Astrophysicist, educationist



Former Bangladeshi-Indian Astrophysicist

(6 October 1893 – 16 February 1956)


Meghnad Saha was a Bangladeshi-born Indian astrophysicist, educationist, researcher, and a Member of the Indian Parliament. He was born on 6 October 1893, Meghnad Saha was born in Shaoratoli, Dhaka of the then Bengal Presidency, British India. This is currently the Kaliakair Upazila of Gazipur District in Bangladesh. He became famous worldwide because of formulating the ionization equation, also known as the ‘Saha ionization equation’ (after his name) which allowed astronomers to accurately measure the spectral classes of stars to their actual temperatures.

His childhood and primary education were spent in his village. He belonged to a poor family. His father was a shopkeeper owning a family grocery shop. Saha’s father did not afford money for his children’s education but this did not stop Saha from going far. He joined Dhaka Collegiate School but was expelled from it due to his involvement in the Swadeshi movement. Then he was admitted to Kishorilal Jubilee School, Dhaka. From there he passed the ISC examination and got enrolled in Presidency College, Kolkata. Since then he had shifted permanently to India in 1911. 

There, he graduated with a BSc. degree in Mathematics in 1913 and an MSc. degree in Applied Mathematics in 1915. 

He was awarded 2 scholarships for his thesis and because of those, he could go to Europe and do research for 2 years.  He had worked closely with Einstein too. He published many articles and wrote different books at different times. His works had been published and awarded with few other honors.

After coming back to India, he started his career as a lecturer at the University of Calcutta. He later taught at Allahabad University for 15 years. During his tenure in the 2 universities, he became Professor and Head of the Department of Physics. He had created many research centers and improved or revised the curriculum of the universities. He introduced the ‘cyclotron’ at Allahabad University and made a machine to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays.

He had contributed to the country in many other ways. He founded and served in many scientific journal centers, and research centers throughout his career. Additionally, he was involved in the development of important national and international level issues like developing the Damodar Valley project, inauguration of University Grant Commission India, etc. 

He was involved with politics and eventually became a member of the parliament. He won the 1951 Lokshaba election. He had worked for the welfare of the common people. The countryman had seen many developments on his part. 

In marital life, he was married to Radha Rani Saha and they had three sons and three daughters. He was a very simple and humble person; always thinking about others and the country.

On 16 February 1956, at the age of 62, Saha passed away after a cardiac arrest. He was cremated in Kolkata. 

In honor of him, the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, in Kolkata, was named after him, after his death. He was also awarded a lifetime member title and fellowship from Europe. 


Life of “Meghnad Saha” at a glance

  • Real Name: Meghnad Saha

    Birth Date: 6 October 1893

    Birth Place: Shaoratoli, Dhaka, Bengal Presidency, British India (modern day Kaliakair Upazila, Gazipur District, Bangladesh)

    Father’s Name: Jagannath Saha

    Mother’s Name: Smt. Bhubneshwari Devi



    Lecturer, Department of Physics and Applied Mathematics,  University College of Science, Kolkata, in 1916 

    Professor, University College of Science, Kolkata, 1917

    Head, Department of Physics, University of Allahabad in 1923

    Dean, Faculty of Science, and Head, Department of Physics, Kolkata University, from July 1938 until 1956

    President, Physics section, Indian Science Congress Association in 1925. 

    Chairman, Calendar Reform Committee, Government of India 

    Founder and Editor, Science and Culture 

    Organizer, National Academy of Science, in 1930 

    Organizer, the Indian Physical Society, in 1934

    Organizer, the Indian Institute of Science, in 1935 

    Director, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, from 1953 to 1956

    Member, Union of Socialists and Progressives, in 1951 

    Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, from 3 April 1952 to 16 February 1956

    Chief Architect, river planning

    Member, National Planning Committee, in 1938

    Honorary Secretary, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, in 1944 

    President, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, from 1946 to 1950


    Primary education at village school

    Dhaka Collegiate School, in 1905

    Kishorilal Jubilee School, Dhaka

    ISc examination, Dhaka College in 1911

    BSc. in Mathematics, Presidency College, Kolkata, in 1913 

    MSc. in Applied Mathematics, Presidency College, Kolkata, in 1915.

    Married to: Radha Rani Saha

    Children: Three sons and Three daughters

    Religion: Atheist 

    Nationality: Indian

    Death Date: 16 February 1956 

    Death Place: New Delhi, India

    Cause of Death: Cardiac arrest, Hypertension

    Buried in: Keoratala crematorium, Kolkata


    Saha ionization equation, in 1920

    Invention of an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays

    Construction of  Department of Physics, Allahabad University

    Construction of  Institute of Atomic Physics, in Kolkata, in 1950

    Founded Indian Physical Society, in 1933 

    Founded Indian Science News Association, in 1935

    Initiated in the establishment of the National Institute of Sciences (Indian National Science Academy), Kolkata, in 1935

    Planned for the Damodar Valley Project

    Relief and Rehabilitation of refugees following partition in 1947

    Organized the Bengal Relief Committee

    Establishment of Departments of Radio Physics and Electronics and Applied Physics, Kolkata University

    Creation of the University Grants Commission in India

    Awards and Achievements: 

    Griffith Prize of the Kolkata University, in 1920 

    Doctor of Science, Kolkata University, in 1919

    Royal Asiatic Society of London’s Fellowship, in 1927

    Premchand Roychand Scholarship, in 1919

    Guruprasanna Ghosh Scholarship, in 1920 

    Life member, Astronomical Society of France 

    Foundation Fellow, Institute of Physics, in London

    “Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics” (Institute of Nuclear Physics’)

    Books written: 

    The Principles of Relativity

    Treatise Heat 

    Junior Text-Book on Heat

    Treatise on Modern Physics, Vol-1

    My Experience in Soviet Russia


Early Life

On 6 October 1893, Saha was born in a village at Shaoratoli, Dhaka, Bengal Presidency, British India, undivided Bangla, currently in Bangladesh. He belonged to a poor family. His father had a small shop; he was a grocer. Saha’s father’s name was Jagannath Saha and mother’s name was Smt. Bhubneshwari Devi. Saha was the fifth child of his parents. He passed his childhood and primary education in this village. In 1942, Saha had left this place and moved to present day India, permanently. 

When Dr. Sabyasachi Chatterjee, a renowned Indian scientist and the President of All India People’s Science Network, Chennai, visited Bangladesh in 2000, he went to see Saha’s birthplace. In an article, he shared this experience. He saw that in the room where Saha was born, there was a portrait of Saha, which after so many years is still adorned by Saha’s relatives. 


Due to Saha’s father’s financial status, he was not interested in educating his children much. However, from an early age, Saha had a very keen interest in studies. At the age of 7, he joined school life. After the completion of his primary education, his parents wanted him to drop studies and help in the family’s shop; to take over the family business. Moreover, there was no middle school nearby his house. The nearest one was 10 km away and his family would not be able to bear the expenses. But Saha was lucky to have found Ananta Kumar Das, a local doctor, who agreed to sponsor Saha’s education by boarding and lodging in his house, in exchange for some simple chores like taking care of cows, doing dishes etc. Saha’s elder brother Jainath told Saha about Dr. Ananta. That is how Saha had his early education at his village school.  He was a successful student at that time. 

In 1905, the British government decided to part the undivided Bengal. At that time, Saha got enrolled at Dhaka Collegiate School, which was a government school. His excellent results at the school awarded him with a scholarship of Rs 4 per month. His elder brother used to send him a monthly allowance of Rs.5, which was a lot at that time, considering his brother’s salary was Rs 20 per month. Moreover, The Purba Banga Baisya Samiti gave another Rs.2 per month. That is how Saha used to have Rs.11 per month to manage his food, lodging and other expenses while staying at Dhaka. However, he could not finish studies from here. One day, when the then governor of East Bengal came to visit the school, Saha boycotted his visit. This is why, Saha got expelled from the school, even his scholarship was terminated due to his involvement in Banga Bhanga Andolan (বঙ্গভঙ্গ আন্দোলন), a Swadeshi movement. 

He then joined with a free studentship and a stipend at Kishorilal Jubilee School, a private school in Dhaka. In 1909, he achieved the distinction of passing the entrance exam for University of Calcutta with the highest scores in Bangla, Sanskrit, English, and mathematics. In that exam, Saha came third among all the Bengali students as well as first among the students from East Bengal. In 1911, he passed from Dhaka College with an ISc (Indian School Certificate) examination; he ranked third in the examination. Soon after that, he moved to Kolkata to enroll in Presidency College, as a student. 

He completed his BSc. degree in Mathematics, from Presidency College. He was lucky to have gotten some renowned scientists, educationists like Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sir Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Prof DN Mallik and Prof CE Cullis as his teachers. He therefore achieved the second position in the first class. In 1915, Saha completed an MSc. degree in Applied Mathematics and ranked the first position. 

He got his Doctorate degree in 1919 from King’s College, the UK, by submitting his thesis for the degree. He sent that thesis 3 years ago, in 1916, while he was at Kolkata. The title of the thesis was Selective Radiation Pressure and its Application to the Problems of Astrophysics. This thesis work was published in the American Astrophysical Journal, in 1920. 

The thesis awarded him Premchand Roychand Scholarship, by University of Calcutta. Furthermore, he earned Guruprasanna Ghosh Scholarship. However, because of his involvement in politics, his name had to be cleared by the intelligence department before the Royal Society’s membership was given to him. These 2 scholarships got him the opportunity to go to Europe in 1920 and work there for 2 years. There, he conducted research for sometime at the Imperial College, London and in Walther Nernst’s Laboratory, a research laboratory in Germany. In Berlin, Germany, he became close to the great physicist Albert Einstein. He worked towards the publication of the most famous of his scientific works on ‘Thermal Ionisation of Gases’. In 1927, his works earned him the Royal Asiatic Society of London’s Fellowship; it is a fellow of London’s Royal Society. His name was even sent for the Nobel Prize, but he did not win it.


In 1916, Saha started off his career as a lecturer in the Department of Applied Mathematics in the newly opened university, University College of Science, Calcutta. But he transferred himself to the Department of Physics. He taught Quantum physics to the post-graduate classes and gave lectures on topics like hydrostatics, spectroscopy and thermodynamics. 

In 1923, after coming back from abroad 2 years back, he joined the University of Allahabad as the Head of the Department of Physics and remained there for the next 15 years. He did not stay in Kolkata because there were no financial grants for carrying out research there. 

In 1925, he served as the President of the Physics section of Indian Science Congress Association. 

In 1938, he returned to the University of Calcutta as a Professor of physics as well as Dean of Faculty of Science, and Head of the Department of Physics. 

In 1944, Saha was elected as the Honorary Secretary of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. He was later selected as its President during 1953 to 1956. 

He served as the chief architect of river planning in India. 

He founded the journal Science and Culture and was the editor of it until his death.  

In 1952, he worked as the full-time Director of the Laboratories of the Association. He held this post till his death.

Finally, apart from being a teacher, scientist, and author, he joined politics and became a Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, from 3 April 1952 till 16 February 1956.


His biggest contribution towards the field of physics is the formulation of the Saha ionization equation, in 1920. He had turned astronomy into astrophysics. His study of the thermal ionization of elements helped him to come up with this equation. He got world famous because of this. This equation is a result of combining concepts of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics and it helps to interpret the spectra of stars, that is, it determines the internal chemical and physical conditions in stars. 

There was a funny incident about this discovery, narrated in Bengali, by Saha himself, in a Bangla article, whose name translates to ‘All are in the Vedas’. When Saha came to visit his village school, one of his teachers asked about his discovery. After his explanation, the teacher said “What is new in this? It is all there in the Vedas.” No matter how many more times and different ways Saha tried to explain about it, the teacher gave the same comment. 

Despite what that teacher felt, the scientific community agrees that Saha’s work was a breakthrough for the scientific world.

 Besides this equation, he had also invented an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays. 

As a member of parliament, Saha had made some thoughtful contributions on a variety of issues that were significant on the national and international levels. 

He created the University Grants Commission in India.

He paid attention to the problem of floods in Bengal. In 1922, there was a major flood that devastated North Bengal. That time Saha joined the flood relief team of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray. Moreover, in many articles, about the flood issue, Saha wrote on an integrated approach to river valley projects. He joined as the chief architect of river planning in India and prepared the original plan for the Damodar Valley Project. Establishment of this project helped not only India, but also our Bangladesh. Before the partition of Bengal, about 80% of the Bangladeshi land was flood prone and about 18% of the land used to get devastated by floods every year. Because of this project, controlling floods became easy.  

He helped in the relief and rehabilitation of millions of refugees following the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. He organized the Bengal Relief Committee at that time to conduct this work on a systematic basis.

Saha also participated in the areas of education, refugees, rehabilitation, atomic energy, multipurpose river projects, flood control, and long term planning.

At the Allahabad University, he made the Physics Department and also improved the workshop, the laboratory and the library of the university. 

At the Calcutta University, he played a significant role in the establishment of Departments of Radio Physics and Electronics and Applied Physics 

In 1938, when he was a Professor of Physics at the University of Calcutta, he brought some changes and introduced some new topics in the academic/curriculum course syllabuses.  He introduced ‘nuclear physics’ in the MSc physics syllabus by adding a course about ‘nuclear science’. There he also built a ‘cyclotron’, for the very first time in India.  He saw this device was used for research purposes when he was staying abroad. It started its operation in 1950.

At Allahabad, in 1930, Saha established the United Province Academy of Sciences in 1930. 

In 1933, at Kolkata, Saha inaugurated the Indian Physical Society. The Society had published the Indian Journal Physics. Additionally, Saha’s initiative contributed to the establishment of the National Institute of Sciences of India in Kolkata. Besides that, he was the founder and editor of the journal Science and Culture. 

In 1935, he founded the Indian Science News Association at Kolkata. Its fundamental goal was to spread science widely amongst the public.

In 1950, he launched the Institute of Nuclear Physics. 

In 1952, Saha became the Chairman of the Calendar Reform Committee. He was appointed by the Government of India. His work relating to the reform of the Indian calendar was very significant.

Saha always used to write extensively on his vision of scientific economic planning for India. 

As the President of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, he had built its modern laboratories.

Personal Life

Saha had fearlessly followed his convictions, even after knowing the risks or consequences. He wanted the British rule to end very soon.  Because of his caste, while he was a student himself, he had to face discrimination from other students at different places. He still remained determined in every aspect of life to continue going further.    

As described by Daulat Singh Kothari, another Indian scientist, Saha was “extremely simple, in his habits and personal needs. When Saha’s outer shell was broken, a person of extreme warmth, deep humanity, sympathy and understanding. He was extremely solicitous in the case of others. It was not in his nature to placate others.

He was loved by mass people because of his commitments and that is why he was directly elected by the people in the Indian Parliament. He was a candidate for North-West Calcutta in the 1951 Lok Sabha election. Though he ran as a member of the Union of Socialists and Progressives, he still stood independently.  His aim was to improve the planning of education, industrialisation, healthcare, and river valley development. This had given him the win by a wide margin (16%). He could not even do much campaigning for himself due to his low funding. He   then wrote to the publisher of his textbook, Treatise on Heat, for an advance of ₹5000. Seeing his dedication, commoners voted for him. 

He also kept his promise after winning the election. During the period from 1952-56, no other parliamentarian had served the cause of the people with such passion and distinction like Saha. He claimed that “I have gradually glided into politics because I wanted to be of some use to the country in my own humble way”.

Saha had liked the subject ‘history’ since his school days. He had a deep knowledge of history. Saha’s favorite subject was mathematics in school and perhaps that is why he graduated with degrees in Mathematics in his future life. 

He was a champion against religious biases; he was an atheist. This was found in many of his articles, for example, “On the age of Mahabharata”. Also, it is said that Saha participated in the free Bible classes offered by the Dhaka Baptist Mission while he was still in school. He won a Rs. 100 cash prize for achieving first place in one of the Mission’s competitive Bible exams. Perhaps, that is why he became liberal about following any one particular religion. 

He was always concerned about contemporary global events and their impact on people’s lives. He understood that the global economic depression would cause a cascading effect on India. 

When Saha taught the post-graduate students at University of Calcutta, he had to learn the topics himself first, as he studied physics only in the undergraduate classes. It was a great challenge indeed. This shows how dedicated and hardworking he was. 

In marital life, in 1918, Saha got married to Radharani Saha. The couple together had three sons and three daughters. One of his sons also became a professor like him at the Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata.

As an author, he had written a few books like: The Principles of Relativity (this was a translation of Einstein’s papers on the theory of relativity), Treatise Heat, Junior Text-Book on Heat, Treatise on Modern Physics, Vol-1, My Experience in Soviet Russia. He had also written several articles and research papers in his entire life.

Awards and Achievements

Apart from getting scholarships and fellowships like the Griffith Prize of the Kolkata University in 1920, the Doctor of Science, Kolkata University in 1919, the Royal Asiatic Society of London’s Fellowship in 1927, Premchand Roychand Scholarship in 1919 and Guruprasanna Ghosh Scholarship in 1920, Saha had achieved few other awards and honors.  

The Institute of Nuclear Physics was renamed as “Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics” in honor of him.

He became a lifetime member of the Astronomical Society of France. Additionally, he was awarded the title ‘Foundation Fellow’ from the Institute of Physics, in London.


On 16 February 1956, on his way to the office of the Planning Commission, in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi, Saha suddenly met with a cardiac arrest (heart attack) and passed away. He was 62 years old. It is said that he was suffering from hypertension for ten months prior to his death.

On the following day, his remains were cremated at the Keoratala crematorium, Kolkata.  


Saha was indeed a fearless person following his convictions. He wanted to portray a good image of India to the world. His dedication and loyalty towards the country shows what a true patriot is. His hard work and passion for education is an inspiration for all the younger generations. Being an MP, he was humble and worked truly for the commoners. This is a good message left behind for the state leaders to follow. His groundbreaking invention in the field of astronomy will be acknowledged forever. Also, his contributions for both India and Bangladesh will be remembered forever. 

The Institute of Nuclear Physics was renamed as “Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics” in honor of him.

He became a lifetime member of the Astronomical Society of France. Additionally, he was awarded the title ‘Foundation Fellow’ from the Institute of Physics, in London.

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