to take mental leaps to arrive at some of his scientific conclusions." Bose’s quoting of the Vedas is seen as "perhaps the most pointed evidence" attesting to his philosophical bias. He was accused of "allowing his metaphysics to intrude upon his scientific writings." Some went so far as to declare his conclusions more poetic than scientific.