S. Chandrasekhar: A Scientific Pioneer in Astrophysics

Saurav Singh

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (19 October 1910 – 21 August 1995) was an extraordinary scientist and mathematician known for his profound contributions to astrophysics. His life and work left an indelible mark on our understanding of stellar evolution and the fundamental laws of the universe.

Early Life

S. Chandrasekhar was born on October 19, 1910, in Lahore, British India (now in Pakistan). He displayed a remarkable aptitude for mathematics from a young age and was recognized as a prodigy in the field. His uncle, Sir C. V. Raman, a Nobel laureate in physics, greatly influenced his scientific interests.

Education and Early Career

Chandrasekhar pursued higher education at Presidency College in Chennai and later at the University of Cambridge, where he developed a groundbreaking theory in astrophysics. In 1930, at the age of 19, he arrived at an astonishing conclusion known as the “Chandrasekhar limit.” This limit describes the maximum mass of a stable white dwarf star, beyond which it would further collapse into a neutron star or a black hole. His theory challenged the established understanding of stellar evolution.

Career and Achievements

Chandrasekhar’s illustrious career included teaching positions at the University of Chicago, where he spent the majority of his professional life. Over the years, he made significant contributions to various areas of astrophysics, including the study of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. His work laid the foundation for modern astrophysics and greatly advanced our understanding of the life cycles of stars and galaxies.

One of his most renowned contributions is the theory of radiative transfer, which explains how energy is transferred from the interior of a star to its surface. This theory is still an integral part of astrophysical research. Chandrasekhar’s exceptional insights earned him numerous accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.


S. Chandrasekhar’s legacy in astrophysics is immeasurable. His groundbreaking discoveries and theoretical work continue to be fundamental to our understanding of the cosmos. The Chandrasekhar limit, in particular, remains a critical concept in stellar astrophysics. He also made profound contributions to our understanding of black holes, stellar dynamics, and radiative transfer.

Chandrasekhar’s influence extended to the academic realm as well, as he mentored and inspired many young scientists who would go on to make significant contributions to the field. His dedication to scientific inquiry and his profound influence on astrophysics solidify his status as a true scientific pioneer.

On 19 October 2017, a Google Doodle was created to celebrate S. Chandrasekhar’s 107th Birthday.