A unique institution

Print edition : December 03, 2004

A view of the main campus of the institute. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Bose Institute in Kolkata does important research work in subjects as different as theoretical physics and biotechnology, reflecting the wide and varied interests of the founder, the great scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose.

THE Bose Institute in Kolkata was founded on November 30, 1917, by one of India's greatest scientists, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. This year, as the Institute enters its 88the year, it continues with the legacy of its illustrious founder by doing pioneering work in physical and natural sciences. Like J.C. Bose, the institute's areas of interest are wide and varied. At the time of its inception care was taken to ensure that its scope was not confined to any one area of science but covered all its cognate branches. In the words of its founder, "the advancement of science is the principal object of the Institute, and also the diffusion of knowledge.'' Consequently, research undertaken was made increasingly more broad-based, with emphasis on finding solutions to problems in agriculture, industry and medicine. The institute has departments of physics, chemistry, botany, microbiology, biochemistry, biophysics, animal physiology, environmental science, immunotechnology, and plant molecular and cellular genetics.

In the early 1900s, J.C. Bose realised the need for a good laboratory with proper infrastructure and equipment for Indian scientists to conduct research freely and undisturbed. J.C. Bose invested Rs. 4 lakhs in land and infrastructure for the institute. A substantial amount of money was raised as generous public donations. The government pitched in with grants for equipment and laboratories. Rabindranath Tagore, a close friend of J.C. Bose, introduced him to several Indian princes, who made generous donations.

The institute was set up in buildings designed in the Mauryan style, on a four-acre plot complete with gardens, libraries and lecture halls, in North Kolkata. During J.C. Bose's lifetime, it received an annual grant of Rs. 1 lakh from the government. The institute today is a grants-in-aid autonomous institution under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. Its affairs are managed by a Council comprising representatives of the apex Governing Body. It also has a Finance Committee.

The Institute's library is one of the best in eastern India. Fully computerised and complete with state-of-the-art facilities, it provides the latest information on science. The library is a part of the main campus since its inception in 1917. Later another wing was added at the new Centenary building, which is a few kilometres from the main campus, in 1983.

The campus in early days.-

The institute also houses a J.C. Bose Museum, which attracts people from within the country and abroad. Most of the instruments patented by the great scientist are on display here in their original form, as are photocopied correspondences between him and other great men of his time, including Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and George Bernard Shaw.

The workshop of the institute has established a reputation for designing and fabricating instruments for research work and also for maintaining and repairing sophisticated instruments.

An annual event conducted by the institute is the Acharya J.C. Bose Memorial Lecture on November 30, also J.C. Bose's birthday, in which eminent scientists discourse on various scientific topics, including advances in scientific knowledge and policies of importance with regard to science.

The Bose Institute is not just a leading research institute; it is equally recognised as an important centre for training Ph.D students and postdoctoral fellows. J.C. Bose's vision was not confined to the pursuit of science. True to the ideals of its founder, the institute, in its own way, tries to address the needs of the nation by fostering quality research on the one hand and turning out highly skilled research personnel on the other. Human resource development has always been one of its main strengths, and over the years it has produced scientists working both for the nation and for the advancement of science. The institute employs around 60 scientists, over 150 research fellows and more than 250 technical staff.

Of late, the institute has turned its attention to social developmental work. Maqsood A. Siddiqi, its Director, told Frontline: "Unless academic research is applied for the benefit of the people, it is of little use. We at Bose Institute are aware of our strengths - biosciences and physical sciences - and are determined to apply them to make us socially relevant also."

The institute has a the advantage of possessing expansive farms where experiments in agricultural science are carried out. "We already have scientific research outcome that can be transferred to industry. All we need to do now is to develop proper mechanism to facilitate the transfer," said Siddiqi.

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