Bose was born in Munshiganj, Bengal Presidency during the British Raj, and graduated from St Xavier's College, Calcutta. He then went to the University of London to study medicine, but could not pursue studies in medicine because of health problems. Thereafter, he studied Natural Science from the University of Cambridge.
He then returned to India and taught Physics at the Presidency College of University of Calcutta. Despite racial discrimination and a lack of funding and equipment, Bose carried on his scientific research. He made remarkable progress in his research of remote wireless signalling and was the first to use semiconductor junctions to detect radio signals. IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) named him one of the fathers of radio science.
His major contribution came in the field of biophysics, the demonstration of the electrical nature of the conduction of various stimuli (wounds, chemical agents) in plants, which were earlier thought to be of a chemical nature. He was also the first to study the action of microwaves in plant tissues and corresponding changes in the cell membrane potential. He used his own invention, the crescograph, to measure plant response to various stimuli, and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues.
There is a crater on the moon named after him. A small impact crater on the far side of the Moon is named after Bose. Bose is a lunar impact crater that is located on the far side of the Moon, in the southern hemisphere. It lies just to the northwest of the smaller crater Bhabha, and southeast of crater Alder. The crater was named after Bose to recognise his achievements in the field of wireless telecommunications.
Besides being a physicist, biologist, biophysicist, botanist he also wrote Science fiction, which earned him the sobriquet of father of Bengali science fiction.
To commemorate his birth centenary in 1958, the JBNSTS scholarship programme was started in West Bengal. In the same year, India issued a postage stamp bearing his portrait. He was also known for his reluctance to any form of patenting for his inventions.