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Radhagovinda Chandra


Radhagovinda Chandra (1878-1975) the pioneer of Astronomy studies in the Sub-continent, was born in Bagchar village of Jessore district. Having no formal academic attainment in Astronomy this self taught scientist received high reputation in the imitational arena. After getting primary education in the local school, Radhagovinda was enrolled in the Zila School as a secondary level student. But he was not attentive to the school curriculum. Meanwhile, he got married to a 9-year old girl named Govinda Mohini at the age of 21 in 1899 before leaving the school. Then again he appeared before the Entrance examinations. But his third attempt also yielded a consecutive failure. As a result, he left the school and spent two years in home. Radhagovinda had no attraction to the conventional educational system. But he was very much studious from his childhood. He acquired in depth knowledge on Mathematics, English and Persian. The family library of his maternal uncle helped him a lot in this regard.

Radhagovinda's course of life took a significant turn during his student-life, at the age of 14 after reading a book on Astronomy, Brahmando Ki Prokando (How big is the Universe), edited by akshay kumar datta. This very book inspired him to observe the starlight sky and that eventually made him an enthusiastic student of Astronomy. Many questions on the universe and its origin intrigued his mind, but he did not get the answers from any of his teachers. However, a lawyer of Jessore Bar kalinath Mukherjee, who himself was an author of several books on Astronomy, taught him fundamentals of the discipline. Radhagovinda assisted Mr. Mukherjee in preparing the map of planets and through thus assignment he got an opportunity to enrich his knowledge on space observation. Later he came to the contact of another amateur astronomer and judge of Krishnanagar court Mr. J Harsel.

Radhagovinda began his career in 1900 as in tester in the Jessore collectorate office. He was used to observe the sky during night after finishing the daily routine job. He observed the Hally's comet appeared in the sky of Bengal in 1910 by an ordinary binocular. He wrote a series containing the findings of the two month long observation, related data and information of the comet, and it was published in a Bengali periodical. In June 1918, he observed and identified the Nova Star and recorded his name in the history as the first Asian astronomer. Radhagovinda sent his finding report to Dr. Edward Pickering, Director, Harvard College Observatory For evaluation. Dr. Pickering was so much impressed with the report that he inducted Radhagovinda in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) as a member. In 1926, he sent a consignment containing a 6-inch refraction telescope from Harvard to Jessore to facilitate the astronomical observation of Radhagovinda. The telescope has been kept in the Kavalu space observatory, south India.

Most of the contributions of Radhagovinda were related to variable stars. He used to send all his observation reports and findings to Harvard observatory of the Unided States, British Astronomical Association and Lyon observatory of France. The French government honoured him with the title of `Officer de Academic' and a medal in 1928.

AAVSO published a role of honour in June 1946. It included names of Leading 25 astronomers of the world including Radhagovinda Chandra, who observed over ten thousand variable star, comets etc. It may be mentioned that Radhagovinda observed 37215 Variable stars from 1919 to 1954 and dispatched data on those to AAVSO.

After the partition of India, Radhagovinda along with his family members migrated to Kolkata. He established an astronomical club there and wrote a number of books in Bengali on various subjects mainly Astronomy. During his lifetime only one book Dhumketu (comet) was published. Radhagovinda Chandra died on 3 April 1975 at the age of 97. [Sujon Kumar Dev]