Here are a few words about Jagadish Chandra Bose, who was born on November 30, 1858. His family lived in Rarikhal, Bikrampur, in the current day Munshiganj District of Bangladesh.
In the preface of his book, Plant Autographs and Their Revelations (1927), he says, "I have been able to make the seemingly dumb plant the most eloquent chronicler of its inner life and experiences by making it write down its own history. The self-made records thus made, show that there is no life-reaction in even the highest animal, which has not been foreshadowed in the life of the plant."
"I shall take my readers with me step by step as the wonders became gradually revealed to me through artificial organs of extraordinary sensitiveness by which alone the realm of the invisible could be explored. The barriers which seemed to separate kindred phenomena will be found to have vanished, the plant and the animal appearing as a multiform unity in a single ocean of being."
Bose was a brilliant man and often referred to as a polymath, or a person whose expertise spanned a significant number of different subject areas. In his adult years he pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics. He is credited with laying the foundations of experimental science in the India and many have referred to him as one of the fathers of radio science. Bose's achievements in the science of microwave optics were attested to by a crater on the moon being named after him.
With nearly every discovery that Bose made, he refused any profit for himself and gave his patents and inventions to the public. He stated numerous times in print and in lectures that he made his discoveries public in order to allow others to further develop his research. Numerous times Bose refused to sign agreements with manufacturers, even though it would have provided him great remuneration. Many of his inventions were significant. "Jagadish Chandra Bose's wireless inventions predated those of Marconi."
Venturing into the plant world, an area that we only see from the outside, Bose personally constructed his devices, which allowed measurements that were unheard of in his day and for many decades after.
Bose created a device called the crescograph, which measured plant response to various stimuli, and with this device he scientifically proved a parallelism between animal and plant tissues. To facilitate his research, he constructed automatic recorders capable of registering extremely slight movements; these instruments produced some striking results, such as Bose's demonstration of a power of feeling in plants, exemplified by the quivering of injured plants.
The Bose crescograph used a series of clockwork gears and a smoked glass plate to record the movement of the tip of a plant (or its roots) at magnifications of up to 10,000X. Studying plants under so many different circumstances led Bose to believe that plants can "feel pain, understand affection, and share all the emotions that are felt by higher animals." Dr. Bose also expounded on the 'nervous mechanism' of plants -- the ability of plants to recognize and react to the individual who has committed an act of violence (particularly toward a plant) in their presence.
"Suppose there is a lush green plant and its leaves are a sparkling green in the shining sunlight. We feel like pulling out a leaf to feel it. But we do not think of what goes on inside the plant. Maybe, we feel that the plant does not suffer like us. But the plant does suffer. In fact the pulsation of the plant stops where the leaf was plucked. In a short time the pulsation again begins at the spot, but this time very slowly. And then it completely stops. That spot is as good as dead for the plant."
What is also little known is that Bose experimented with reactions in various metals to different stimuli. Bose stated, “I will show you experiments on a piece of tin. The life-force in metals responds adversely or beneficially to stimuli.” Yes, metals react and it is more than just a stimuli reaction.
“When Bose applied chloroform to tin, the vibratory writings from the machine would react. They went back to the base line as the metal slowly regained its normal state. My companion dispensed a poisonous chemical. Simultaneous with the quivering end of the tin, the needle dramatically wrote on the chart a death-notice.”
“Bose instruments have demonstrated that metals, such as the steel used in scissors and machinery, are subject to fatigue, and regain efficiency by periodic rest. The life-pulse in metals is seriously harmed or even extinguished through the application of electric currents or heavy pressure.” I would like to share more about metals but this is already a long post.
“Side by side recordings of the effects of a medicine given simultaneously to a plant and an animal have shown astounding unanimity in result,” he pointed out. “Everything in man has been foreshadowed in the plant. Experimentation on vegetation will contribute to lessening of human suffering.” Bose realized plants could feel but he wanted animal experiments to stop.
Years later Bose’s pioneer plant findings were substantiated by other scientists. Work done in 1938 at Columbia University was reported by The New York Times as follows:
“Drs. K. S. Cole and H. J. Curtis reported having discovered that the long single cells of the fresh-water plant nitella, used frequently in goldfish bowls, are virtually identical with those of single nerve fibers. Furthermore, they found that nitella fibers, on being excited, propagate electrical waves that are similar in every way, except velocity, to those of the nerve fibers in animals and man. The electrical nerve impulses in the plant were found to be much slower than those in animals. This discovery was therefore seized upon by the Columbia workers as a means for taking slow motion pictures of the passage of the electrical impulses in nerves.
The nitella plant thus may become a sort of Rosetta stone for deciphering the closely guarded secrets close to the very borderland of mind and matter.”
Bose's life is exemplary of a philosophy that I have shared with you in the past. Jagadish Bose was a man who had a beautiful heart, an open mind and a humble spirit. He approached the plant world with love and the desire to learn what plants had to share. He listened to plants, recorded their feelings, and freely and humbly, shared his discoveries with the world without looking to profit from his work.
With love, in love and through love.