OBITUARY : Professor Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

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The Independent Online
May I add a footnote to your obituary [24 August] of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar? writes John Carswell. I am no scientist, but I was the unexpected beneficiary of his friendship at the University of Chicago; I was director of the university's museum of fine art, the Smart Gallery, on whose governing board he served. This was not such a surprising appointment, as I learnt that Chandra was convinced that there was a direct link between scientific theory and the great creative artists of the past - Beethoven, Rembrandt and Shakespeare, for instance.

Our relationship took an unexpected turn when Chandra's wife, Lalitha, shocked him by announcing one day that she wanted to go on a holiday. She had observed that other couples did this, and after 50 years of undivided attention to his needs, she had decided she would like to do so, too.

It so happened that at that moment I was organising a tour of Ottoman Turkey, and Chandra signed them both up. I was somewhat daunted at the prospect of having him along, but we made a pact that I would instruct him in the finer points of Iznik ceramics, in return for which he would explain about Black Holes. What resulted was predictable; within a day Chandra had mastered the entire chronology and development of Ottoman pottery, whilst I was left floundering in astrospace, still ignorant of even the most elementary principles.