George Sudarshan - Remembering The Gentle Seer Of Physics On His Sixth Death Anniversary

Aravindan Neelakandan

May 14, 2024, 10:13 PM | Updated 10:19 PM IST

Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan. (Asianet)
Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan. (Asianet)
  • Here is a request to the Government of India to properly honour the memory of this great scientist who embodied both science and the Vedanta in him.
  • It has been six years since the passing of Dr. Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan.

    He should easily be counted as one of the chief sculptors of modern quantum physics. However, despite his significant contributions, he was repeatedly denied proper recognition and unjustly overlooked for the Nobel Prize.

    Each of his contributions, right from the days he was a student, had later culminated in a Nobel Prize.

    He contributed to the understanding of weak interactions, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe. This Sudarshan did when he was still a student working under physicist, Robert Marshak.

    Marshak wanted Sudarshan to study all about the weak interactions because he 'judged that (Sudarshan) could do the best job on the problem' and that he was also 'an independent worker and the need for consultation was less (than with some other graduate students who needed more help and direction)'.

    The weak interaction also known as the weak force, plays a crucial role in the decay of sub-atomic particles and kick-starts the nuclear fusion - the nuclear process that fuels the sun. From hydrogen in its ionised form which is nothing but just proton, weak interaction moves it to become heavy hydrogen which in turn goes onto become helium releasing immense amount of energy.

    Sudarshan came with a theory that explains the weak interaction with subatomic particles that was consistent with an important discovery with relation to weak interaction called parity or symmetry violation. Called V-A theory, this provided what would be the most crucial work in understanding weak interactions.

    Prof. George Sudarshan a Vedantic life in Science.
    Prof. George Sudarshan a Vedantic life in Science.

    However, Sudarshan was not given the recognition that was due to him.

    Instead V-A theory became known for a long time under the name Feynman-Gell-Mann V-A theory. Feynman and Gell-Mann had independently proposed their own V-A theory.

    In his excellent biography of physicist Feynman, physicist and historian of science Jagdish Mehra, writes:

    The Sudarshan—Marshak paper on the theory and prediction of the (V-A) universal Fermi interaction (UFI), although submitted at the same time as Feynman and Gell-Mann submitted theirs to the 'Physical Review', was published with considerable delay in the 'Proceedings of the Padua—Venice International Conference' (1958), and did not have the same impact as the Feynman-Gell-Mann paper, which it rightfully would have had if it had been published in a regular journal like the 'Physical Review'. Although Sudarshan and Marshak published a follow-up paper in the 'Physical Review', their principal work was overshadowed by the publication of the Feynman— Gell-Mann paper. Largely, only the active researchers in the field of weak interactions took note of the publication in the Padua—Venice conference proceedings.
    'The Beat of a Different Drum: Life and Science of Richard P. Feynman', 1994, p.477

    Also as physicist Steven Weinberg noted it might be also 'because Feynman and Gell-Mann were already justly famous for other work, and George, after all, was just beginning his career, people tended to refer to this as the Feynman and Gell-Mann Theory.' (Steven Weinberg, K - A was the key, 2009 Journal of Physics: Conf. Series. 196 012002)

    Richard Feynman regretted the lapse and gave the due credit to George Sudarshan.
    Richard Feynman regretted the lapse and gave the due credit to George Sudarshan.

    Yet when Richard Feynman realised what had happened, despite his own fondness for V - A theory as 'the only law of nature he could lay claim to', he was more than eager and very particular that this wrong should be rectified. He wrote to Marshak:

    I hope someday we can get this straightened out and give Sudarshan the credit for priority that he justly deserves.... I wish I had not caused you and Sudarshan such discomfort. At any opportunity I shall try to set the record straight....
    Jagdish Mehra, p. 478

    Nevertheless, the fact remains that not only in this but also in other important achievements Sudarshan was denied due credit.

    (See these two Swarajya articles for more of his important contributions to science.

    • George Sudarshan - a lifelong pursuit of science and Vedanta - here.

    • A series on Indian scientists denied Nobel Prize despite their contributions- here. )

    So here is a request to the Government of India to properly honour the memory of this great scientist who embodied both science and Vedanta in him - with a spirit reminiscent of our ancient Rishis.

    institute a Sudarshan-Physics prize to be awarded to path breaking contributions of physicists from all over the world for furthering our knowledge of the universe.

    Issue a commemorative postage stamp that is not just conventional but brings out his contributions aesthetically and also a commemorative coin of a high denomination - a collector's item for science enthusiasts all over the world.

    Initiate a Sudarshan-Bohm-Krishnamurti annual lecture series with the best of scientists and philosophers and saints of the calibre of Swami Ranganathananda.

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