Big-science, state-formation and development: the organisation of nuclear research in India, 1938-1959

Thumbnail Image
Phalkey, Jahnavi
Krige, John
Associated Organizations
Supplementary to
This thesis is a history of the beginnings of nuclear research and education in India, between 1938 and 1959, through the trajectories of particle accelerator building activities at three institutions: the Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the Palit Laboratory of Physics, University Science College, Calcutta, later (Saha) Institute of Nuclear Physics, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. The two main arguments in this thesis are: First, the beginnings of nuclear research in India were rooted in the "modernist imperative" of the research field. However, post-war organisation of nuclear research came to be inextricably imbricated in processes of state-formation in independent India in a manner such that failure to actively engage with the bureaucratic state implied death of a laboratory project or constraints upon legitimately possible research. Second, state-formation, like the pursuit of nuclear research in India for the period of my study, became about India's participation and claim upon the universal. State-formation was equally a modernist imperative. Powerful sections of the nationalist bourgeoisie in India understood "Science" and the "State" as universals in World History, and India, they were convinced, had to confirm its place in history as an equal among equals. These two arguments combined explain how nuclear research came to be established, transformed, and extended through the gradual assembly of material infrastructure to realistically enable the new country take a capable decision on the nuclear question.
Date Issued
Resource Type
Resource Subtype
Rights Statement
Rights URI