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Aesthetics, Authority, and Control in an Indian Laboratory: The Raman-Born Controversy on Lattice Dynamics

Abha Sur
Isis
Vol. 90, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 25-49
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/237473
Page Count: 25
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Aesthetics, Authority, and Control in an Indian Laboratory: The Raman-Born Controversy on Lattice Dynamics
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Abstract

Through the 1940s and 1950s the foremost Indian physicist, C. V. Raman, was embroiled in a scientific controversy concerning crystal dynamics with Max Born, a leading physicist in Europe. This essay analyzes the nature of the incommensurability between theory and experiment. It also examines briefly the aesthetic and cultural constraints on the development and reception of the points of contention, the stylistic and rhetorical forms of the arguments put forth by Raman and Born, the oblique axes of colonialism and nationalism, and the ascription of power and privilege to upper-caste Brahmins in India, all of which played a part in the generation and continuation of the controversy. The study thus affords a glimpse of the organization of science in one of India's premier institutions, the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore, and illuminates the social process of science in postcolonial India.

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