This chapter is a social history of how Raman established himself as a key figure in Indian science in the early twentieth century. It examines how Raman sought meaningful connections between a modern scientific worldview, and the indigenous knowledge of India by combining his attachment to European science with local intellectual traditions, in order to develop a particular brand of Indian modernity. Specifically, this chapter explores the events that led to the discovery of the Raman Effect by Raman and Kariamanikam Srinivasa Krishnan at the IACS in Calcutta, in February 1928. The chapter argues that though the Raman Effect has generally been seen as providing strong evidence for the quantum nature of light, Raman himself was initially a staunch supporter of the classical wave theory. His radical support for the wave theory of light originated from his early career interests in acoustics and Indian musical instruments.

This study will also put Raman’s work in the context of the alternate dispersion theories, especially those of Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, Paul Drude, Peter Debye, Arnold Sommerfeld, Charles Galton Darwin, Karl Herzfeld, and Adolf Smekal, as well as scattering experiments by Rudolf Ladenburg and Fritz Reiche, culminating in the dispersion theory of Hendrik A. Kramers. Raman scattering played an important role in the experimental verification of Kramers’ quantum dispersion theory, which formed a conceptual “bridge” between Niels Bohr and Arnold Sommerfeld’s “old quantum theory” and Werner Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics.