Jagdish Chandra Bose
What happens if you take a rich magistrate's son and make him learn in a village school sitting besides the sons of servants and fishermen? He'll hear tales of birds and animals that make him curious about Nature. And that makes him one of India's first scientists - Jagdish Chandra Bose.
Jagdish Chandra was born on November 30, 1858. He was educated first at the village school in Faridpur, where his father was a magistrate, Bhagwan Chandra Bose. Later he went to Hare and St. Xavier's, Calcutta's leading English-medium schools. In 1875, he was admitted to St. Xavier's College, Calcutta, and graduated in 1879.
There he met Father Eugene Lafont, who was very interested in promoting modern science in India. He later went to the UK, where he got degrees from the universities of Cambridge and London. He also met Prafulla Chandra Ray, another pioneer of Indian science.
He came back and was made a Professor of Physics at Presidency College on the Viceroy's recommendation. However, the principal and other faculty, who were White, were very racially biased against him and gave only an acting appointment. They denied him any laboratory facilities, but he carried on his research work, buying equipment with his own salary.
In 1895, J.C. Bose made a public demonstration, in presence of the Lt. Governor of Bengal, of wireless radio. However, his discovery was mostly ignored, and the credit went to Guglielmo Marconi, who made a demonstration in 1897. However, scientists around the world now acknowledge him as the true pioneer. (There's another Bose - Amar Bose - who is also famous for advances in speaker and radio technology, but he's not related to J.C. Bose. And despite similar names, J.C. Bose isn't related to Netaji S.C. Bose either.)
One of the things you need for a successful radio transmission is a 'coherer', which is needed to detect radio waves. Though Bose had invented one, he was unwilling to patent it. He thought science was for the benefit of humankind, and one should not make money from it. However, under pressure from his friends, he finally submitted a patent application to the US patent office, (even today, US patents are among the most important patents). On 29 March 1904 he became the first Indian to get a US patent, for his "detector for electrical disturbances".
Between his experiments, Bose also found time to write science fiction in Bengali. His famous story Polatok Tufan describes how a cyclone was stopped using a bottle of hair oil (Since it's known that oil stills the surface of water by changing surface tension).
Research into Plant Intelligence
J.C. Bose switched his attention to plants, and how they respond to stimuli. How do they respond to the sun's movement through the day? How do they react to wounds, pesticides, insects etc? He discovered that electrical signals passed between plant cells, making him wonder whether they had a nervous system. He invented a machine called the crescograph to study all this. He also discovered that they grew well if exposed to pleasant music!
Though J.C. Bose wrote three books on the subject, like the radio, his research was ignored. One of the reasons was that discovery of plant hormones (chemical signallers) shifted a lot of attention away from electrical impulses. However, his findings are now back in vogue, as new research into electro-static signals in plants have proved him right.
J.C. Bose was knighted in 1917 and became an FRS in 1920. In 1958, on his Birth Centenary, the Jagadis Bose National Science Talent Search Scholarship was created to "select students with special aptitude for science and providing a scheme for counselling, conserving and helping this most precious resource, namely, human talent, which is necessary for building up the nation, by award of scholarship and otherwise". As a pioneer, J.C. Bose has remained an inspiration to thousands of Indian students aspiring to a career in science.