I was around ten when I found ‘A Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ by Jules Verne from my parents' collection. It was in a translation by a famous Bengali author, Adrish Bardhan.
Classroom science teaching was quite bland, so I thought ‘science fiction’ will be an extension of that. To my surprise, it wasn’t!
Within the first few pages, the book sucked me inside a rabbit hole. I was rooting for an eccentric scientist, for characters in a completely different geographic location, culture, and time-period from my own. It presented fantasy with a tinge of established science, a mix of outrageously improbable and possibly impossible situations; enchanting enough to hold my attention.
I wanted to know how magnets behave, how earth's gravity worked and found the characters to be as intrepid as David Livingstone.
I kept reading more Verne. The sheer fluidity with which he introduced key science concepts—from the electromagnetic spectrum to fluid dynamics; through ingenious and adventurous plot points—was intensely captivating. Essentially, it was the ultimate ‘scientific romance’.
And then we started doing levers, fulcrums and Archimedes' principle as a part of the school science curriculum. To my surprise, it became easily my favourite. By the time Physics, as a subject, was introduced in Grade VII, I knew I wanted to do it. It was the only school subject that captured my passion and curiosity completely. Popular science books that my parents introduced me to kept fuelling my love. George Gamow's ‘One Two Three... Infinity’ was one of my favourites.
I went on to get an Honours and Masters in physics. Looking back, I think Verne, in Bardhan's amazing translation, influenced my early enthusiasm. While Verne died more than a century before, Bardhan passed away this year. There are many examples of how literature has popularised science; this is from my own experience.