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Biography of Kariamanikkam Srinivasa Krishnan (KSK) 1898-1961

Kariamanikkam Srinivasa Krishnan, generally known as K. S. Krishnan and KSK. Mostly he is known as co-discoverer of the famous Raman Effect, a discovery which brought the first and till date the only Nobel Prize in Science to India. The Prize was awarded to Krishnan’s mentor and research guide C.V. Raman in 1930. The citation for the Nobel Prize also stated that the Prize was given to Raman for his work on the scattering of light and the discovery of the effect named after him. In reality, there is no controversy. Raman deserved the Prize. KSK was an outstanding physicist of international repute. He made pioneering contributions in a number of fields of physics. He had the ability to recognize and exploit connection between phenomena in different fields of physics.

Sir K.S. Krishnan won his scientific spurs by opening peepholes into the interiors of molecules. One such peephole was provided by his collaboration in the discovery of the Raman Effect (C. V. Raman was his mentor and guide at the time) another was the invention of an ingenious experimental technique to establish correlations between the magnetic properties of crystals and their internal architecture. A third was the mapping of the energy distribution of electrons in graphite crystals.

KSK played an important role in the field of development of science and technology in India. He was deeply associated with the premier scientific educational organizations in the country like the Atomic Energy Commission, the Council of Scientific and industrial Research and the University Grants Commission. He was a great teacher, a real guru in the tradition of great ancient sages. Besides being a ‘complete physicist’, he was ‘a whole man with an integrated personality’. He was a staunch nationalist. He forcefully championed the cause of science writing in mother tongue. He himself ably performed the task in Tamil. He was a distinguished writer in Tamil. KSK strongly believed that one could convey even very complicated scientific facts in his mother tongue. His scholarship and appreciation of Tamil literature must have given the gift to perform this task with ease. In one of his articles, he speaks of his school science teacher Thirumalai Kozhunthu Pillai, who encouraged the students by teaching science in an him, he got the conviction that difficult scientific concepts could be conveyed in Tamil. He was a sports enthusiast and played tennis, bridge and football. He had mastery over Sanskrit and Tamil literature. KSK since his childhood developed an abiding love of religion and Indian philosophies. Many people have noted that it was a pleasure to listen him. He could always find an appropriate anecdote to drive home a moral or disarm a critic or just entertain.

KSK was born on December 4, 1898, in the village of Wartrap, District of Tamilnadu. His father was a school teacher. After schooling in his village school and at the Hindu High School at the neighbouring town Srivilliputtur, he studied in the American College, Madurai and Christian College Chennai (then madras). KSK’s interest for science grew in his school days. After taking a master degree in physics, KSK became a demonstrator in chemistry. Here, at the request of some of his students, KSK organized an informal lunch-hour discussion where the students were free to discuss any question in physics, mathematics, and chemistry. It became so popular that students from nearby Colleges stated attending it. Often the big gallery of the lecture room used to be full to over flowing.

In 1920, Krishnan went to work with C.V. Raman at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata (then Calcutta). KSK worked very hard. It is said that his work in the laboratory began at 6 A.M., often after an early walk and a cold bath. But his interests were not confined to research alone. He also studied a lot of literature, religion and philosophy. At the age of 62, on 14 June 1961, he died after a heart attack.



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