WFY Today

Introducing: The Fearless Indian Astronomer Who Was Made Fun Of At Cambridge For His Revolutionary Research.

The Indian astronomer who was made fun of at Cambridge for his groundbreaking research on black holes.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910–1955), an Indian-born physicist who studied at the University of Cambridge in the UK in the early 1930s, put out the theory that not all stars end up as white dwarfs at the end of their lives.

Rather, the bright young scientist contended, stars of a given mass would form something denser than anything that had ever been seen before. In the brief documentary Shattering Stars, US scientific historian Daniel Kennefick says that Chandrasekhar was “knocking on the door of what we would now call a black hole.

Directed by Peter Galison, a historian of science at Harvard University, Shattering Stars explores how Chandrasekhar’s groundbreaking theories would draw both the attention and ridicule of Arthur Eddington, who was then perhaps the world’s preeminent astronomer.

In doing so, Eddington likely set back progress in his field and certainly altered the trajectory of Chandrasekhar’s life and career. Chandrasekhar would ultimately win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his work on stellar evolution, albeit some 50 years after he’d presented his ideas to the Royal Astronomical Society.

Told through animation and audio recordings, including of Chandrasekhar himself, Galison’s short highlights the life and work of one of the 20th century’s most brilliant scientific minds while exploring how scientific pursuits are inevitably subject to human shortcomings.

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