Star named after unrecognized Indian scientist Bibha Chowdhuri

Paris: An unsung brilliant Indian scientist, Bibha Chowdhuri, was honoured by the International Astronomical Union by naming a white yellow dwarf star after her. The star ‘Bibha’ is 340 light years away in the constellation of Sextans.

The name of an exo-planet of Bibha is called Santamasa. The names were chosen by International Astronomical Union as part of its global contest ‘NameExoWorlds’. Every country had to give a name to a star-exo planet pair.

Bibha Chowdhury, born in Kolkata, was a pioneering Indian particle physicist. D. M. Bose was her mentor. She discovered the pi-meson, a subatomic particle, in Darjeeling before the independence of India.

Though the results were published in ‘Nature’ journal, Bibha Chowdhury was never recognized for her work. Some believe that she was supposed to get the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Cecil Frank Powell, a British physicist, discovered the same subatomic particle using the same method that Bibha Chowdhury used and went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1950. However, he acknowledged the work of Bibha Chowdhury and D. M. Bose.

Chowdhuri joined the laboratory of Patrick Blackett for her doctoral studies at Manchester University. She was once interviewed by ‘Manchester Evening News’ which wrote, “It is a tragedy that we have so few women physicists today.”

Bibha Chowdhuri returned to India and worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research for eight years. She joined the Physical Research Laboratory of the Indian government and was involved in the Kolar Gold Fields experiments.

She died in 1991, without getting recognition for the groundbreaking pioneering works she had done. Her life is described in a book ‘ A Jewel Unearthed: Bibha Chowdhury’.

The naming of a star in her name is the least we could do to honour the genius of Bibha Chowdhury.


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