Classics: on the spontaneous fission of uranium

Nityananda, Rajaram (2015) Classics: on the spontaneous fission of uranium. Resonance: Journal of Science Education, 20 (9). pp. 856-859. ISSN 0973-712X

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Our choice for the Classics section is the paper by Chatterjee and Sarkar, describing their measurement of the lifetime for uranium to undergo spontaneous fission. It is an outstanding achievement of experimental physics in India, as clear from Amit Roy’s article on the life and work of Shyamadas Chatterjee. But there are many more interesting aspects to this paper. We have reproduced the paper as it appeared in 1944 in the journal, Science and Culture, founded by Meghnad Saha (Resonance, Vol.3, No.5, 1998) and Prafulla Chandra Ray (Resonance, Vol.6, No.1, 2001). It is clear from the articles adjoining this one in the same issue, that this journal had a wide scope. The fact that the authors did not go to a specialised physics journal reflects their conviction that the result was of wider significance. Also, that they chose an Indian – indeed Calcuttabased – journal reflects, to me, the spirit of those times, when there was a strong sense of building a new nation. The Russian group who published earlier, had in fact, sent cables (i.e., telegrams!) to Nature, which is again a broad journal covering all of science. Interestingly, C V Raman from Kolkata had used the cable strategy to establish priority over the Russian group in 1928. Although the paper is a brief communication, it has a clear introduction to the phenomenon of fission, which was only five years old at that time, with much of the work shrouded in wartime secrecy. It also has extensive follow-up analysis of which nuclei were produced in the fission process.

Item Type: Article
Authors: Nityananda, Rajaram
Uncontrolled Keywords: Experimental physics.
Subjects: Natural Sciences > Physics
Divisions: Azim Premji University > School of Arts and Sciences
Full Text Status: Public
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