The Discovery of the Raman Effect

2. The Discovery of the Raman Effect

S. Claus
University of Lapland

Venue – Bangalore, India

‘Twas Christmas Eve nineteen twenty seven, Prof. C.V. Raman was seated in his favourite chair – green, shiny leather, a little worn, wing-backed but really comfy– the great man puffed at his cheroot and pushed the crumpet a little closer to the fire. The wind howled outside, snow blew against the windows, thank goodness the fire was bright. He was dreaming of tomorrow’s dinner – turkey curry and chapattis. Mrs R was a real dab hand with a chapatti and her turkey curry was worth a winter’s journey. He remembered too there was that little pot of cranberry jelly he had picked up in New York last Thanksgiving, it had a hint of orange in it.

There was a knock at the door….  “Come” called Raman.

It was Bose. “I’ve just been browsing round in the library and I came across some German stuff written by a lad called Smekal”. Bose could read German because he had had a spell with Uncle Albert.

“Very fascinating paper on light scattering, but it’s a sort of prophecy. The words seem a bit familiar, but I can’t quite place them. He said. “Take a look at my translation of the conclusion”.

“Do you think there’s anything in it. Could it refer to me?” queried Raman. “Only one way to find out” replied Bose.

So, Raman and Bose put on their winter woollies and headed out into the night. Under a mini snowdrift they located one of the pool tandems and dusted it down. Who goes in front? Bit of a problem this as Raman was a lousy cyclist, but no way was he going to entrust his safety to Bose and let him steer – particularly on icy roads. After a spot of bad tempered haggling, they wobbled off in the direction of the lab.

Dark, everything was white and with a blizzard blowing they were soon hopelessly lost. They wobbled up to an intersection; there was a light flashing in front of them so they stopped. Officialdom appeared in the snow-covered form of the Law.

“Hullo, hullo, where are you two lads off to?” boomed the policeman.

“I’m a Professor and I am proceeding with my colleague here to my laboratory” announced Raman haughtily.

“You don’t expect me to believe that do you?” replied the constable “You’ll be telling me next you’re a Wise Man and I’m King Herod. Well I can’t arrest you cos I don’t know what I’d do with you if I did, so I suppose you’d better go. BUT, you must promise me you will come past here on your way home so that I can check out where you’ve been in the morning.”

“Done” Raman and Bose chorused.

The pair remounted and peddled slowly on but had no idea where they were and then they saw it, midst a flurry of snow, a distant light in the sky. Just like a star. The light on the crane towering over the new building.

“Follow that,” shouted Bose over the roar of the wind. Raman steered left; they skidded and fell off in a heap, just by the gate of the lab.

The problem was that the gate was bolted and barred. Raman had forgotten the keys. They took to shouting and eventually a Security Guard turned up looking none too pleased. “Buzz off”, he bellowed.

“Don’t you know who I AM?” Raman roared. “It is absolutely vital I get into my laboratory.”

The guard looked unimpressed, shivered and retreated in silence.

“There’s nothing for it, said Bose, we’ll have to squeeze through the hole in the fence round the back. It’s the one the student’s use”.

“I can’t do that, it’s not appropriate, hmm well I suppose no-one will recognise me,” said Raman dejectedly.

Inside the lab it was cold – freezing cold. Now the prophecy said something about a feint light and the paper was about scattering.

“Get out the mercury lamp, my man” commanded CV quite forgetting who was his assistant. Bose was a bit taken aback, but yanked the mercury lamp out of it’s corner and started to light the stove to warm up the lab. Newspaper, sticks and a few carefully selected lumps of dried cow dung. In no time it seemed the furnace was hot and the kettle was hissing contentedly. Bose then turned to the lamp, connecting it to the electrical supply – a prod with the Tessler and hey presto it lit first time!

Meanwhile Raman had set up the experiment using his favourite spectrograph – a Hilger Medium Quartz. “What sample should we use?” He asked Bose, although he’d already decided to use a diamond. He produced a battered old rusty biscuit tin prodded around and produced an enormous gem. “What exposure should we use?”.

“Give it half an hour to be on the safe side”, advised the great man. “Don’t want to have to repeat it on a night like this”.

They loaded the plate, uncovered it and sat and shivered, warming their hands on the heat from the stove. Half an hour was up – a quick iron arc to calibrate the plate “OK, it’s done, let’s develop it”.

Away to the darkroom down the passage, developer and then fixer both were far too cold. They washed the plate and back in the lab, held it up to the light.

“Goodness, gracious me”. Exclaimed Bose.

Raman’s original plate

Perhaps that knighthood or even a Nobel Prize, just might come his way! Raman dreamed.

REF:  S. Claus Int.J.Vibr.Spec., [www.irdg.org/ijvs] 3, 6, 2 (1999)