On Bose and Bond (yeah, 007!)
Updated: Dec 7, 2018
The number of unsung heroes in the Indian scientific community is vast, with the likes of S N Bose, Bibha Choudhury, P. C. Roy, Meghnad Saha, and many more, struggling to find a mention alongside their (rightly) celebrated contemporaries and co-researchers, many of whom were nobel laureates.
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Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose
So the news, recently reported in the media, about Acharya J. C. Bose being nominated to adorn the new fifty pound note, must have warmed the hearts of many of us who are familiar with his work. And while being nominated is no guarantee of a hoped-for outcome, we should welcome every outlet for the recognition that so brutally eluded this peerless researcher in his lifetime. "Acharya", a Sanskrit word, is a title conferred to a teacher who has received universal acclaim. J.C. Bose's claims to fame go far beyond his calling as a professor of physics, being a polymath who excelled in the fields of radio communication, microwave optics, and plant science. He is also credited as being the author of the first sci fi story in Bengali, Palatak Tufan, about a killer cyclone threatening to obliterate Kolkata.
However, it was his work in the obscure field of plants responding to stimuli, that captured the imagination of folks around the globe, particularly those who were interested in ESP! Bose used his ingenious invention, the Crescograph, to record how plants would react to stressors, and there was evidence that plants do cringe from pain, although they don't make their feelings known quite so candidly.
Enter Ian Fleming (from left of stage)
One of the followers of Bose's work was Ian Fleming, whose interests ranged from fast cars to obscure scientific research. Who would have guessed, eh? He was sufficiently intrigued by Bose's experiments to make a reference to them in Moonraker !
When appointed as undercover security staff to keep an eye on proceedings as well as on Hugo Drax, Bond finds himself, naturally, making overtures to Gala Brand to win her confidence, and to demonstrate his knowledge of arcane matters. Taking a walk on the grassy fringes of the Moonraker site, Bond holds forth on this doyen of the scientific community:
Triumphantly she found a bee orchis and picked it.
'You wouldn't do that if you knew that flowers scream when they are picked,' said Bond.
Gala looked at him. 'What do you mean?' she asked, suspecting a joke.
'Didn't you know?' He smiled at her reaction. 'There's an Indian called Professor Bhose (sic), who's written a treatise on the nervous system of flowers. He measured their reaction to pain. He even recorded the scream of a rose being picked. It must be one of the most heart-rending sounds in the world. I heard something like it as you picked that flower.' (Moonraker)*
Granting Fleming a bit of licence to exaggerate and also misspell Bose's name, I think we can all enjoy the way he used a scientific experiment as part of an elaborate mating game. And, like Gala Brand, some of his readers might have said, ' I shall have to find out about this Indian ...' after reading the book. Its hard to think of a more unlikely source of readership of Bose's works.
After this unlikely coming together of the fields of espionage and plant research, the mind becomes open to accepting all sorts of fancy possibilities. After all, who could have imagined that one day we might measure J. C. Bose's true worth in multiples of fifty quid?
*Fleming, I. (1955). Moonraker. James Bond: The Complete Collection. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com