The Asiatic Society, in a bid to pay homage to Bengal’s experimental physicist, Syamadas Chatterjee, is mulling plans to convert the latter’s residence into a research centre. Senior Indian scientist Professor Bikash Sinha has claimed that Syamadas was the first to have discovered continuous fission of Uranium — a claim that has been debated for decades.
The general secretary of Asiatic Society, Prof SB Chakrabarti told The Statesman that the residence of Syamadas Chatterjee might be converted to a research centre for students. He said that the Ballygunge residence has been lying in a dilapidated condition for years and hence it is high time that it ought to be put to good use after repairs.
He said the sole purpose to host a discussion on Chatterjee is to highlight the physicist, who is lesser known and deserves the right to be widely recognised at a time when the Indian government is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.
Sources said the ground floor of the three-story building was given to the Asiatic Society as per the will of the scientist but soon a dispute between the society and the Syamadas Chatterjee Memorial Trust, cropped up. At present, the Trust members have finally decided to opt for an out-of-court settlement as they too agreed that the house ought to be used for scientific purposes, sources said.
The concern was also highlighted by the president of Asiatic Society, professor Swapan Pramanick, who said that the physicist had given his house to the society, which previously used it as a guest house but over the years, it has remained in utter neglect. He remarked that the society intends to establish a research institute there, where the focus may be on the philosophy of science. “It will be a collaborative initiative that aims to benefit student researchers. It should be used for studying science and technology.”
Meanwhile, professor Bikash Sinha, senior scientist of Indian National Science Academy (INSA), during his lecture on the contributions of Syamadas Chatterjee, said it is irrefutable that Mr Chatterjee was the first to have worked out on the half-life of spontaneous fission, helped by SN Bose who egged him on with all kinds of ideas on the process of discovering “spontaneous fission” in Calcutta.
He pointed out that it was DN Bose, who was Chatterjee’s thesis supervisor and editor of the science and culture journal, who discouraged the latter against publishing his discovery in the journal since he believed that Mr Chatterjee’s claims were wrong. However, soon after, the discovery of spontaneous fission by G Flerov and K A Petrjak from Russia was published in another journal.
Professor Dipak Ghosh of Jadavpur University said his book Bakreshwar Upakhyan, released in this year’s Kolkata book fair also discusses how Mr Chatterjee nearly missed the opportunity to receive a Nobel Prize. Syamadas Chatterjee was also known as one of the advocates of indigenisation, who manufactured his own equipment for his experiments and detested the concept of import.