Prafulla Chandra Ray

Prafulla Chandra Ray was an Indian chemist, educationist, historian, industrialist and philanthropist.

Updated: July 19, 2020


Acharya Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray was an Indian chemist, educationist, historian, industrialist and philanthropist. A leading Bengali nationalist, he established the first Indian research school in chemistry and is regarded as the father of chemical science in India. The Royal Society of Chemistry honoured his life and work with the first ever Chemical Landmark Plaque outside Europe. He was the founder of Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, India's first pharmaceutical company. He is the author of A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth Century (1902). He was born on 2nd August 1861 and died on 16th June 1944.


Childhood of Prafulla Chandra Ray:

Prafulla Chandra Raychowdhary was born in the village of Raruli-Katipara, then in the Jessore District (subsequently in the Khulna District), which was then situated in the eastern portion of the Bengal Presidency of British India (now in present-day Bangladesh). He was the third child and son of Harish Chandra Raychowdhury, a moderately wealthy Kayastha zamindar and his wife Bhubanmohini Devi. Ray was one of seven siblings, having four brothers: Jnanendra Chandra, Nalini Kanta, Purna Chandra and Buddha Dev and two sisters: Indumati and Belamati.


Education of Prafulla Chandra Ray:


In 1866, Prafulla Chandra Ray began his education in the village school run by his father, and studied there until he was nine. In 1871, when Ray was about 10, his family migrated to the city, where Ray was admitted to the Hare School the following year. In 1874, while Ray was in the fourth standard, he suffered a severe attack of dysentery and was consequently forced to postpone his studies and return to his ancestral home. 

After recovering from his illness, Prafulla Chandra Ray returned to Calcutta in 1876 and was admitted to the Albert School. In 1878, he passed the school's Entrance Examination (matriculation exams) with a First Division, and was admitted as an FA (First Arts) student to the Metropolitan Institution (later Vidyasagar College). As the Metropolitan Institution offered no facilities for science courses at the time, Ray attended physics and chemistry lectures as an external student at the Presidency College.

Prafulla Chandra Ray passed the FA exam in 1881 with a second division, and was admitted to the BA (B-course) degree of the University of Calcutta as a chemistry student. Having learnt Latin and French in addition to achieving a "fair mastery" of Sanskrit, a compulsory subject at the FA level, Ray applied for a Gilchrist Prize Scholarship while studying for his BA examination. After an all-India competitive examination, Ray won one of the two scholarships, and enrolled as a BSc. student at the University of Edinburgh without completing his original degree. He sailed for the United Kingdom in August 1882, aged 21. At Edinburgh, Ray began his chemistry studies under Alexander Crum Brown and his demonstrator John Gibson, a former student of Brown's who had also studied under Robert Bunsen at the University of Heidelberg. He received his BSc. in 1885. After obtaining his BSc degree, Ray embarked on his doctoral studies.

Family of Prafulla Chandra Ray:

Prafulla Chandra Ray remained a bachelor throughout his life who took active participation in politics.


Some facts about Prafulla Chandra Ray:

  • Prafulla Chandra Ray was awarded the Hope Prize in Edinburgh which allowed him to work on his research for a further period of one year after completion of his doctorate. His thesis title was "Conjugated Sulphates of the Copper-magnesium Group: A Study of Isomorphous Mixtures and Molecular Combinations".
  • While a student he was elected Vice-President of the University of Edinburgh Chemical Society in 1888.
  • Prafulla Chandra returned to India in the first week of August 1888 and subsequently joined Presidency College, Calcutta as temporary Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1889.
  • In 1896, he published a paper on preparation of a new stable chemical compound: mercurous nitrite.
  • He published the first volume of his autobiography Life and Experience of a Bengali Chemist in 1932, and dedicated it to the youth of India.
  • In 1922, Prafulla Chandra Ray donated money to establish Nagarjuna Prize to be awarded for the best work in chemistry.
  • In 1937, another award, named after Ashutosh Mukherjee, to be awarded for the best work in zoology or botany, was established from his donation.
  • Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy Shiksha Prangan,Acharya Prafulla Chandra College, Prafulla Chandra College, Acharya Prafulla Chandra High School For Boys, and Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray Polytechnic in Kolkata commemorate his name.


Related Articles

Satyendra Nath Bose

Satyendra Nath Bose

Satyendra Nath Bose was an Indian physicist specializing in theoretical physics.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is is an iconic figure, who is considered as the 'Father of the Nation'.

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis was an Indian Bengali scientist and applied statistician.

Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv Gandhi was one of the most popular politicians of India who served as the 6th Prime Minister of India.

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar was an Indian colloid chemist, academic and scientific administrator.

Prafulla Chandra Ray

Prafulla Chandra Ray

Prafulla Chandra Ray was an Indian chemist, educationist, historian, industrialist and philanthropist.

Chandra Shekhar Azad

Chandra Shekhar Azad

Chandra Shekhar Azad was an Indian revolutionary who joined the radical Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) at the age of 15.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was an Indian statesman who served three terms as the Prime Minister of India.