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Chandrasekhar showed that the collapse of a star like the Sun would end in a highly compact and dense state known as a "white dwarf. The critical mass that makes a star too massive to become a "white dwarf," 1. Robert Oppenheimer on what happens to more massive stars led to the concept of black holes with a mass and gravity so strong that no light or anything else could escape.

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Chandrasekhar, known to students, colleagues and friends as Chandra, was born on Oct. The family had a strong scientific tradition. His uncle, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, had discovered a form of light scattering known as the Raman effect, for which he won a Nobel Prize in As a teen-ager Dr. Chandrasekhar proved a brilliant mathematician, but Sir Arthur Eddington's writing on astrophysics, in addition to a number of unusual observations, turned his attention to astrophysics.

One was the discovery in orbit around Sirius, brightest star in the sky, of a tiny white companion. Its orbital behavior indicated that it was extremely dense.

Its message, said Eddington, was, "I am composed of material 3, times denser than anything you have come across; a ton of my material would be a little nugget you could put into a matchbox. New telescopes showed that such "white dwarfs" were common. By then it had been recognized that atoms were highly compressible but that the gigantic gaseous body of a star was normally supported by radiation from its core.

Subramanyan Chandrasekhar

In , Ralph H. Fowler at Cambridge University recognized that once a star's nuclear fuel was exhausted, it would collapse like a punctured balloon, producing a star of great density, a white dwarf. After showing great promise at Presidency College in Madras, Dr. Chandrasekhar was awarded a Government of India scholarship in to study in England.


He set forth by ship, hoping to study under Dr. During the long voyage he studied the implications of relativity theory and the new Fermi-Dirac quantum statistical mechanics for stellar collapse. He calculated what compression-resistant forces within the atom would stop the collapse of a star and form a white dwarf. After several revisions he found that the ability of electrons to resist such compression would be overcome in any star more than 1.

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Toggle navigation. S Chandrasekhar: Why Google honours him today It took over 30 years for the world to recognise Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar's discoveries.

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This is his story: Intellectual family Born in Lahore in to a Tamil family, Chandra was home tutored until age He completed his PhD studies in Married to Lalitha Doraiswamy in the southern Indian city of Madras, Chandrasekhar praised his wife's "patient understanding, support, and encouragement" and called those the "central facts of my life". Black holes, central to Chandrasekhar's theory, were identified in His calculations contributed to the understanding of supernovas, neutron stars and black holes.

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Have your say. More than 30 years later, in , scientific research with computers and the hydrogen bomb gave credit to Chandrasekhar's calculations. During World War II, he was invited to join the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos to make a nuclear bomb, but delays in the processing of his security clearance prevented him from joining.

Book review: 'Chandra: A biography of S. Chandrasekhar', 'Years of Pilgrimage: An Autobiography'

He died in Chicago at the age of In his book, Truth and Beauty, he offered his advice to aspiring scientists, "What a scientist tries to do essentially is to select a certain domain In his autobiographical sketch for the Nobel Prize ceremony, he described what motivated his scientific quest, "When, after some years of study, I feel that I have accumulated a sufficient body of knowledge and achieved a view of my own, I have the urge to present my point of view, ab initio, in a coherent account with order, form, and structure.

I have enormous freedom. I can do what I want.


Nobody bothers me". At the age of 56, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his numerous contributions to stellar astronomy, physics and applied mathematics. At the age of 61, he was honoured with the Draper Medal from the US National Academy of Science for his leadership in, and major contributions to, the field of astrophysics.

In , at 73 years of age, Chandrasekhar shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with William Fowler for his "theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars".