Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

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"Chandra" in his later years.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (October 19, 1910,Lahore, British India, (now Pakistan) – August 21, 1995, Chicago, Illinois, United States) was an Indian-American physicist, astrophysicist and mathematician, who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics. He attended the Presidency College in Madras (now Chennai), from where he graduated with a degree in physics.

He was known to the world as "Chandra". It was not just at mathematics that Chandra excelled. As a youth, he had also mastered German, devoured everything from Shakespeare to Hardy, and could read up to 100 pages in an hour 'quite easily'. Chandrasekhar was the nephew of Nobel-prize winning physicist C. V. Raman.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his studies on the physical processes important to the structure and evolution of stars, though he was upset that the citation mentioned only his earliest work, seeing this as a denigration of a lifetime's achievement. His lifetime's achievement may be glimpsed in the footnotes to his Nobel lecture.

He served on the University of Chicago faculty from 1937 until his death in 1995 at the age of 84. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1953.

In 1999, NASA named the third of its four 'Great Observatories' after Chandrasekhar. This followed a naming contest which attracted 6,000 entries from fifty states and sixty-one countries. The Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999.

The asteroid 1958 Chandra is named after Chandrasekhar, so too is the Chandrasekhar limit.



  • It is, indeed an incredible fact that what the human mind, at its deepest and most profound, perceives as beautiful finds its realization in external nature.… What is intelligible is also beautiful. -- from a lecture, "Beauty and the Quest for Beauty in Science," given by Chandrasekhar at the International Symposium in recognition of Robert R. Wilson on 27 April 1979 at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois.
  • God is man's greatest invention.

External links



  • Empire of the Stars: Friendship, Obsession and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes, Arthur I. Miller, Little Brown, 2005
  • The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, Clarendon, 1998

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