J. C. Bose By Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley is supposed to be one of the important writers of the 20th century. He started his literary career as a poet. But he is betterly known for his novels and essays. By temperament, he was against war and violence. That’s why he left England in 1937 and settled in America. As a novelist, he was less interested in the story or the art of narration. His major concern was to propogate his ideas. ‘Brave New World’ (1932), ‘Time Must Have a Stop’ (1945), ‘Island’ (1962) are Huxley’s significant novels. Along with novels, Huxley wrote a number of essays. The essay form provided Huxley a room to express his views, his anxieties and his concerns freely. That’s why, his essays are highly personal and free contemplations over life. ‘Along the Road’ (1925), ‘The Olive Tree’ (1936), ‘Ends and Means’ (1937) are his some of the important essay collections. Huxley travelled widely and gave account of the places he visited. ‘Testing Pilate’ (1920) is an outcome of his visits to different places. Huxley was all the time in search of an utopian society. His zeal is well reflected through his literary works. Huxley’s quest for the welfare society makes him the outstanding humanist of our time.

J. C. Bose By Aldous Huxley summary and questions

The present essay is taken from Huxley’s book of travels, ‘Testing Pilate’. The essay ‘J. C. Bose’ is a glowing tribute by Huxley to a well known physicist and botanist. The essay also reveals Huxley’s love for science. There are two reasons for Huxley’s inclination towards science : (i) His grandfather was an eminent Victorian scientist and (ii) He himself wanted to be a doctor, but partial blindness forced him to leave the field.

Huxley visited the Bose Institute in Calcutta, where he had an opportunity to meet J. C. Bose. Huxley was deeply enthralled By Bose’s views and experiments about plants.
To become an experimenter, one should not wait for well – equipped laboratories or sophisticated instruments. What all needed is an unending quest for knowledge. To illustrate this point Huxley gives the examples of Faraday and J.C. Bose. Faraday, who was in search of mysterious powers of electricity, experimented with meagre instruments such as tea vessel, jam – pots, wire, wax and silk. Bose’s experimentation was more simple than Faraday; based on futile things such as a little clock work, some needles and filaments. But Bose’s new instrument disclosed the mysteries in plants’ life. It proved that any plant is as lively as any living thing.

In the rest of the essay, Huxley explains Bose’s observations about liveliness of a plant. He watched the following experiments made by Bose:
i. growth of a plant being traced out automatically by a needle on a sheet of smoked glass,
ii. shuddering reaction of a plant to an electric shock,
iii. Feeding of a plant,
iv. transplantation of anaesthetized fire,
v. recording of ‘ heart’ beats of a plant,
vi. death of a plant.

Chief features of the essay

‘J. C. Bose’ is a very much compact essay, which is an important characteristic of essay as a form of literature. Huxley begins the essay with his comment on experimentation and directly comes to the simplicity of Bose’s experimentation and its prolific outcome. Nowhere he diverges in the essay from the bottom line. (Diversions and flexibility in narration is a characteristic feature of a novel form and not of essay form.) Then, it is a personal kind of essay. It is account of Huxley’s visit to the Bose Institute at Calcutta. Huxley used essay form to propogate his ideas. He opines that science or technology do not rely on advanced kind of instrumentation.

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According to him, “The experimenter’s is a curious and special talent”.
Though, Huxley was a man of intellect, in his essays, he nowhere becomes pedantic. Even dealing with a subject like plant science, Huxley does not fall prey to technical jargons. The essay talks about ‘ Cresco graph’, the most important invention of Bose, that magnifies the plant tissues. Huxley explains the functioning of this instrument in an elaborate way, he takes care not to mention this technical word Huxley’s style makes his essays readable.

There is one more reason for the popularity of Huxley’s essays and it is his sense of humour. Though the present essay discusses a serious subject of plant life, Huxley makes it appealing with his sense of humour. For instance, to observe the exhaling oxygen of plant, Bose had used a bell that rings at regular intervals. Huxley compares this bell to the bell of a typewriter. When a drop of stimulant was added to the water, the bell started to tinkle wildly. Huxley compares this to a ‘record – breaking typist’. Huxley was moved by observing a murder of plant. Here he comments that, the people who became vegetarian after visiting the slaughter – house, should not visit the Bose Institute, because after watching the terrible phenomenon of the death of plant, they are likely to reduce their menu still further.
Thus, subjectivity, brevity, sense of humour and simplicity of language are the prominent features of Huxley as an essayist.

Check Your progress

Choose the correct option:
1. With a simple instrument, Faraday was searching…….. .
a. the mysteries of plant life.
b. the mysteries of cell life.
c. the mysterious powers of electricity
d. the mysterious powers of mechanics.
2. Movement of a needle on a sheet of smoked glass proves……… .
e. the growth of a plant
f. the failure of an experiment
g. the presence of air,
h. the presence of magnetic field.
3. Bose’s little bell experiment proves that ……… .
a. plants love music
b. plants breathe oxygen.
c. plants behave like a typewriter.
d. plants are inanimate species.
4. Before transplanting a large tree in the garden, Bose………. .
a. administered chloroform to it.
b. cut its branches.
c. made no operation on the tree.
d. fed the tree with a large amount of oxygen.
5. After adding a mortal dose to a plant, the graph showed no more ups and downs. This indicates ………. .
a. the failure of an experiment
b. the death of a plant
c. the plants breathe oxygen.
d. the growth of a plant

Keys to check your progress.
1. c, 2. a, 3. b. 4. a 5. b

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