Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

On this date in 1910, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born in Lahore, now in Pakistan but at the time a part of British India. He earned a B.S. with honors in physics from Presidency College in India in 1930 and a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University in England in 1933. After his graduation, Chandrasekhar was awarded a Prize Fellowship at Trinity College from 1933 to 1937. He worked as a research associate and professor at the University of Chicago from 1937 to 1995, and became an American citizen in 1953. He married Lalitha Doraiswamy in 1936.

Chandrasekhar was an astrophysicist who made influential discoveries about white dwarfs in 1930, when he was only 20. He is known for discovering the Chandrasekhar limit, or the upper limit to the mass of stars that are able to form white dwarf stars. Chandrasekhar found that stars with masses below the Chandrasekhar limit form white dwarfs after they collapse, but stars with masses above the limit continue collapsing. His studies of stellar evolution were influential in the discovery of black holes. Chandrasekhar won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with stellar structure and evolution. He published ten books, including Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure (1939), Principles of Stellar Dynamics (1942) and The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes (1983).

“I am not religious in any sense; in fact, I consider myself an atheist,” Chandrasehkar said during an interview with Kameshwar Wali (quoted in Chandra: A Biography of S. Chandrasekhar by Kameshwar Wali, 1992). Although he was an atheist, he stated: “My own attitude is rather colored probably by the Hindi upbringing.” D. 1995

“I consider myself an atheist.”

—Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, 1987 comment at the Colloquium on Nuclear Policy, Culture and History (quoted in S. Chandrasekhar: The Man Behind the Legend by Kameshwar Wali, 1997).

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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