A Visit to an India Full of Science and Engineering

 This article originally appeared at Scientific American

I am writing this to you from New Delhi, India as I am here with the International Reporting Project as a New Media Specialist! We have been in the crowded, bustling, port city of Mumbai, the central city of Nagpur (home of several tiger refuges), the rural village area of Gadchiroli, and finally to the modern city of New Delhi in order toexamine issues of child survival. I have several blog posts written in the run up to this project, with many more to come over the next month or so.

Did you know India has a National Science Day? National Science Day is celebrated in India on February 28 each year to mark the discovery of the Raman effect (the scattering of photons from an atom or molecule) by Indian physicist Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman on February 28, 1928. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in 1930.

I am completely charmed by this kid demonstrating the Raman Effect for his science fair project in India. The audio is terrible, but the light scattering effect is one we all know! And it seems this kid has a bright future following in the footsteps of Sir Raman!


India is a land of disparity both in monetary terms and intellectual pursuits. Many people are illiterate, but, as shown by the number or medical schools, and science, technology and engineering schools I saw in my travels, as well as the number of Indian professionals I know in academia, there are many highly trained intellectuals as well.

India’s love of science has a long history, but it was Prime Minister Nehru, in his message on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Indian Science Congress (1937), who proclaimed ,

“Congress represents science, and science is the spirit of the age and the dominating factor of the modern world. Even more than the present, the future belongs to science and to those who make friends with science and seek its help for the advancement of humanity.”

He was of the opinion that science was capable of bringing far reaching changes. Many science themed museums and planetariums are named in his honor. The largest science museum in India in his name is in Mumbai (unfortunately, I did not make it out for a visit). One of the Nehru Planetariums is just a stone’s throw from where I am sitting in New Delhi, but my schedule has not allowed me a visit there, either. (I did visit Jantar Mantar, as you will see further in this post).

The eminent physicist and philosopher VV Raman indicates that science is a very important part of modern Indian culture:

“Fortunately for India, thanks largely to her early leaders like Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and Meghnad Saha, modern science was given tremendous moral, financial, and governmental boost in independent India. As a result, science education has made significant strides here.

Countless scientists have been groomed in Indian universities and national laboratories. It is a great blessing that modern sciences flourish in India. Thanks to modern universities, India is producing large numbers of engineers and doctors, technologists and mathematicians, many of whom have moved into the world arena where they make their mark in industries, places of learning and laboratories. Some day, perhaps, every town and village in India will have not only a library, but a mini-science center with a small telescope and microscopes, star charts and pictures of galaxies to initiate the common people into the worldviews of modern science, along with large size pictures of eminent Indian scientists to inspire the people. The establishment of such centres could well be a project for the Indian Academy of Sciences which, with proper funding from the government as well as prospering Indian industrialists all over the world, could also employ science graduates to man them.” (source)

If you want to learn more about this phenomenon, definitely check out Angela Saini’s book, Geek Nation, which attempts to explain the full spectrum of the enthusiasm the Indian people have for science, from space travel (they plan to go to Mars this year), to genomics (Hyderabad is home to a place called “Genome Valley“), to technology, (witness Bangalore) and so much more!

In New Delhi, I made it a point to stop by one of the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatories of Jai Sing II in India (there used to be five, but now only three remain). Check out the virtual tour of the structures and 3D Models at this website.

If you care for quick overview, enjoy this brief video about Jantar Mantar in this video.