On Dec. 10, 1929, in Calcutta’s Albert Hall, Bengalis gave a grand reception for Kazi Nazrul Islam, their most illustrious son. Some 88 years later, on Jan. 13, 2017, Bengalis gave similar reception to another illustrious son, Soborno Isaac Bari.
On behalf of 400 million Bengalis, New York’s Bangladesh Press Club and Time Television gave Isaac a huge reception in Jackson Heights, New York, in honor of the recognition he received from President Barack Obama for being able to solve Ph.D.-level math, physics and chemistry problems at only 4 years old.
Sibli Chowdhury Kayes’ documentary, “4 Year-old Einstein,” which became one of the most popular math and science videos on YouTube in 2016, kicked off the reception, which was moderated by Sadia Khondokar, a newscaster for Time Television. Isaac’s story has influenced millions of youths around the world including in Bangladesh to fall in love with math and science.
On behalf of the reception community , Zahid Rahman, editor of NewsBDUS, Abu Taher, CEO of Time Television and the editor of The Weekly Bangla Patrika, and Meherunnisa Jobaida, director of programming for Time Television, escorted Isaac to the stage.
The panel, which consisted of professors from several American universities, gave him an advanced calculus problem to solve in front of hundreds of cameras and thousands of eyes. Millions of people around the world were also watching it live on Time Television, which broadcasted the reception on its website. Isaac not only took the derivative of the trigonometric function, but he also demonstrated a complex mathematical proof of that function. However, he looked very nervous upon solving the problem because he did not know whether he had solved it correctly.
Isaac raised his hand in the air with joy when he received official feedback from Sheikh Al Mamun, a professor of mathematics at Bronx Community College. “Isaac not only took the derivative correctly, but also used the quotient rule to show the proof of such a complex trig function,” he said. Bari’s proud older brother, Refath Albert Bari, who is also a math genius, became teary-eyed upon hearing the positive feedback. After his successful problem-solving, the 4 year old was invited to give his speech.
That was the first word of Isaac's historical speech. “Peace be upon you. This is the traditional way in which everyday people in Bangladesh greet each other,” he said. “My mother told me people in Bangladesh always say it and they mean it.” He went on to tell everyone his favorite story: “If apple fall, does the moon also fall?”
Isaac began, “You know, Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642. One day, in 1665, he was sitting under an apple tree. All of a sudden, he saw an apple fall from above. He looked at the sky and he saw a moon and he asked a question: ‘If apple fall, does the moon also fall?’ This question helped him invent calculus to solve a falling-moon problem, and he also used calculus to lay the foundation of physics.”
Isaac ended his speech by reciting a poem by Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul, the two most renowned Bengali poets.
On behalf of all the Bengalis in the world, Dr. Wazed A. Khan, editor of the Weekly Bangladesh, and Kayes gave Bari the “4 Year-old Einstein” award. However, the biggest moment of the reception was not Isaac solving the problem, giving the speech or even receiving the award — it was something else.
While everyone was enjoying the food and music after the reception, Isaac sat with Nargis Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Society, doing what else? Solving a calculus problem.
Rashidul Bari teaches Mathematics at the College of Staten Island and Physics at Brooklyn Tech. His websites is: Bari Science Lab