SUBRAHMANYAN CHANDRASEKHAR name is always remembered for his work on the evolution of stars and theoretical structure.

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Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar - The Indian American Astrophysicist

SUBRAHMANYAN CHANDRASEKHAR name is always remembered for his work on the evolution of stars and theoretical structure. He is known to have calculated the Chandrasekhar Limit along with understanding the origin of massive stars and their evolution. In 1983, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. His research work was in the field of astrophysics and theoretical physics.

Padma Vibhushan Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born on 19th October 1910 in Lahore, Punjab, Undivided British India and died on 21st August 1995 in Chicago, Illinois, United States.


He worked on the topics of stellar dynamics, hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability, white dwarves, quantum theory for hydrogen anion, stellar dynamics, turbulence, general relativity, equilibrium, black holes and colliding gravitational waves amongst others.

While studying at the Cambridge University, he invented a theoretical model and depicted the structure that the white dwarf stars take with respect to their varied mass and varied velocities of the electron that make up with the matter. He established the Chandrasekhar limit and proved that the mass of a white dwarf star cannot be more than 1.44 times the mass of the Sun.

He used Jan Oort’s models for stellar dynamics and then revised them completely. He termed ‘dynamical friction’ for the new set of twenty partial differential equations that could decelerate the stars along with stabilizing the group of stars. He showed how the galactic clouds are unevenly distributed.

During the World War II, he was in Maryland where he used the Ballistic Research Laboratory to solve problems of ballistics. He was an expert on the topic of hydrodynamics. He was also a firm believer of equality and promoted the education of young women. He worked on Calutron project which gave fuel to the atomic weapons used for finishing the war.


Ø  1944- Fellow of the Royal Society

Ø  1948- the Adams Prize

Ø  1949- Henry Norris Russell Lectureship

Ø  1952- Bruce Medal

Ø  1953- Gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society

Ø  1957- American Academy of Arts and Sciences- Rumford Prize

Ø  1966- National Medal of Science

Ø  1968- Padma Vibhushan

Ø  1971- National Academy of Sciences- Henry Draper Medal

Ø  1974- Heineman Prize

Ø  1983- Nobel Prize in Physics

Ø  1984- Copley Medal from Royal Society

Ø  1988- International Academy of Science- Honorary Fellow

Ø  1989- Gordon J. Laing Award

Ø  Humboldt Prize


Ø  He was the nephew of C. V. Raman (a Nobel Prize winner).

Ø  He was born in a Tamil family in Lahore, Punjab. During his birth time, Punjab wasn’t divided into two and India remained one.

Ø  In 1929, he achieved a scholarship to University of Cambridge by writing an original research paper on ‘The Crompton Scattering and the New Statistics’. He had been studying at the Presidency College in Madras.

Ø  At the time when brilliant scientists like Neils Bohr, Heisenberg etc had studied in Gottingen’s Born’s Institute, he managed to get admission into the institute. It wasn’t an easy job getting there!

Ø  He used mathematics for finding answers. He is most remembered for his mathematical theory that explained various important physical processes, structures along with the evolution of stars. He basically worked on finding the ways for examining opacity and stellar objects.

Ø  He gave a theory on the future evolutionary stages in case of black holes and massive stars. His theory is titled as the Chandrasekhar Limit which is still presently used for measuring the structure and mass of any star. During that time, the world did not know about the existence of black holes nor did it believe in it. He devised a way and talked about the size of a black hole.

Ø  During the World War II, he also worked on functions of ballistics. Despite having an invitation, he could not join the Manhattan Project owing to late clearance in security from FBI. The Manhattan Project was responsible for building the atom bomb.

Ø  He did not just make new theories. He also worked on expanding the pre-existing theories in the field of mathematics. He used Calculus or explaining Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica given by Isaac Newton.

Ø  From 1952 to 1971, he served as the editor of the Astrophysics Journal.

Ø  He has also served as a fellow of the Royal Society in England.

Ø  In 1979, NASA dedicated the third one out of its four Great Observatories to Chandrasekhar.

Ø  In 1999, Space Shuttle Columbia launched and deployed the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The observatory also sponsors the Chandra Astrophysics Institute program which helps the students interested in astrophysics.

Ø  In his honour, asteroid 1958 Chandra is named.

Ø  The dimensionless number in magnetohydrodynamics is named Chandrasekhar number to pay him tribute.

Ø  His Nobel Prize money was dedicated by his wife, Lalitha Chandrasekhar, for establishing Chandrasekhar Memorial Fellowship.