Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar: A study in fortitude and rigor

Ashutosh Jogalekar in The Curious Wavefunction:

Chandra“Chandra”, as he was fondly known to friends and colleagues, was one of the twentieth century's most important astrophysicists. In addition he was probably its most rigorous and mathematical, applying hard and baroque mathematics to problems ranging from hydrodynamics to collapsing stars. His Nobel Prize came in 1983, and it should have come earlier. Chandra's life provides a good example of quiet rebellion against a traditional scientific establishment, and it's for this reason that it deserves wide study.

By all accounts Chandra was marked to be a great scientist from his birth. Born in the city of Lahore (now in Pakistan) to a respected civil servant, he quickly outpaced his fellow students in his study of advanced mathematics and physics. In the 1920s when he was attending college in the progressive city of Madras (now Chennai) he met the renowned physicist Arnold Sommerfeld when Sommerfeld was visiting Madras, and was both shocked and fascinated to hear Sommerfeld tell him that quantum theory had rendered outdated much of the physics he had learnt. That however was a deficiency that Chandra could remedy. As the famous story goes, at the mere age of nineteen, on a long voyage from India to England to attend graduate school at the University of Cambridge, he did the calculation that was to enshrine his name in history. That analysis which used tools from relativity and quantum theory that were far beyond the grasp of any other nineteen year old physics student, finally led to the establishment of the so-called 'Chandrasekhar limit', a limit for the mass a white dwarf can sustain before it collapses under the weight of its own gravity.

A few years later Chandra had a famous showdown with Arthur Eddington, the doyen of English astronomers and one of the most famous scientists in the world.

More here.