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Chandra is an intimate portrait of a highly private and brilliant man, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a Nobel laureate in physics who has been a major contributor to the theories of white dwarfs and black holes. "Wali has given us a magnificent portrait of Chandra, full of life and color, with a deep understanding of the three cultures—Indian, British, and American—in which Ch Chandra is an intimate portrait of a highly private and brilliant man, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a Nobel laureate in physics who has been a major contributor to the theories of white dwarfs and black holes. "Wali has given us a magnificent portrait of Chandra, full of life and color, with a deep understanding of the three cultures—Indian, British, and American—in which Chandra was successively immersed. . . . I wish I had the job of reviewing this book for the New York Times rather than for Physics Today. If the book is only read by physicists, then Wali's devoted labors were in vain."—Freeman Dyson, Physics Today "An enthralling human document."—William McCrea, Times Higher Education Supplement "A dramatic, exuberant biography of one of the century's great scientists."—Publishers Weekly


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Chandra is an intimate portrait of a highly private and brilliant man, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a Nobel laureate in physics who has been a major contributor to the theories of white dwarfs and black holes. "Wali has given us a magnificent portrait of Chandra, full of life and color, with a deep understanding of the three cultures—Indian, British, and American—in which Ch Chandra is an intimate portrait of a highly private and brilliant man, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a Nobel laureate in physics who has been a major contributor to the theories of white dwarfs and black holes. "Wali has given us a magnificent portrait of Chandra, full of life and color, with a deep understanding of the three cultures—Indian, British, and American—in which Chandra was successively immersed. . . . I wish I had the job of reviewing this book for the New York Times rather than for Physics Today. If the book is only read by physicists, then Wali's devoted labors were in vain."—Freeman Dyson, Physics Today "An enthralling human document."—William McCrea, Times Higher Education Supplement "A dramatic, exuberant biography of one of the century's great scientists."—Publishers Weekly

30 review for Chandra: A Biography of S. Chandrasekhar

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rama

    The life of a brilliant astrophysicist This is an outstanding book about the life and work of Nobel Laureate S. Chandrasekhar (Chandra) who won Nobel Prize in 1983 for his work on white dwarfs and stellar black holes. His calculations showed that stars which collapse into white dwarfs, in some cases become stellar black holes. This mathematical work was done in 1930 during his voyage from India to England to study at Cambridge University. This new discovery brought him into conflict with Sir Art The life of a brilliant astrophysicist This is an outstanding book about the life and work of Nobel Laureate S. Chandrasekhar (Chandra) who won Nobel Prize in 1983 for his work on white dwarfs and stellar black holes. His calculations showed that stars which collapse into white dwarfs, in some cases become stellar black holes. This mathematical work was done in 1930 during his voyage from India to England to study at Cambridge University. This new discovery brought him into conflict with Sir Arthur Eddington, a giant in astrophysics during this time. Eddington ridiculed his ideas with scientifically inaccurate explanations until his death in 1944. Chandra sailed into an intellectual and emotional abyss for four decades. It is the moving tale of one man's struggle against the scientific establishment that shows prejudices among even very rational minds. This book articulates in detail as how the leading physicist at Cambridge University got so mean to a young graduate student from India. This was a time when no one knew about the energy production mechanisms in stars. But Chandra’s theory was simple and made sense to many physicists at that time but refused to override Eddington’s contentions. The Pauli Exclusion Principle teaches us that two electrons cannot remain in the same quantum state, i.e., two electrons with same spin cannot remain in same atomic orbital. This is due to an emergent quantum degeneracy pressure (QDP) that lead to further compression of matter into much smaller volumes of space and collapse into its own atomic nucleus. Pauli Exclusion Principle illustrates this barrier to a total collapse of an atom. Similarly, the gravitational collapse of large dying stars leads to white dwarfs, and if the mass of white dwarf is above 1.44 solar mass, now called the Chandrasekhar limit, the white dwarf continue to collapse on its own core to becomes a neutron star or stellar black hole. In one of his letter to his father, Chandra writes that Eddington thinks that Pauli Exclusion Principle is wrong! How could that be? The book gives a glimpse of racial prejudices Chandra experienced in British India, Europe, and the United States, they are brief accounts of some disturbing incidents. Like most Indians, he focused on his professional commitment and ignored the social distractions. He was an ideal example of a true fighter for his beliefs in science. The author is a compatriot of Chandra, a fellow physicist and a close friend who worked at the Syracuse University and his narratives come from his heart. He illustrates the story with numerous rare pictures of Chandrasekhar in the company of leading physicists and astronomers of his time, many of them are the founding members of quantum physics. These images illustrate the important points in history to connect with actual events and how it may have flowed in the life of Chandrasekhar. This highly acclaimed nook speaks volumes about the work of the author that describes the life one of the earliest proponents of cataclysmic events in the life of a star.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aruna

    I seek comfort in this book. I found it, or should I say it found me since I haven't found a second copy in spite of looking hard, when I needed it most. It's a beautiful portrait of a brave and brilliant man and vouches for hard work, persistence and for the need of structure in life. I would have enjoyed Chandra's company - sang Carnatic music for him, exchanged puns and asked him many questions on science, life and the universe. This book is testimony to a life perfectly led, and to a man who I seek comfort in this book. I found it, or should I say it found me since I haven't found a second copy in spite of looking hard, when I needed it most. It's a beautiful portrait of a brave and brilliant man and vouches for hard work, persistence and for the need of structure in life. I would have enjoyed Chandra's company - sang Carnatic music for him, exchanged puns and asked him many questions on science, life and the universe. This book is testimony to a life perfectly led, and to a man who was consistent in his affection to astrophysics in spite of being prolific in many other spheres.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Mahapatra

    The note of caution by the author was well advised. This biography is laudatory, effusive in its praise, and I am all for it. It is well justified, as far as I could make out. As a teen fond of trivia, I was content to know Dr Chandrasekhar's story superficially. This biography offers a portrait far more interesting than summing up his life as simply, 'Nobel laureate, nephew of Dr CV Raman' Context is everything, and this book provides a lot of it. It is a biography not just of Dr Chandrasekhar b The note of caution by the author was well advised. This biography is laudatory, effusive in its praise, and I am all for it. It is well justified, as far as I could make out. As a teen fond of trivia, I was content to know Dr Chandrasekhar's story superficially. This biography offers a portrait far more interesting than summing up his life as simply, 'Nobel laureate, nephew of Dr CV Raman' Context is everything, and this book provides a lot of it. It is a biography not just of Dr Chandrasekhar but of the events that led to a Dr Chandrasekhar and that formed his life. I appreciated the same care being given to Mrs Lalitha, his wife, an integral part. And the notes on the changing state of the world of physics, astrophysics and physicists and astrophysicists provide a fascinating level of understanding. There are no blinding insights in this book. It is the story of a person who lived his life well, of the hardships and successes, and a fundamental decency of scientific pursuit. The latter is inspiring. There are many images of the trailblazing maverick, it is nice to read about Dr Chandrasekhar because his pursuit was to better his own understanding and then pass it on. There is an excitement in this that is not readily apparent, but is satisfying all the same. His life is remarkably forward thinking in all senses of the term. Perhaps the most sensationalist part of the book for me was his relationship with his uncle, far more complicated than I had assumed in the first place. In these small ways, this biography is a collection of a lot of tiny biographies, painting a breathing picture of the world that was. Would recommend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Saurabh Jha

    This book describes the highly remarkable life of Prof. Chandrasekhar, one of the greatest physicists and, perhaps, the greatest astrophysicist of the twentieth century. The writing style is engaging and the book is sourced from interviews with Chandrasekhar himself as well as family, other scientists, colleagues, and friends. This book was published before Chandrasekhar's death. Chandrasekhar's scientific life was divided into episodes. Each episode consisted of him writing multiple papers on one This book describes the highly remarkable life of Prof. Chandrasekhar, one of the greatest physicists and, perhaps, the greatest astrophysicist of the twentieth century. The writing style is engaging and the book is sourced from interviews with Chandrasekhar himself as well as family, other scientists, colleagues, and friends. This book was published before Chandrasekhar's death. Chandrasekhar's scientific life was divided into episodes. Each episode consisted of him writing multiple papers on one single subject or topic and then writing a book summarising that area coherently. So each episode ended with him writing a book and then forever leaving that area of research. One remarkable charactersistic of Chandrasekhar was his creativity and research output were unaffected by other responsibilities like teaching, organising colloquiums, and being a managing editor of Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) for 19 years. He was chiefly responsible for making ApJ from a local University of Chicago journal to a journal with international renown. Chandrasekhar was one of the very few physicists who were creative till the very end of their lives. His major book, The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes, was published in 1983 when he was 72-73. His last paper was accepted a few months before his death. And his last book, Newton's Principia for the Common Reader, which although is not a research book per se, was published in 1995, the year of his death.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard Needham

    This is an excellent account of the life of one of the more brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century, a century already filled with groundbreaking discoveries in many fields of science, including astrophysics. Chandra (for short) grew up in India at a time when British colonialism was increasingly in conflict with the Indian movement for independence, but it seems the merit-based British educational system together with Chandra’s brilliance, produced an exceptional mind. He left India for This is an excellent account of the life of one of the more brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century, a century already filled with groundbreaking discoveries in many fields of science, including astrophysics. Chandra (for short) grew up in India at a time when British colonialism was increasingly in conflict with the Indian movement for independence, but it seems the merit-based British educational system together with Chandra’s brilliance, produced an exceptional mind. He left India for Cambridge University in 1930, at the tender age of 19, and during the long journey developed the basics for stellar evolution: when stars would collapse gravitationally (neutron stars, black holes) and when they would more mildly evolve into white dwarfs and gradually burn out (as our sun will do). ‘Developing the basics’ meant combining Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity with quantum mechanics to derive the mass level (the Chandrasekhar limit) when gravitational collapse must occur. Chandra, during his life, accumulated almost every prize known to physics, but it was not until 1983 that he received the Nobel Prize. This belated awarding was largely due to a truly puzzling stubbornness by his mentor, the famous astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, to accept the predictions of Chandra’s work apparently because he didn’t get the math! Chandra went on to migrate to the US, where he was a professor at University of Chicago, on the staff at Yerkes Observatory, and built up the Astrophysical Journal to international stature singlehandedly while continuing his teaching and astrophysics research. One of his papers in radiative transfer in stars was said to be the most cited paper in the field in the 1960’s even though it was published in 1943. He lived a long and productive life at Chicago with his wife Lalitha, became a US citizen and occasionally returned to India where he was revered. The biography is lucidly written and vey engaging. Although one does not need to know the physics behind the Chandrasekhar limit to enjoy the book, it helps to appreciate what he achieved, and the author gives a conceptual explanation. The chapter on his work with the Astrophysical Journal where as editor he tended to alienate his colleagues in the field by his strict publication standards but forged strong bonds with those in production…the typesetters especially…was particularly interesting and illustrates his humanity and essential humility. Interesting also is where, as an aside, the author discusses the macho competition among the wealthy to build the largest telescopes/observatories in the world in the late 19th century…iconic names such as the Lick Observatory (Santa Cruz, CA), then the Mt. Wilson (near Los Angeles), then the Yerkes (Wisconsin), etc. Finally, there is a wonderful section of informal conversations the author had with Chandra, and his reflections on science, humanity, and India in the 20th century.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Pradeep

    This biography of Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar by Kameshwar Wali is gains orders of more authenticity because the author Kameshwar Wali is himself both a Physicist and South-Indian born, who is able to bring out the cultural nuances (of Physics and South-India) like few other biographers could have.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Taweewat

    Not only it is a great book about Chandra, it also has lots of information about other things surrounding Chandra at that time, including Astronomy in England in 1930s, Yerkes Observatory, Astrophysical journals history and many others. But what I found is the most interesting part is during the interview at the end of the book. It was full of information and stories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Narayan Venkitachalam

    The books follows the life of Nobel Laureate S. Chandrasekhar. It also shows the life of a PhD student in Cambridge amidst great names such as Milne, Eddington and Fowler. Quotes: - Professor Edward Arthur Milne, once said. On an occasion, now more than fifty years ago, Milne reminded me that posterity, in time, will give us all our true measure and assign to each of us our due and humble place; and in the end it is the judgment of posterity that really matters. And he further added: he really suc The books follows the life of Nobel Laureate S. Chandrasekhar. It also shows the life of a PhD student in Cambridge amidst great names such as Milne, Eddington and Fowler. Quotes: - Professor Edward Arthur Milne, once said. On an occasion, now more than fifty years ago, Milne reminded me that posterity, in time, will give us all our true measure and assign to each of us our due and humble place; and in the end it is the judgment of posterity that really matters. And he further added: he really succeeds who perseveres according to his lights, unafifected by fortune, good or bad. And it is well to remember that there is in general no correlation between the judgment of posterity and the judgment of contemporaries. - Chandra was giving a colloquium. Three walls of the lecture room had blackboards on them, all spotlessly clean when Chandra began his lecture. During the course of his lecture, he filled all the blackboards with equations, neatly written in his fine hand, the important ones boxed and umbered as though they had been written in a paper for publication. As his lecture came to an end, Chandra leaned against a table, facing the audience. When the chairman invited questions, someone in the audience said, "Professor Chandrasekhar, on blackboard . . . , let's see, ... 8, line 11, I believe you've made an error in sign." Chandra was absolutely impassive, without comment, and did not even turn around to look at the equation in question. After a few moments of embarrassing silence, the chairman said, "Professor Chandrasekhar, do you have an answer to this question?" Chandra responded, "It was not a question; it was a statement, and it is mistaken," without turning around. -

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo

    Cuando hablamos de niños prodigio pensamos más bien en música, o matemáticas (e.g. Galois). Mucho más raros son los casos en física/astronomía, y aun así, es la única manera de definir al joven Chandra, que escribió su primer paper en solitario a los 16 y que a los 19 ya había encontrado el limite de masa para las enanas blancas, la más famosa de sus contribuciones. Poco a poco, y pesar de todas las barreras raciales que se le pusieron por delante en su carrera, Chandrasekhar se transformó en el Cuando hablamos de niños prodigio pensamos más bien en música, o matemáticas (e.g. Galois). Mucho más raros son los casos en física/astronomía, y aun así, es la única manera de definir al joven Chandra, que escribió su primer paper en solitario a los 16 y que a los 19 ya había encontrado el limite de masa para las enanas blancas, la más famosa de sus contribuciones. Poco a poco, y pesar de todas las barreras raciales que se le pusieron por delante en su carrera, Chandrasekhar se transformó en el astrofísico teórico más importante del siglo XX, con contribuciones fundacionales en transporte radiativo, dinámica de galaxias, estructura estelar y equilibrio de figuras elipsoidales; de paso renovando por completo como se entendían los journal de astronomía a mediados de siglo y formando a más de cuarenta PhDs. La vida y obra de Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar son un faro de honestidad intelectual y de ética de trabajo, así como de generosidad para con quienes nos necesitan. Nadie abraza tanto, nadie se nutre tanto del misterio, del no saber, como un científico.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amal Kumae

    Want to read

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sanjeev Kumar

  12. 5 out of 5

    Praveen kumar

  13. 4 out of 5

    Satish

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amara

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shripad R

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marc Murison

  17. 5 out of 5

    Satchidanand Haridas

  18. 5 out of 5

    l

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bliss

  20. 5 out of 5

    Harsha Vardhan Tetali

  21. 5 out of 5

    Felipe Marin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Prateek

  23. 5 out of 5

    manasi

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nagraj Rao

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deepthi

  27. 5 out of 5

    Harini

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cassey

  30. 4 out of 5

    A J

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