Archive

Start Over

Homi Jehangir Bhabha

  • Given name:
    Homi
  • Middle name:
    Jehangir
  • Last name:
    Bhabha
  • Alternative names:

    Homi Bhabha

  • Date of Birth:
    30-10-1909
  • Place of Birth:
    Mumbai (IN)
  • Date of Death:
    24-01-1966
  • Place of Death:
    Montblanc (FR)
  • Profession:
    ArtistCollectorScientist
  • Introduction:

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a world class scientist, institution builder, an artist and art connoisseur. His vision for growth of science and art has had significant impact in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

  • Signature Image:
    Homi Bhabha in front of one of his paintings, Photo: Lettice Ramsey, n.d. (Courtesy of Stephen Burch, All Right Reserved).
  • Content:

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a world class scientist, institution builder, an artist and art connoisseur. His vision for growth of science and art has had significant impact in post-colonial India.
    As a scientist, Bhabha did pioneering work in the field of elementary particle physics. As an institution builder, he created two extraordinary institutions: one for fundamental science and the other for atomic energy. While shouldering the country’s nuclear programme, he campaigned internationally for the peaceful uses of atomic energy. And, as an artist and art connoisseur, he patronised modern Indian art and went on to build a critically acclaimed, museum quality collection for his scientific institute.
    Bhabha was born in Bombay to an aristocratic and influential Parsi family. After passing his school leaving examination from the Cathedral and John Connon School, he joined Elphinstone College and later the Royal Institute of Science. By this time, Bhabha was clearly interested in science and in the fundamental laws of nature. However, to fulfil his father’s wishes, he joined the Gonville and Cauis College in Cambridge and enrolled in the Mechanical Tripos. An interest in engineering was never kindled and several arguments later, his father agreed to let him pursue the Mathematics Tripos.
    Bhabha completed his PhD in 1934 under the supervision of R.H. Fowler. While in Cambridge, he worked with innovative physicists like P.A.M. Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli, Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr. He wrote a seminal paper, introducing the so-called “Bhabha Scattering” process which is routinely used today to calibrate the beams at large accelerators using positron and other anti-particle beams. His other important contribution was in the field of cosmic ray physics.
    While in Cambridge, Bhabha painted and sketched with enthusiasm and for a while even considered giving up science for the arts. He also attended several Western classical music concerts with his college friend Arnold Cooke, the British composer. It was in Cambridge that Bhabha first met the Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand. After Bhabha’s untimely death, Anand wrote a heartfelt tribute mentioning their close friendship as well as Bhabha’s association with Marg publications. He wrote: “In my humble opinion, the reason why you found the pursuit of truth, and the realization of beauty, so much part of your everyday life, was because you were convinced of the kind of humanism which some of our teachers and older colleagues imparted to us […] there is a common acceptance of the doctrine of worship of man in the thinking of Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Rutherford, Joliot Curie, Linus Pauling, J.D. Bernal, Jawaharlal Nehru and their contemporaries. These men accepted the finest things of the past, rejected what they could not absorb, broke down the national frontiers, class divisions and the orthodoxies, to usher us all into an emergent one world culture in which the unity thought and action has become the method for total achievement.” (Anand 1966, i)
    In 1939 and at the peak of his scientific career, Bhabha came to India on a brief holiday. Soon after that, the Second World War broke out. Bhabha’s return to Cambridge seemed impossible. He joined the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore where he set up his own cosmic ray unit and started work with a small group of students. Here, in June 1945, with initial funding from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Bhabha set up the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).
    In the same year, TIFR moved to Bombay and into Kenilworth, a bungalow owned by Bhabha’s aunt Cooverbai Panday. Bhabha wrote his last published paper in 1954, but he had already made sure that the TIFR was producing excellent research output. Within a few years, the institute had shifted to 35 000 sq. ft. of hired space at the Old Yacht Club near the Gateway of India. It was only in January 1962 that it moved into the new buildings in Colaba.
    At the same time as he was living his dream of building a school of world-class research in India, Bhabha was also setting up the atomic energy programme of the country. Soon after the Atomic Energy Act was passed in 1948, the Atomic Energy Commission began functioning with Bhabha as chairman. He became director of the Atomic Energy Establishment, later renamed Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. While the atomic energy programme in India had taken off successfully, the world was getting increasingly concerned about a repeat of the horrors of Hiroshima. People like Einstein were convinced that nuclear weapons were capable of ending a civilisation. The first Geneva Conference for the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was held in 1955 with Bhabha as president.
    In 1962, he focused on the Electronics Committee Report, working towards a nation with larger technological capabilities that would ensure national security. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Indian Cabinet and became its Chairman in 1964. He also played a key role in setting up of the Indian National Committee for Space Research thereby introducing the Indian space programme.
    Bhabha's role as an art collector and patron should also be highlighted. He was a key member to Bombay’s art world, where he became closely acquainted with many European exiles. The art critic Rudi von Leyden became one of Bhabha’s principal advisors as he built the collection of Indian contemporary art that adorns the walls of the TIFR buildings in Colaba to this day. Von Leyden wrote: “The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research at Colaba is the supreme monument to Bhabha’s vision, to his concept of integration and to his taste. And it was for this institution that he collected over the years one of the finest and the most representative collections of contemporary Indian art. Dr Bhabha felt very strongly that the cerebral activity of the scientist had to find its counterpoint in the activity of the senses, in art.” (Leyden 1968, 18)
    On January 24, 1966, an Air India aircraft, in which Bhabha was on his way to Vienna, crashed into the Mont Blanc. There were no survivors. Homi Bhabha was 56.

    Word Count: 997

  • Media:
    Homi Bhabha, working on his painting inspired by the Countess’ Aria Dovo Sono i belli moment' from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro, Photo: Lettice Ramsey, n.d. (Courtesy of Stephen Burch, All Right Reserved).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anand, Mulk Raj. “In Memoriam.” Marg, vol. 19, no. 2, March 1966, p. i−iii.

    Chowdhury, Indira, and Ananya Dasgupta. A Masterful Spirit: Homi J. Bhabha 1909–1966. Penguin Books, 2010.

    Dasgupta, Ananya. “Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the Renaissance Man.” Asia Pacific Mathematics Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 4, October 2011, https://asiapacific-mathnews.com/01/0104/0012_0015.html. Accessed 27 April 2021.

    Leyden, R. V. “Dr Homi Bhabha and the World of Art.” Homi Bhabha as Artist; a selection of his paintings, drawings, and sketches, edited by Jamshed Bhabha, Marg Publications, 1968, p. 18.

    Word Count: 76

  • Archives and Sources:

    TIFR Archives, Mumbai.

    Word Count: 3

  • Author:
    Ananya Dasgupta
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    12 Little Gibbs Road, Malabar Hills, Bombay (now Mumbai) (residence).

  • Metropolis:
    Bombay
  • Ananya Dasgupta. "Homi Jehangir Bhabha." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2951/object/5138-12032655, last modified: 15-09-2021.
  • Minnette De Silva
    ArchitectJournalist

    Probably the first Sri Lankan woman architect and a founding member of Marg, Minnette De Silva mediated between tradition and modernity while defying the boundaries of gender, caste and disciplines.

    Word Count: 30

    Portrait of Minnette De Silva, around 1945 (© De Silva 1998, 112).
    44.2 Cover of Volume I of Minnette De Silva’s autobiography, 1998 (© De Silva 1998, x).Minnette De Silva within a self-designed interior in Ceylon woods, St. George’s, around 1952 (© De Silva 1998, 114).Pablo Picasso (left), Minnette De Silva, Jo Davidson and Mulk Raj Anand at the World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace, 1948 (PAP, Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons).Piries House, Alfred House Gardens, Colomba, 1952−1956 (© De Silva 1998, 182).
    Bombay
    Marg. A Magazine of Architecture and Art
    Magazine

    Local and exiled creatives formed the Modern Architectural Research Group to publish a progressive journal of art and architecture in Bombay from 1946 onwards.

    Word Count: 23

    Cover of the first issue, detail (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).
    Cover of the first issue (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Advert MARG means Pathway (Marg, vol. 1, no. 2, 1947, p. 110; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Editors’ page of the first Marg issue (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, p. 1; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Excerpt from “Architecture and You” (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, p. 10; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).A collage of exiles’ contributions to Marg (All images reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Editorial “Planning and Dreaming.” (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, p. 4f).
    Bombay
    Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer
    Salon

    The painter Walter Langhammer and his wife Käthe built an informal infrastructure to promote local avant-garde artists and regularly invited them to Open Studio Evenings at their studio.

    Word Count: 29

    Open evening at the Langhammer’s, from left: Walter Langhammer, unknown woman, Kekoo Gandhy, Wayne Hartwell (American cultural affairs diplomat) n.d. (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
    Dinner party at the Langhammer’s studio amidst his paintings (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Käthe and Walter Langhammer (far left) attending an Indian dinner, late 1930s/early 1940s (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Opening of the annual Langhammer exhibition by Sir Cowasjee Jehangir in the Convocation Hall, 27 November 1949 (from left: Mr. C.V. Oak, Rani Maharaj Singh, Walter Langhammer, Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, Käthe Langhammer) (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Photography Morning in the Great Mosque in Ajmer (translation by the author) by Käthe Langhammer, Rajasthan, 1940s (© Archive Margit Franz: Langhammer Photo Archive; All Rights Reserved).Käthe Langhammer in South India. They toured all of India for The Times of India Annual. Photo by Walter Langhammer (© Archive Margit Franz: Langhammer Photo Archive; All Rights Reserved).Invitation card for the Langhammers’ farewell party, April 1957 (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Entrance to Langhammer’s residence at 20 Nepean Sea Road (Photo: Margit Franz, 2007; All Rights Reserved).
    Bombay
    Chemould
    GalleryFrame Shop

    Chemould’s history stretches from its beginnings as a manufacturer of chemical mouldings and frames in 1941 over to a hub for art circulation displaying a variety of artists in Bombay.

    Word Count: 30

    Chemould Frames shop advertising with a painting by Jamini Roy, 1946, detail (Marg, vol. 1, no. 2, January 1947, p. 104; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).
    Chemould Frames shop advertising with a painting by Jamini Roy, 1946. (Marg, vol. 1, no. 2, January 1947, p. 104; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Murals of Italian POW in the St. Francis Church in Dehradun, 2005 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).Photo of the portrait of the Italian POW painters engaged in Murart, Kekee Manzil, 2003 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).Letter from Khorshed Gandhy to Carol Ross, 20 February 2009 (© Private Archive Joe Schimmel, Cape Town; All Rights Reserved).Chemould’s successful couple: level-headed Khorshed (woman standing), networking, enthusiastic Kekoo Gandhy (man sitting, chatting), at Leydens’ exhibition, 1948 (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).A Chemould level on the back of a Chemould art frame (© Private Archive Joe Schimmel, Cape Town; All Rights Reserved).Opening of Chemould Gallery. Khorshed Gandhy (3. right, first row sitting), September 1963 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved).
    Bombay
    TIFR
    University / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute

    The TIFR is one of India’s premier scientific institutions. Inside its buildings, scientists ponder over path-breaking ideas. Also, within its hallowed walls is a fine collection of modern Indian art.

    Word Count: 31

    The TIFR building (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).
    The TIFR premises and gardens (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).Colonnade on the way to the TIFR entry (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).Outside view of the TIFR foyer with the mural Bharat Bhagya Vidhata by M.F. Husain, 1963 (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).
    Bombay
    Mulk Raj Anand
    WriterPhilosopherArt PatronCultural Critic

    As a global socialist and modernist, Mulk Raj Anand sought and shaped opportunities for intellectual exchanges between Asia and Europe.

    Word Count: 20

    Mulk Raj Anand by Howard Coster, half-plate film negative, 1930s (© National Portrait Gallery, London).
    Paperback cover of Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand Preface by E.M., 34pp., Forster, Bombay: Kutub-Popular, around 1953 (© Kutub-Popular).Mulk Raj Anand in his late years at Taraporevala Mansion. 25 Cuffe Parade. Photograph: Dolly Sahiar (reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India/ Taken from Garimella 2005, 9).
    Bombay
    Rudolf von Leyden
    GeologistAdvertisement SpecialistJournalistArt CriticArt CollectorCartoonist

    The advertisement expert, Rudolf von Leyden, became a major art critic and art historian in Bombay in the 1940s, advocating an urgent need for modernism in art in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

    Rudolf and Nena von Leyden’s farewell party for Francis Newton. Showing all members of the Progressive Artists’ Group. Front from left: PAG = M.F. Husain, S.K. Bakre, H.A. Gade, K.H. Ara, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza with writer Mulk Raj Anand (1st right front). Back: Käthe Langhammer (with lace collar dress), Rudolf von Leyden with his wife Nena (centre), Walter Langhammer (2nd right), Ebrahim Alkazi (theatre pioneer, 1st right back), Bombay 1949. (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).
    Letterhead of The Hand. Commercial Art Studio Rudolf von Leyden, 1934 (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).Advertisement for Agfa by Rudolf von Leyden (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).Bombay Art Society Committees 1952/53, reprinted in Bombay Art Society 62th Annual Exhibition 1952–53 (at Jehangir Art Gallery), Bombay 1952, n.p. (Photo: Margit Franz 2021).Two modernists meet: Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (left) and Rudolf von Leyden (right), 1950s. (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).The article by Rudolf and Nena von Leyden “Ganjifa, the Playing Cards of India” (Marg, vol. 3, no. 4, 1949, p. 36; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Indian President Zakir Husain (left), President of India, opened the first Triennial for contemporary art on 10 February 1968 in the Lalit Kala Gallery in New Delhi. In the picture on the left with jury member Rudolf von Leyden (right). (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).
    Bombay