Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Great Scientists – The Way They Think, Talk

Dr. C. Jacob

Great Scientists – The Way They Think,
TALK and Act

The title of the article foretells what it is going to be. Hence no introduction. How great scientists are indifferent to wealth or fame appears here strikingly. Here are some instances.

Agassiz Jean Louis, a renowned Swiss-American naturalist (1807- 1879) became popular at a very early age. Once he was out with his friends on a pleasure-trip and stopped at a place for refreshments. An elderly traveller passing by them heard the name Agassiz mentioned and came near the young man and asked him whether he was the son of Prof. Agassiz. Agassiz merely, smiled and one of his friends told the traveller that he was standing before Prof. Agassiz himself. The traveller was amazed and left the place remarking, “Such a modest young body for such a wise old head.” When he was pressed by a society alluring him with liberal payment, the professor indignantly said, “That is no inducement to me. I cannot afford to waste my time in making money.”

Archimedes was a Syracusan scientist, an inventor and a geo­metrical monster (287 BC - 212 BC). Marcellus, the Roman Commander in his final assault against Syracuse warned his soldiers not to lay their violent hands on Archimedes. His word was not cared. Archimedes was found in a market place working on a mathematical problem by drawing a circle on the ground and was absorbed in it. A drunken Roman soldier rushed to him with a sword to kill him. Archimedes quietly said, “Before you kill me, my friend pray, let me finish my circle”. The soldier did not heed his appeal but drove his sword through his body. Archimedes sighed and said, “Ah well they have taken away my body, but I shall take away my mind.”

Homi Bhabha, Indian Atomic Physicist (1909 - 1966) the architect of Trombay Atomic centre and instrumental for experiment in nuclear bomb at Pokhran, Rajasthan in 1974 had not been married. Somebody asked him once, “Are you married?” He replied, “Yes, I am married to creativity.”

R.W. Von Bunsen, German Chemist (1811-1899) was highly humorous in his conversation. Once an English woman to whom he was introduced mistook him for Josias Bunsen, the ambassador, and asked him whether he had finished his book (God in History). Bunsen unperturbed, said, “Alas, my unfortunate death prevented me!” Bunsen received many honours and medals in his life. About them he once said sadly, “Such things had value for me only because they pleased my mother, she is now dead.”

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer (1473 - 1543). When Copernicus said new things about planetary system that ran against religious concepts, a group of men were hired to go about in the villages and mock his astronomical discoveries. On hearing this Copernicus simply smiled and said, “Let them be. The movement of the heavenly bodies will be influenced not in the slightest either by the ridicule or by the respect of these foolish men.”

Marie Curie and Pierre Curie, French chemists (1867-1934 and 1859-1906) were unique persons. When they discovered radium which is an effective cure for cancer and people began to praise them, they coolly said, “Radium is an instrument of mercy and it belongs to the world.” They did not like to capitalise on their discovery. Madam Curie was awarded Nobel Prize twice. When press reporters once insisted on interviewing her, she sent word to them, “Be less inquisitive about people and more inquisitive about ideas.” Albert Einstein speaking about Madam Curie once remarked, “Marie Curie is, among all distinguished people, the only one whom fame has not corrupted.” She used to throw away all the titles and medals soon after she received them.

John Dalton, the English chemist (1766-1844) after retirement happened to pass by the house of a clergyman, Rev. John whose wife on seeing him greeted him and asked why he seldom came to see them. Dalton having said he did not know the reason, however added “I have a mind to come and live with you.” And he lived with them for nearly thirty years afterwards. Dalton remained unmarried. When his friends asked him once of the reason he said, “I haven’t the time”.

Charles Robert Darwin, the English naturalist (1809-1882) was an extraordinary genius and a man of profound commonsense. Once he visited the house of a friend. Two boys in the family who knew Darwin’s greatness thought of playing a joke on him. They caught a butterfly, a grasshopper, a beatle and a centipede and out of these creatures they made a strange insect by attaching their parts carefully and came to Darwin and said that they caught a new bug in their field and asked him to tell what kind of insect it was. Dawin looked at the bug and smiled and asked the boys whether it hummed when it was caught. The boys gently knocking each other said that the creature hummed. Darwin then adjudged the creature as a ‘humbug’ meaning a false creature.

Thomas Alva Edison, the famous American inventor (1847-1931) happened to be trapped by a boring social gathering and decided to slip out and almost reached the door when his host met him and thanked him for his presence and then asked him what he was working on for the time being. Edison shot saying “on my exit”.

Albert Einstein, after he invented the theory of relativity and proved it, made the following philosophic expression: “Now that my theory of relativity is proved, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Had my theory proved false, France would have said that I am a German and Germany would have declared that I am a Jew.” When the Nazi government attempted on the life of Einstein because he was a Jew and put a price of $1000/- on his head, Einstein heard of it and sarcastically remarked, “I did not know I was worth so much.” Einstein used to play violin. Once when a rich merchant sent him a violin costing $30,000/- as gift, he politely declined to receive it and returned it with a note, “The valuable instrument should be played by a true artist. Please forgive me, I am used to my own violin.”

Thomas Henry Huxley, the famous English biologist (1825-1895) a protagonist of Darwin, at a convention of British Association in 1860 was asked by a Bishop of Oxford sarcastically whom he would claim as his ancestor, whether a monkey as a grandmother or grandfather. The audience was aghast. Huxley then replied that he was not ashamed of having monkey as his ancestor instead of calling any one else like the Bishop of England as his ancestor.”

One day Sir Isaac Newton’s servant bought seven fish at the rate of three pence each and asked him how much he should pay. Newton took his logarithm table, calculated and said, “between twenty and twenty two pence.” The servant said that the fisherman demanded 21 pence. Newton was shocked and then said that the fisherman was a greater mathematician as he got the answer quicker and exact.

Louis Pasteur, the French Chemist (l822-1895) did not turn up for his own wedding but engaged himself in some experiment. A friend of Pasteur ran to him and asked him whether he forgot about his wedding. Pasteur said, he did not. “Then why you did not come?” he asked. Pasteur replied, “You idiot, I am finishing my work. How dare you expect me to quit in the middle of an experiment?”

John Roger Porter, a microbiologist (1919-  ) published his first book on microbial Physiology and on the same day his first child was born. A colleague of Porter who came to know that a child was born to him, went to him and congratulated him. Porter being in the ecstasy of joy for his book replied, “Thank you a lot. But I could not have done it without the help of two of my graduate students.”

Thales, a Greek philosopher (640-564 BC) was also an astronomer. One night he was going in a street deeply thinking of stars and fell in a ditch. An old woman helped him out of the ditch and said to him that he must be a liar as he claimed knowledge about heavenly bodies but could not even see what lay at his feet.

Lastly about Thoreau, Henry David, an American Naturalist (1817-1864). Thoreau was on his death-bed and his pious aunt came to see him. She earnestly asked Thoreau, “Henry, have you made peace with God?” Thoreau replied, “I did not know that we had ever quarreled.”

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