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Maarten Schmidt and Jayant V. Narlikar : An Astronomer's life.

Well, I guess, if I'm being pedantic, Dr. Jayant V. Narlikar is more of a cosmologist and Dr. Maarten Schmidt is the astronomer, I guess. Moving that aside, they are two heavy weights in their respective professions and we younguns have a lot to learn from them.

I came across this autobiography (of sorts) of Dr. Maarten Schmidt wrote for the Astronomy & Astrophysics Annual Reviews journal, It's a beautiful account of his professional life as an astronomers, where all he traveled for the job and a historical perspective on what many astronomical concepts we now consider to be set in stone.

While I read the earlier article a long time back, I am only now coming around to post it here because I read this other biography [1] of Dr. Jayant V. Narlikar and his work by one of his colleagues Dr. Naresh Dadhich. You probably know Dr. Narlikar as one of those scientists who came up with the steady state theory of the universe, you know that theory that competed with the Hot big bang model of the universe, till astronomers discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. The article gives a brilliant account of Dr. Narlikar's work with Dr. Fred Hoyle, one of the principle proponents of the theory. Going beyond that, the article talks about the other contributions Dr. Narlikar made to the field, contributions that the author feels were significant but weren't widely accepted or recognized. The article goes on to talk about how Dr. Narlikar was a profilic science communicator and how he took the astronomical community forward by setting up the IUCAA in Pune, India.

Looking at the bigger picture, I think it's important for us younguns to know not only know about the theories that an astronomer contributed but the life they led as well. Rarely is the life of an astronomer and his work discussed in the same context. In fact, it's true for most scientists I guess. It's important for us to understand that science is about coming up with alternative theories that can predict the present set of observations, not flocking with the rest of them and drumming one popular theory. It's about being vocal about a theory but not force it down a junior researcher's throat. Many a lessons to be learnt.

[1]. The article was published in Current Science, which you can find a copy of here.

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