It is S Chandrashekhar’s 107th birth anniversary, and Google is celebrating it with a cool Doodle. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was a Nobel Prize winner for Physics. He had won ‘for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars’. His most important contribution in the field of science was ‘The Chandrasekhar Limit’. It explained the maximum mass of a stable white dwarf star, and according to the theory, the mass of a white dwarf could not exceed 1.44 times that of the Sun. His calculations made people understand about supernovas, neutron stars and black holes, which was identified in 1972.
Chandrasekhar was born in 1910, to a Tamil family in Lahore (now in Pakistan). He is the nephew of the Nobel Prize-winning Indian physicist C V Raman, who had won the Nobel Prize in 1930. Chandrasekhar completed his graduation from the Presidency College in Chennai (then Madras) in 1930. He pursued higher studies at the University of Cambridge after the government awarded him the scholarship. He completed his PhD studies in 1933. In 1937, Chandra immigrated from India to the United States. He and his wife became the American citizens in 1953.
He retired from the University of Chicago in 1980, although he stayed on as a post-retirement researcher. In 1983, he published a classic work on the mathematical theory of black holes. During World War II, he researched for the US Army and was invited to join the Manhattan Project which produced the world’s first nuclear bombs, but delays in the processing of his security clearance prevented him from contributing to the project.
The Chandrasekhar limit was ignored for decades even as the astrophysicist went on to make remarkable contributions in several other fields. NASA’s premier X-ray observatory was also named the Chandra X-ray Observatory in his honour. Chandrasekhar died of a heart attack at the University of Chicago hospital in 1995, at the age of 84.