Book Review | An authentic biography of a scientific pioneer

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As The Rocket Boys make waves on television and also draw attention to historical inaccuracies, what better way to check than with this comprehensive and compelling monograph of Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the man and his times, which tells us the story of his research into cosmic rays and his struggles to translate theories into experiments? It summarizes his vision for India and his contribution to the creation of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, later renamed Bhabha Atomic Research Center.

Bhabha enjoyed the confidence of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and his aides and compatriots included big names such as CV Raman, Swarup Bhatnagar, M. Visvesvaraya and Vikram Sarabhai. Mentions of his friendship with the Sri Lankan lady Anil D’Silva and his turf war with the incomparable Meghnad Saha also spice up the narrative. While the first few chapters of the thin volume are packed with information and anecdotes that paint a sketch of the type of mind that was Bhabha’s – a sleepless child, he loved Mozart and Beethoven and once prepared with his cousin to skip from the balcony with an umbrella inspired by World War I parachutes – the latest offer an inside look into the world of scientific research and how the wheels of institution building work at the administrative level.

Written by Biman Nath, an astrophysicist at the Raman Research Institute, the book aims to popularize science and the history of science to lay readers.

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