Chandrasekhar Centennial Symposium

Videos, Slides, and Photos

Videos of the talks from this symposium and slides for most of the talks can be viewed here: videos and slides. Photos from the symposium are posted here: Chandra photos.

Welcome

October 19, 2010 will be the 100th anniversary of the birth of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. This symposium is an occasion for those who knew Chandra to commemorate his life and work, and for those who did not know him to experience firsthand some of the impact he had on 20th century science. We will have an opening reception on October 15 and full days of scientific talks on October 16 and 17. The banquet will be held on the evening of October 16.

International Planning Committee: Abhay Ashtekar, Naresh Dadhich, Valeria Ferrari, John Friedman, Giuseppe Mussardo, Jayant Narlikar, Roger Penrose, Saul Teukolsky, Robert Wald (co-chair) and Kameshwar C. Wali (co-chair).

Funding for the Symposium is being provided by the National Science Foundation and by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, and the Department of Physics of the University of Chicago.

A Short Biography of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

chandra_youngSubrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born on October 19, 1910 in Lahore, then the capital of Punjab in British India. Since the partition of India in 1947, Lahore is in Pakistan. Known popularly as Chandra throughout the scientific world, his early education was at home under the tutelage of his parents and private teachers. He got his B.Sc (Honors) degree from Presidency College, Madras, India (1930), his Ph.D from Cambridge University, England (1933), and was elected a Fellow of the Trinity College, Cambridge (1933-1936). In 1937, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago at the Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and he remained at the University of Chicago for the rest of his life. Chandra was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1944 and named as Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor in 1946. He was the sole Editor of The Astrophysical Journal from 1952 to 1971. Among the numerous prizes, honors, and medals bestowed on him are the Nobel Prize in Physics (1983) and the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London (1984).

Chandra is well known for his discovery in 1930, during his voyage from India to England, of a limit on the mass of a star that can become, in its terminal stage, a white dwarf. The limit, known as the Chandrasekhar limit (1.44 solar mass), is hailed as one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century, since it paved the way to the discovery of the other two presently known terminal stages of a star: neutron stars and black holes. chandra_book Subsequently, Chandra’s distinctive pattern of research encompassed diverse areas, each of which occupied a period of five to ten years, resulting in a sequence of a large number of papers and ending with a monograph. Six such monographs known for their thoroughness, lucidity, and scholarship have had dramatic and lasting effects on diverse fields of astronomy and astrophysics by providing not only numerical results for comparison with observations, but also mathematical models and mathematical techniques for solving them. In brief, Chandra’s major contributions to twentieth century astrophysics were in studies of the structure and stability problems during stellar evolution, stellar dynamics dealing with distributions of matter and motion in the aggregation of stars in galaxies and star clusters, the principles of radiation transfer and radiation equilibrium in stellar atmospheres, particularly the theory of the illumination and polarization of the sunlit sky, and the theory of the negative ion of hydrogen which resolved a long standing controversy of the thirties pertaining to the solar spectrum and the abundance of hydrogen in the sun. Beginning in 1960, Chandra’s main interests turned to Einstein’s general theory of relativity and to bringing it into its “natural home,” astronomy. He developed the post-Newtonian scheme to systematically take into account the general relativistic effects. Chandra’s contributions to the mathematical theory of black holes and his studies of the exact solutions of Einstein’s equations provided new and important physical and mathematical insights into the richness and beauty of Einstein’s theory. In the last years of his life, Chandra devoted his main efforts to a study of Newton's Principia, reworking Newton's proofs in more modern scientific language. His monograph on this work was published just prior to his death in 1995.

Chandra is often thought of as a scholar in the classical tradition of Lord Rayleigh (John William Strutt) and Jules-Henri Poincare. Some two-thirds of his research papers are collected together in seven volumes. A book titled “Truth and Beauty” by Chandra is a collection of seven lectures that express his thoughts on aesthetics and motivations in science.

Bibliography

  • Chandrasekhar, S. Selected Papers. Seven vols. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1989-1997.
  • Chandrasekhar, S. Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
  • Miller, A., Empire of the Stars, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, 2005).
  • Srinivasen, G. (ed.), From White Dwarfs to Black Holes: The Legacy of S. Chandrasekhar, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1999).
  • Wald, R.M. (ed.) Black Holes and Relativistic Stars, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1998).
  • Wali, Kameshwar C. Chandra; a Biography of S. Chandrasekhar. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1991.
  • Wali, Kameshwar C. Ed. S. Chandraskhar, the Man Behind the Legend, London, Imperial College Press, 1997.
  • Wali, K. (ed.), A Quest for Perspectives; Selected Works of S. Chandrasekhar (Vol 1 & 2), Imperial College Press (London, 2001).