Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

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Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar pronunciation ? / i (born October 19, 1910 in Lahore , British India ; † August 21, 1995 in Chicago ) was an American ( astro ) physicist of Indian origin and a Nobel Prize winner in physics. The Indian physicist C. V. Raman (Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman; 1888-1970) was his uncle. The name component Subrahmanyan is a patronymic , not a family name, so Chandrasekhar is used with reference to it. Audio file / audio sample

life and work

Chandrasekhar (called Chandra ) moved with his family to Madras in 1918, where he attended college. In 1930 Chandrasekhar left his home country and continued his studies in physics at Trinity College in Cambridge ( England ), which was possible thanks to a scholarship. In the 18 days at sea - from Madras to Southampton - Chandrasekhar made history of physics. At the age of 19 he calculated and found the limit mass for white dwarfs, the Chandrasekhar limit , according to which the mass of a white dwarf cannot be more than approximately 1.4  solar masses . The at that time important astrophysicist Arthur Eddington saw this contradicting his results and fought Chandrasekhar not only scientifically, but also on a personal level. This may also have been a reason why Chandrasekhar moved to the University of Chicago in 1937 , where he stayed until his death in 1995. Chandrasekhar received his PhD in 1933 and received (to his own surprise) another scholarship at Trinity College. This enabled him to continue and complete his work on the limit value he had discovered. In 1983 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics “for his theoretical studies of the physical processes that are important for the structure and evolution of stars ”.

He often presented his research results in monographs , for example on the structure of the stars in 1939 ("Introduction to the study of stellar structure"), dynamics of star systems in 1943, radiation transport in 1950, hydrodynamic stability in 1961, rotational figures of liquids in 1969 ("Ellipsoidal Figures of Equilibrium ”) or the mathematical theory of black holes 1983.

In 1995 he published an edition of Newton's Principia , which he provided with a detailed commentary - "Newton's Principia for the Common Reader".


  • Plasma physics , University of Chicago Press 1960
  • Ellipsoidal figures of equilibrium , Yale University Press 1967, Dover 1987
  • Hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability , Oxford, Clarendon Press 1961, Dover 1981
  • Principles of stellar dynamics , University of Chicago Press 1942, Dover 1960, 2005
  • Radiative Transfer , Oxford, Clarendon Press 1950, Dover 1960
  • Introduction to the study of stellar structure , University of Chicago Press 1939, Dover 1957
  • The mathematical theory of black holes , Oxford University Press, 1983, 1992
  • Eddington - the most distinguished astrophysicist of his time , Oxford University Press 1983
  • Newton's Principia for the common reader , Oxford University Press 1995
  • Truth and beauty: aesthetics and motivations in science , University of Chicago Press 1987
  • Kameshwar C. Wali (editor): A quest for perspectives: Selected Works of S. Chandrasekhar , 2 volumes, Imperial College Press / World Scientific 2001
  • Selected papers , 7 volumes, University of Chicago Press:
    • Volume 1: Stellar structure and stellar atmospheres , 1989
    • Volume 2: Radiative transfer and negative ion of hydrogen , 1989
    • Volume 3: Stochastic, statistical, and hydromagnetic problems in physics and astronomy , 1989
    • Volume 4: Plasma physics, hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability and applications of the tensor virial theorem , 1989
    • Volume 5: Relativistic astrophysics , 1990
    • Volume 6: The mathematical theory of black holes and colliding plane waves , 1991
    • Volume 7: The non radial oscillations of stars in general relativity and other writings , 1996
  • Stochastic problems in physics and astronomy , Reviews of Modern Physics, Volume 15, 1943, pp. 1-89


In 1945 he became an elected member of the American Philosophical Society . In 1946, Chandrasekhar was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . Since 1955 he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences . In 1973 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences .



  • KC Wali: Chandra. A biography of S. Chandrasekhar. University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL 1991, ISBN 0-226-87054-5 .
  • Arthur I. Miller : The Astronomers' War. How the black holes saw the light of day . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-421-05697-8 .

Web links

Commons : Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Nevertheless, Chandrasekhar wrote his biography in 1983
  2. In fact, this limit value was also derived from quantum mechanics by other physicists before and after Chandrasekhar, but apparently no one recognized its actual meaning.

Individual evidence

  1. Member History: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. American Philosophical Society, accessed June 17, 2018 .
  2. ^ Members of the American Academy. Listed by election year, 1900-1949 ( PDF ). Retrieved October 11, 2015
  3. Member entry by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (with a link to an obituary) at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on January 14, 2017.