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Vol. XXVIII No. 4, June 1-15, 2018

A scientist ignored for the Nobel

A tribute

It is a matter of profound regret to note the death of Sudarshan, popularly known as EGC in the world circle of physics and science, who belonged to Madras in more ways than one.

Sudarshan graduated in Physics honours from Madras Christian College, Tambaram, in 1951. He completed his MSc from the University of Madras in 1952. Sudarshan received his PhD from the University of Rochester in 1958 working with Robert Marshak. He directed the MatScience Institute in Madras for five years in the 1980s.

Sudarshan’s proposal of the universal VA theory (read ‘VA’ as ‘vector minus axial’) of the weak interactions in particle physics was an extraordinary contribution to world science. Sudarshan along with Marshak, his mentor and supervisor at Rochester, highlighted the failure of mirror symmetry and reinvigorated the study of nuclear beta decay. This was significant because 1950s was the time when the decay properties of elementary particles were just being understood.

EGC’s most significant work is his contribution to quantum optics. His theorem proved the equivalence of classical wave optics to quantum optics. The theorem made use of the Sudarshan representation. This representation also predicts optical effects that are purely quantum, and cannot be explained classically. Sudarshan was also the first to propose the existence of ‘tachyons’, the particles that travel faster than light.

Sudarshan believed in Vedanta and he experienced many conceptual quantum physical theories and explanations in this Hindu element of theology.

Similar to the other Madras’s science giant, Gopalasamudram Narayanan Ramachandran, Sudarshan too was ignored by the Nobel Committee. Reasons most of us can imagine and relate to.

Madras, India and the US have lost a great thinker and an all-round scientist.

Anantanarayanan Raman

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