Updated: October 26, 2019
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.
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.
In 1866, 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, 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.
He 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.
He remained a bachelor throughout his life who took active participation in politics.
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