Chandra- A Review

Chandra

Title: Chandra
Author: Kameshwar C. Wali
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Price: $30.00

We have all heard about Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar-the man who got the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983. However, only a handful knows the legend of Chandrasekhar and almost of all them are from the scientific field. And it is in fact a tragedy that no one at all seems to know the man Chandrasekhar. So, it comes as a pleasant surprise to find Kameshwar C. Wali’s excellent book “Chandra”, a biography of the legendary astrophysicist quite a pleasant read. This book is an enthralling human document. It seems even more remarkable when we see that Wali has managed to write a book on the life of a physicist who is known for mathematical terseness without a single
mathematical equation.
For the first time we see the human aspects of a scientist who is revered in his field for being totally devoid of any sentiments while dealing with raw scientific data. We get a glimpse, even if a brief one of the daring son, the eloquent teacher and the doting husband. Marred by many failures in his roads to success, Chandrasekhar had kept up all his work and finally managed to win a Nobel for work he did 50 years ago and which no one believed in at that time. Shunned by his colleagues he managed to produce first rate research every single year till his death. Although an American citizen in the later part of his life, we see the pictures of a patriotic Indian in him quite often.

It is not a simple task to write a biography of a scientific figure, and it becomes all the more difficult when you are writing about a man like Chandrasekhar, whose footprints in the sands of time, no wave can wash off. A man hardly known to most Indians has been brought out quite well by Wali in his masterpiece. The book entices the reader to think like the great man himself; it infuses in you a sense of belonging to the whole intellectual effort. The book is one of those rare blends of efficient research and exquisite writing skills that one rarely comes across, and hence it doesn’t fail to strike the reader straight to the heart. A must read for any aspiring scientist in any branch of the sciences – not just astronomy or physics.

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