Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar: Wikis


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In this Indian name, the name "Subrahmanyan" is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name, "Chandrasekhar".
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
Born October 19, 1910(1910-10-19)
Lahore, Punjab, British India
Died August 21, 1995 (aged 84)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Nationality British India (1910–1947)
India (1947–1953)
United States (1953–1995)
Fields Astrophysics
Institutions University of Chicago
University of Cambridge
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Presidency College, Madras
Doctoral advisor R.H. Fowler
Doctoral students Donald Edward Osterbrock, Roland Winston
Known for Chandrasekhar limit
Notable awards Nobel Prize, Physics (1983)
Copley Medal (1984)
National Medal of Science (1966)
Padma Vibhushan (1968)

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, FRS (Tamil: சுப்பிரமணியன் சந்திரசேகர்), English: /ˌtʃʌndrəˈʃeɪkɑr/)[1] (October 19, 1910 – August 21, 1995)[2] was an Indian American astrophysicist. He was a Nobel laureate in physics along with William Alfred Fowler for their work in the theoretical structure and evolution of stars.[3] He was the nephew of Indian Nobel Laureate Sir C. V. Raman.

Chandrasekhar served on the University of Chicago faculty from 1937 until his death in 1995 at the age of 84. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1953.



Chandrasekhar was born in Lahore, Punjab, British India (now Pakistan) into a Tamil Hindu family, the third of ten children to Sita Balakrishnan, and Subrahmanya Iyer, also known as C.S. Iyer, a senior officer in the Indian Audits and Accounts Department.[4] and a brother to Sir C. V. Raman The name Chandrasekhar is one of the appellations of Shiva, meaning "holder of the moon" in Sanskrit, and is a common Hindu name. Subrahmanya was posted in Lahore as the Deputy Auditor General of the Northwestern Railways at the time of Chandra's birth. His mother tongue was Tamil.

Chandra's father was also an accomplished Carnatic music violinist who had authored several books on musicology. His mother was devoted to intellectual pursuits and had translated Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House into Tamil. She is credited with arousing Chandra's intellectual curiosity early on. Chandra's father's brother, physicist C. V. Raman was a Nobel laureate in physics.

Chandra was tutored at home initially through middle school and later attended the Hindu High School, Triplicane, Madras, British India during the years 1922-25. Subsequently, he studied at Presidency College, Chennai from 1925 to 1930, obtaining his bachelor's degree, B.A. (Hon.), in physics in June 1930. In July 1930, Chandrasekhar was awarded a Government of India scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the University of Cambridge, where he was admitted to Trinity College and became a research student of Professor R. H. Fowler. On the advice of Prof. P. A. M. Dirac, as part of his graduate studies, Chandra spent a year at the Institut for Teoretisk Fysik in Copenhagen, where he met Prof. Niels Bohr.

In the summer of 1933, Chandrasekhar was awarded his Ph.D. degree at Cambridge, and the following October, he was elected to a Prize Fellowship at Trinity College for the period 1933-37. During this time, he made acquaintances with Sir Arthur Eddington and Professor E. A. Milne.

In September 1936, Chandrasekhar married Lalitha Doraiswamy, who he had met as a fellow student at Presidency College, Madras, and who was a year junior to him. In his Nobel autobiography, Chandrasekhar wrote, "Lalitha's patient understanding, support, and encouragement have been the central facts of my life."


The following year in January 1937, Chandrasekhar was recruited to the University of Chicago faculty as Assistant Professor by Dr. Otto Struve and President Robert Maynard Hutchins. He was to remain at the university for his entire career, becoming Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in 1952 and attaining emeritus status in 1985.

Chandrasekhar did some work at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, which was run by the University of Chicago. After the Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research (LASR) was built by NASA in 1966 at the University, Chandrasekhar occupied one of the four corner offices on the second floor. (The other corners housed John A. Simpson, Peter Meyer, and Eugene N. Parker.) Chandrasekhar lived at 4800 Lake Shore Drive, about a mile from the University, after the high-rise apartment complex was built in the late 1960s.

During World War II, Chandrasekhar worked at the Ballistic Research Laboratories at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. While there, he worked on problems of ballistics; for example, two reports from 1943 were titled, On the decay of plane shock waves and The normal reflection of a blast wave.[5]

Chandrasekhar developed a style of working continuously in one specific area of physics for a number of years; consequently, his working life can be divided into distinct periods. He studied stellar structure, including the theory of white dwarfs, during the years 1929 to 1939, and subsequently focused on stellar dynamics from 1939 to 1943. Next, he concentrated on the theory of radiative transfer and the quantum theory of the negative ion of hydrogen from 1943 to 1950. This was followed by sustained work on hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability from 1950 to 1961. In the 1960s, he studied the equilibrium and the stability of ellipsoidal figures of equilibrium, but also general relativity. During the period, 1971 to 1983 he studied the mathematical theory of black holes, and, finally, during the late 80s, he worked on the theory of colliding gravitational waves.[5]

From 1952 to 1971 Chandrasekhar was editor of the Astrophysical Journal.

During the years 1990 to 1995, Chandrasekhar worked on a project devoted to explaining the detailed geometric arguments in Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica using the language and methods of ordinary calculus. The effort resulted in the book Newton's Principia for the Common Reader, published in 1995. Chandrasekhar was an honorary member of the International Academy of Science.

Chandrasekhar died of heart failure in Chicago in 1995, and was survived by his wife, Lalitha Chandrasekhar. In the Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society of London, R. J. Tayler wrote: "Chandrasekhar was a classical applied mathematician whose research was primarily applied in astronomy and whose like will probably never be seen again."[6]

Nobel prize

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his studies on the physical processes important to the structure and evolution of stars. Chandrasekhar accepted this honor, but was upset that the citation mentioned only his earliest work, seeing it as a denigration of a lifetime's achievement.


Chandrasekhar's most famous success was the astrophysical Chandrasekhar limit. The limit describes the maximum mass of a white dwarf star, ~1.44 solar masses, or equivalently, the minimum mass, above which a star will ultimately collapse into a neutron star or black hole (following a supernova). The limit was first calculated by Chandrasekhar in 1930 during his maiden voyage from India to Cambridge, England for his graduate studies.

When Chandra first proposed this limit during his fellowship at Trinity College in the 1930s, it was opposed by Arthur Eddington and much to Chandra's frustration none of the established physicists in Europe came to his rescue. This episode had a bitter impact on Chandra resulting in his move to the University of Chicago in the United States and in his choice of moving to another research topic. Chandra, however, compiled all his work on the topic of stellar structures into a book for posterity. This also subsequently led to his style of working continuously in one specific area of physics for a number of years and at the end of that period compiling a book on that topic. As a result, Chandra has left us with great expositions on different topics.

In 1999, NASA named the third of its four "Great Observatories'" after Chandrasekhar. This followed a naming contest which attracted 6,000 entries from fifty states and sixty-one countries. The Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999.

The Chandrasekhar number, an important dimensionless number of magnetohydrodynamics, is named after him.

The asteroid 1958 Chandra is also named after Chandrasekhar.

Chandrasekhar was the mathematics professor of the renowned American astronomer Carl Sagan at the University of Chicago. In his book The Demon-Haunted World, Sagan wrote, "I discovered what true mathematical elegance is from Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar."



Books by Chandrasekhar 
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1958) [1939]. An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure. New York: Dover. ISBN 0486604136.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (2005) [1942]. Principles of Stellar Dynamics. New York: Dover. ISBN 048644273X.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1960) [1950]. Radiative Transfer. New York: Dover. ISBN 0486605906.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1975) [1960]. Plasma Physics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226100847.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1981) [1961]. Hydrodynamic and Hydromagnetic Stability. New York: Dover. ISBN 048664071X.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1987) [1969]. Ellipsoidal Figures of Equilibrium. New York: Dover. ISBN 0486652580.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1998) [1983]. The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198503709.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1990) [1987]. Truth and Beauty. Aesthetics and Motivations in Science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226100871.  
  • Chandrasekhar, S. (1995). Newton's Principia for the Common Reader. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198517440.  
Books about Chandrasekhar
  • Miller, Arthur I. (2005). Empire of the Stars: Friendship, Obsession, and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 061834151X.  
  • Srinivasan, G. (ed.) (1997). From White Dwarfs to Black Holes: The Legacy of S. Chandrasekhar. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226769968.  
  • Wali, Kameshwar C. (1991). Chandra: A Biography of S. Chandrasekhar. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226870545.  
  • Wali, Kameshwar C. (ed.) (1997). Chandrasekhar: The Man Behind the Legend - Chandra Remembered. London: imperial College Press. ISBN 1860940382.  
  • Wignesan, T. (ed.) (2004). The Man who Dwarfed the Stars. Asianists' Asia. ISBN 1298-0358.  


This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.
  1. ^
    In this Indian name, the name "Subrahmanyam" is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name, "Chandrasekhar".
  2. ^ Bio-Chandrasekhar
  3. ^ Vishveshwara, S. (25 April 2000). "Leaves from an unwritten diary: S. Chandrasekhar, Reminiscences and Reflections" (.PDF). Current Science 78 (8): 1025–1033. Retrieved 2008-02-27.  
  4. ^ Chandrasekhar, S. 1983. Autobiography Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden.
  5. ^ a b Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar Biography. School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. February 2005.
  6. ^ Tayler, R. J. (November 1996). "Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. 19 October 1910-21 August 1995" ( – Scholar search). Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (London: Royal Society) 42: 81–94. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1996.0006.  

"Chandrasekhar and his Limit" by G. Venkataraman, University Press, India.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (19 October 191021 August 1995) was an Indian-American physicist, astrophysicist and mathematician, who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics.


  • It is, indeed an incredible fact that what the human mind, at its deepest and most profound, perceives as beautiful finds its realization in external nature.… What is intelligible is also beautiful.
    • From a lecture, "Beauty and the Quest for Beauty in Science" given at the International Symposium in recognition of Robert R. Wilson on April 27, 1979 at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois.
  • All the standard equations of mathematical physics can be solved in the Kerr spacetime.
    • From Chandrasekhar's Nobel lecture, in his summary of his work on black holes.


  • God is man's greatest invention.

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