The Indian Particle Man

Sharon Ann with Falguni Sarkar in a BBC studiio during the recording of the programme
Sharon Ann with Falguni Sarkar in a BBC studio during the recording of the programme

“Fascinating portrait of a remarkable Indian physicist…compellingly revealed by Dr Sharon Ann Holgate…”

Radio ‘Choices’ by Gillian Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph, Wed 12/1/05

My first BBC Radio 4 programme The Indian Particle Man—which I wrote and presented—was a biography of the Indian physicist Prof S.N.Bose (1894-1974).

Bose was a multi-talented man who made his mark in science in 1924 when he wrote a research paper that became one of the foundations of quantum theory.  He worked with some of the great scientists of his times including Marie Curie and Einstein, was a musician, a scholar of literature and poetry, a translator (he was the first person to translate Einstein’s work on relativity into English from the original German), and a nationalist. (The photograph below was taken in 1925, while Bose was working in Paris with Marie Curie.)

SN Bose in 1925 in Paris
SN Bose in 1925 in Paris

As part of the programme—which was first broadcast on 12th January 2005—I was privileged to interview not only one of Bose’s former students, but also Falguni Sarkar who is one of his grandsons.

The pictures at the start of the page and directly below were taken during the making of the programme in the autumn of 2004, and the first image above shows Falguni and myself at the BBC Marylebone studios sharing a joke after we had recorded our interview.  I was also delighted to meet the late actor Saeed Jaffrey (see image directly below) whose films included My Beautiful Laundrette, A Passage to India, and Ghandi, and who provided the voice of Bose for us by reading excerpts from some of his letters and speeches.

Saeed Jaffrey and Sharon Ann Holgate after recording part of The Indian Particle Man
Saeed Jaffrey with Sharon Ann


In May 2006, The Indian Particle Man was shortlisted for ‘The best scripted/edited radio programme on a science subject’ category of the Syngenta ABSW Science Writers’ Awards 2005. The picture below was taken at the Awards Dinner at the Royal Society on 19th July 2006. It shows producer of the programme Julian Mayers and I at the pre-dinner drinks reception.

Sharon Ann and Julian Mayers at the ABSW reception
Sharon Ann and Julian Mayers at the ABSW reception

Media Coverage

Excerpts from reviews:

“Fascinating portrait of a remarkable Indian physicist…compellingly revealed by Dr Sharon Ann Holgate…”

Radio ‘Choices’ by Gillian Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph, Wed 12/1/05

“…Dr Sharon Ann Holgate presents a portrait of the largely forgotten Bose…and pays tribute to his achievements…”

‘Pick of the Day’ by Fiona Sturges, The Independent Review, The Independent, Wed 12/1/05

“….Physicist Sharon Ann Holgate tells the story of a remarkable man.”

‘Radio Choice’ by Chris Campling, The Times ‘T2’ supplement, Wed 12/1/05

“…Sharon Ann Holgate tells the colourful story of a scientist, linguist and all-round genius…”

‘Pick of the Day’, Daily Mail ‘Weekend’ supplement, Sat Jan 8th 2005

“Dr Sharon Ann Holgate tells the story of the forgotten Indian physicist, Satyendra Nath Bose…Holgate reveals how Einstein in fact helped him gain a Visa to travel to Europe and how Bose’s ideas changed the focus of his research…”

‘Radio Choice’, by Stephanie Billen, The Observer Magazine, Sun 9th Jan 2005

“…profile of a remarkable man…”

‘Pick of the Day’ by Paul Donovan, The Sunday Times ‘Culture’ supplement, Jan 9th 2005

“Satyendra Nath Bose …became the first Indian scientist to gain international recognition…so why don’t we know more about him? Dr Sharon Ann Holgate, author and broadcaster, tells the story.”

‘Radio Choice’ by Gillian Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph Television and Radio Supplement, 8-14th January, 2005

“…Bose sent his take on Planck’s radiation law to Einstein in 1924. Einstein gave it the thumbs up, sent it to a journal and, hey presto, a new star of physics was born…”

Focus, February 2005

Articles about the programme:

I was interviewed about Bose, and the programme, by Amit Roy for his Eye on England column for Sunday 16th Jan 2005 in The Calcutta Telegraph. 

My own article on the making of the programme – Bose makes a quantum leap into the limelight – was written for members of the Institute of Physics, and appeared in their Interactions magazine in February 2005.

The ‘Particle Woman’ section of Amit Roy’s Eye on England column for Sunday 2nd July 2006 in The Calcutta Telegraph refers to the programme being shortlisted for the Syngenta ABSW Science Writers’ Awards.

Message from Falguni Sarkar:

I met Dr. Sharon Ann Holgate while researching the life and times of my grandfather, Professor S.N. Bose, the Indian physicist who, along with Albert Einstein, revolutionized the world of physics in the early part of the 20th Century.  The group of particles known as “bosons” are named after Bose, as is an entire field of physical and statistical inquiry called Bose-Einstein Statistics.

Not being a scientist myself, I was more interested in the biography of this extraordinary man than the science itself.  But needless to say, understanding the science, and the significance of Bose’s work, was important if I were to understand the man himself.

The challenge of making accessible complex theoretical ideas is always daunting.  However, Dr. Holgate’s approach to science and her passion of making science understandable, and situated within a wider context of the physical universe and our place in it, is refreshing, and indeed, a valuable contribution for us all.  Bose himself struggled to make the scientific world accessible for all, and in that sense, Dr. Holgate continues in that tradition.

I worked with Dr. Holgate in the production of The Indian Particle Man which recounts the life and contributions of S.N. Bose.  I thank her and her colleagues at BBC Radio for their work and dedication to this topic.

I also am excited about the information presented in Dr. Holgate’s website.  I hope that people find this information valuable and of interest, and that it helps increase their understanding of not only science, but the men and women who have made significant contributions to science.

© Falguni Sarkar, January 2005.

Further Reading


Crossing Borders, Stretching Boundaries edited by Stephan F.von Welck, Manohar, 2000 (ISBN 81-7304-349-3) contains several interesting passages about Bose and his work including a chapter about the co-operation between Einstein and Bose, as well as a chapter on Einstein written by Bose himself.

The August 2000 edition of Siliconeer, a South Asian Monthly Magazine on Technology, Culture and Lifestyle has a long biographical article entitled Ode to Grandpa by Bose’s grandson Falguni Sarkar. This includes a selection of family photographs of Bose.

The article Atomic Spin-Offs for the 21st Century by W.Wayt Gibbs in September 2004’s edition of Scientific American concludes with a section on Bose-Einstein condensates, which charts their history and where research in the field was heading at that time.

Web sites:

Prof S N Bose archive at the S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, India.

If you would like more information on Bose-Einstein condensation, you can visit the Nobel Prizes website and check out the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physics.