Subrahmanyan Chandrashekar

Date:   Monday , November 01, 1999

theory challenged the prevalent notion of the formation of "white dwarfs." Today, his theories form the basis of modern astrophysics.

At an age when most of us were deciding our major in college, Chandrashekar was developing a theory that would revolutionize the field of astrophysics. The Lahore native was just 19 and preparing for postgraduate study at Cambridge when he began the work that would - in 1983 - win him the Nobel prize in physics.

Most astrophysicists at the time believed that after burning their fuel, stars collapsed into planet-sized entities called white dwarfs. However, through his calculations, Chandrashekhar proposed that only stars, equivalent in size to the sun became dwarfs. If the mass of the star was greater than 1.4 times the sun (now known as the Chandrashekhar limit), he theorized, then the star would continue to collapse into an object of unparalleled density - a black hole.