Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray: Story and Chemical Inventions


An Indian scientist who won fame in many countries. Eighty years ago he began the manufacture of medicines in India. A great teacher, he gave his salary to students interested in science. A great man and a true patriot.

A Professor of Chemistry at the University. A pioneer in the field of the pharmaceutical industry in India who started making chemicals at home, eighty years ago, to prevent foreign companies from making excessive profits at the cost of Indian patients.

A scientist who won international acclaim.

His dwelling – a simple room on the first floor of the college in which he was teaching; his household -students who could not afford to stay elsewhere.

His salary – all a donation to the Department of Chemistry. The income from this donation to be spent on the development of the department of Chemistry at the University College of Science and to give scholarships to needy students. And the total amount he donated in this way – two lakh rupees.

Such was the Scientist – Professor Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray.

The Disappearance of a treasure

PC Ray's Ancestral property disappearance

Prafulla Chandra was born on 2nd August 1861 in Raruli-Katipara, a village in the District of Khulna (now in Bangladesh). His father – Harish Chandra Ray – a landlord with liberal views belonged to a wealthy cultured family.

His great-grand-father Maniklal Ray a Dewan of the Collector of Krishna Nagar. He earned plenty of money. Now and then he used to send home the East India Company’s ‘Sikka’ rupees in big earthen pots. He would cover them with some sweets to avoid the suspicion of dacoits.

Prafulla Chandra’s grandfather Anandlal Ray was Sharisthadar of Jessore and added considerably to the family estates.

In those days there were no banks where people could keep their money and jewels; so they used to cut them in underground vaults or inside brick walls of their houses. Prafulla Chandra’s grandfather and great-grandfather had followed the same custom. But Anandlal Ray died suddenly at Jessore. At once Harish Chandra hurried to the place from Raruli, but the father died before he reached Jessore. So the son could not learn from him where the secret vaults were.

So he dug up the floor and opened the walls of the old house in several places for the treasure, but to no purpose. Prafulla Chandra’s mother was not superstitious. But even she once sought the help of a diviner and got a place underneath the staircase dug open. However, no one found tile treasure!

Harish Chandra, the Father

Prafulla Chandra’s father Harish Chandra was well versed in Sanskrit, Persian and English languages and acquired a great reputation for his learning, eloquence and social activities. He loved music and could play on the violin with much skill. He placed great value on education.

Prafulla Chandra imbibed many good qualities from his father. A great interest in education, rational thinking and great sympathy for the poor – all the sons of Harish Chandra got these qualities from their father.

Interruptions in Education

Prafulla Chandra’s early education started in his father’s village school. But he often stayed away from school. His teacher, while searching the truant in almost every house in the village, would find the culprit resting comfortably on the branch of a tree, hidden under its leaves!

In 1870 Harish Chandra moved his family to Calcutta so that his sons could have higher education. Here, Prafulla Chandra was admitted to the Hare School. He took a great interest in books and read a vast number of them. But a severe attack of dysentery forced him to leave the school. The disease was slowly overcome, but it permanently injured his health; he became a life-long sufferer from chronic indigestion and sleeplessness. In his later days, he sometimes thought of this as a blessing in disguise. For the rest of his life, he was very strict about his food; and he had regular exercise.

Prafulla was now free from the tyranny of the dreary school routine; so he found time to satisfy his passion for the study of English and Bengali literature. When barely ten years old, he learned Latin and Greek (Languages of ancient Europe).

He also studied the histories of England, Rome, and Spain.

Two years later, Prafulla Chandra resumed his studies and in 1874 joined the Albert School. He liked the attitude of the teachers of this school and their method of teaching. The teachers in their turn were very much impressed by his knowledge of English literature and other subjects. They were hopeful of his brilliant success in the examinations. But Prafulla Chandra suddenly left for his village, without sitting for the examinations. He still had a secret desire to return to the Hare School. But if he sat for the examinations, he was sure to win prizes. Then it would be unfair to leave the Albert School. So he left that school before the examinations.

In the village, he mixed with the simple villagers and shared their joys and sorrows. He helped them in many ways.

Prafulla Chandra, however, returned to Calcutta in 1876 and resumed his studies at the Albert School. His affectionate teachers made him agree not to leave the school to go back to the Hare School. This time Prafulla Chandra worked hard and got the first place in the examinations. He won several prizes. In 1879 he passed the Entrance Examination and joined the Metropolitan Institute (now called Vidyasagar College).

Harish Chandra’s financial position was bad. It grew worse and worse. He was forced to sell the ancestral property, to pay his creditors. To save money, he shifted his family back to Raruli. The sons lived, in rooms in Calcutta.

The Gilchrist Prize

At the Metropolitan Institute, Prafulla Chandra came under the influence of great teachers like Surendranath Banerjee and Prasannakumar Lahiri. They instilled in him a burning desire to achieve the freedom of India and to improve the condition of the people. While pursuing his studies in the Metropolitan Institute, Prafulla Chandra used to attend lectures by Alexander Pedlar on Chemistry, in the Presidency College.

Pedlar was an inspiring teacher and a skillful experimentalist. His lectures influenced Prafulla Chandra to take up Chemistry for his higher studies in B.A., although his first love was literature. However, he continued to take an interest in literature and taught himself Latin and French at home. Sanskrit was compulsory in the college.

Thus, he learned several languages very well.

The London University used to conduct competitive examinations in those days for the ‘Gilchrist Prize Scholarship’. The successful candidate could go abroad for higher studies.

What a chance, if only he could get the scholarship!

Prafulla Chandra started preparing for the examination secretly. He was born in a very rich family, but now all the wealth had disappeared. This was the only chance to go abroad. His knowledge of languages was very helpful in this since one of the requirements was knowledge of Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, and French or German.

But he had to compete with thousands of others.

Only his brother and a cousin knew about this at first. By and by the secret was leaked out by a classmate, who stood high in the University examinations; He taunted Prafulla Chandra saying “Oh, this very intelligent man’s name will soon appear in the special edition of the London University Calendar!”

A few months after the examinations the results were published in the ‘Stateman’. Prafulla Chandra and a Parsee of Bombay by name Bahadurji had won the scholarship. The Principal was overjoyed and showered praises on Prafulla Chandra.

Prafulla Chandra now decided to go abroad.

His father readily gave his consent, but Prafulla Chandra was worried about his mother’s feelings. He wrote to a cousin of his in Raruli and requested him to convey the news to his mother gently. But his mother quite understood. She did not object to his going abroad. When Prafulla Chandra went to Raruli to bid her goodbye, she was overcome by grief as she thought about the long separation she would have to endure.

Prafulla Chandra loved his mother very much.

He consoled his mother saying,

“When I return from England, I will get a high position. My first duty will be to repay the debts and to repair our ancestral home.”

In England

P C Ray in England

In 1882 Prafulla Chandra left for Britain. The long journey on the seas was quite tiresome.

Because of seasickness he could not eat enough food and felt very weak.

After a voyage, which lasted thirty-three days, he reached London. The Indian students there helped him in several ways. They equipped him with sufficient woolen clothes to endure the bitter cold of Edinburgh, to which place he had to go.

Edinburgh was four hundred miles from London. Prafulla Chandra joined the B.Sc. Class in the University there. He was very much influenced by the Professor of Chemistry, Mr. Crum Brown, at the University. Chemistry became his first love.

Prafulla Chandra stuck to his very simple diet here also. Whenever he had leisure, he used to go on long walks to the distant woods and hills.

This kept him in good health.

For His Country

While Prafulla Chandra was still preparing for B.Sc. Degree Examination, his name appeared one day in all-important British newspapers and this made him famous. The story behind it is very interesting. It shows his love for his motherland.

He was pining for the day when India would be free.

In 1885 the University of Edinburgh announced that a prize would be awarded to the best writer of an article on ‘India before and after the Mutiny’.

Prafulla Chandra at once decided to compete. He plunged into a deep study of the historical, political and economic conditions of India during this period. He studied all available authentic records and writings on the subject. The article was submitted for the prize. The results were announced. The prize went to another student, but the judges considered Prafulla Chandra’s article as an essay of a very high standard.

Sir William Muir, the Principal, praised Prafulla Chandra’s essay in his inaugural address delivered to the students of the University. The article was full of criticism of the British rule in India, but also had a touch of humor. Prafulla Chandra got his essay back from the University and got it printed for private circulation amongst his fellow students and the general public. He appealed to them for help in the task of liberating India. A copy of this was sent to the great parliamentarian, John Bright, who was regarded as a friend of India.

Bright sent a very sympathetic reply and authorized Prafulla Chandra to use the same in any way he liked. Prafulla Chandra lost no time in sending a copy of Bright’s letter to the ‘London Times’ and other leading daily papers of the United Kingdom. One morning these papers came out with the headline ‘John Bright’s letter to an Indian student’. This made Prafulla Chandra famous. Even as a student he tried to make Englishmen in England understand what India suffered in slavery.

Prafulla Chandra took the B.Sc. degree in 1885. After this, he researched Chemistry for the B.Sc. degree of the University. In 1887 he was awarded this degree based on a thesis on the results of his original work. He was only 27 years old at the time. He received the Hope Prize Scholarship of the University, which enabled him to continue his work at the university for another year. His income was very small during the time he stayed in Edinburgh. But since his needs were very simple, he managed with this.

He was living with another Bengali student, and himself prepared his food.

The Professor – Scientist

PCR Ray Scientist

In 1888 Prafulla Chandra returned to India.

He had obtained letters of introduction from his Principal and Professors. He hoped that with their aid he would be able to get a good position in the education department. But in those days all the high places in this department were reserved for Englishmen. Though Prafulla Chandra had a Doctorate in Science, it became difficult for him to receive recognition in his own country. For about a year he spent his time working with his famous friend Jagadish Chandra Bose in his laboratory.

In 1889 Prafulla Chandra was appointed as Assistant Professor of 4 Chemistry in the Presidency College at Calcutta. His salary was only Rs.250 a month. But he was quite satisfied with his work. He started teaching very enthusiastically. He soon earned a great reputation as a successful and inspiring teacher. With the help of experiments, and with instances from everyday life, he made his lectures easy to follow. His lectures glowed with spicy humor and wit. He would recite poems of Rabindranath Tagore and quote slokas from ‘Rasa Ratnakara’, a book written by the ancient Indian Chemist Nagarjuna. To demonstrate that, on burning, a bone becomes pure Calcium Phosphate, free from all animal matter, he would put a pinch of the ashes into his mouth!

Prafulla Chandra was never tired of saying that the progress of India could be achieved only by industrialization.

He advocated the use of the mother – tongue as the medium of instruction in schools. For this, he began to write science texts-books in Bengali. He used to tell the story of the famous Russian Chemist Mendeleev, who is famous for his Periodic Law. He first published the results of his work in the Russian language. This compelled the scientists of other nations to learn Russian to know his important discovery. If we develop new knowledge, people from other countries will be forced to learn our languages.

Why Should Our Patients Depend On Other Countries?

Eighty-five years ago Prafulla Chandra came to realize that the progress of India was linked with industrialization. Without this, there could be no salvation. Even drugs for Indian patients had to come from foreign countries at that time. This put money into the pockets of the merchants of those countries. This had to be stopped. Drugs had to be manufactured in India. Prafulla Chandra wanted a beginning to be made at once.

But who was to do it?

Prafulla Chandra was not rich. The family estates had been sold to pay his father’s debts.

Prafulla Chandra’s salary was also meager. Still, he ventured upon this pioneering attempt. He prepared some chemicals at home. His work grew so fast that a separate company had to be formed.

But he needed capital – a capital of only eight hundred rupees. But it became difficult to raise even this small amount.

In spite of all these difficulties he founded ‘The Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works’.

Pharmacy set up by PC Ray

In 1894 his father died. This was a great blow to Prafulla Chandra. The father was still in debts and thousands of rupees were needed. Only a small part of the property remained. Even this was sold so that the debts could be repaid.

Prafulla Chandra bravely continued to run the new factory. At first, it was difficult to sell the chemicals made there. They could not compete with imported materials. But some friends, chiefly Dr. Amulya Charan Bose, supported his venture. Dr. Bose was a leading medical practitioner and he enlisted the support of many other doctors. They, too, started using the chemicals made by the new Indian firm. Many graduates in Chemistry joined the staff of the factory and worked hard for its improvement. Bengal Chemical became a famous factory. But Dr. Bose died suddenly in 1898 owing to an attack of Plague.

His brother-in-law Satish Chandra Sinha, who was an enthusiastic chemist in the firm, died of accidental poisoning in the laboratory. Thus one blow followed another and Prafulla Chandra was very unhappy. The entire responsibility of the factory fell on his shoulders. Still, he faced everything with courage.

This achievement itself was admirable, but Prafulla Chandra’s contribution to the Indian industry was even greater. Directly or indirectly he helped to start many other factories. Textile mills, soap factories, sugar factories, chemical industries, ceramic factories, and publishing houses were set up at the time with his active co-operation.

He was the driving force behind the industrialization of the country, which began at that time.

Scientist – Author

PC Ray - Scientist and Autor

During all these years, he was also actively engaged in research in his laboratory at Presidency College. His publications on Mercurous Nitrite and its derivatives brought him recognition from all over the world. He guided many students in their research in his laboratory. Even famous scientific journals abroad began to publish their scientific papers.

There was much that thought that Indians were backward in scientific knowledge and had received it only recently from the West. But Prafulla Chandra said that Indians knew little about their history. They did not know much about the devotion and industry with which our ancestors developed knowledge.

Prafulla Chandra was from the beginning interested in the work of the early Hindu chemists. After reading the famous book ‘Greek Alchemy’ by the great French scientist Berthelot his interest in Hindu Chemistry grew into a passion. He started reading many ancient books in Sanskrit, Pali, Bengali, and other languages, which contained information on the subject. He wrote an article about a famous Sanskrit treatise

‘Rasendrasara Sangraha’ and sent it to Berthelot.

The French scientist published it with an introduction praising it as an extremely interesting article. He wrote to Prafulla Chandra asking him to continue his research into the ancient texts and to publish a whole book on Hindu Chemistry. (for more such praiseworthy research of ancient India, please read this article).

After several years of study, Prafulla Chandra published his famous book, – ‘The History of Hindu Chemistry’ which received great praise from scientists all over the world. In this book, he has given a very interesting account to show that Hindu scientists knew about the manufacture of steel, about distillation, salts, mercury sulfides, etc… from very early times.

Prafulla Chandra Ray – Invention

Mercurous nitrite

When in 1895 PC Ray started his discovery in Nitrite Chemistry, it fetched great results. In one year, he could successfully publish a paper on his new stable chemical compound preparation, called mercurous nitrate.

This unanticipated discovery of mercurous nitrate leads to numerous investigative papers on other nitrites and hypo-nitrites. Even his students were extremely benefited from this discovery after several years of effort.

6 Hg + 8 HNO3 → 3 Hg2(NO3)2 + 2 NO + 4 H2O

It was PC Ray that first say a yellow crystalline solid that was formed with the reaction of mercury with dilute nitric acid. Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal was where this was first published which Nature Magazine followed on May 28, 1896.

Ammonium and alkylammonium nitrites

His other contribution to his own invention is the fact that his experiment proved that pure ammonium nitrite is stable by his numerous experiments and explained that they can be sublimed even at 60 deg. Centigrade without decomposition.

NH4Cl + AgNO2 → NH4NO2 + AgCl

Submitting this in the paper, Nobel Laureate William Ramsay congratulated him for this great achievement. Titled, Ammonium Nitrite in its Tangible form, Nature Magazine published the news in 1912. Later in the same year, The Journal of Chemical Society, London published the experimental details.

You can go through this PDF in detail to read more about the inventions.

A ‘Doctor of Floods’

In 1901 Prafulla Chandra met Mahatma Gandhi for the first time in the house of a mutual friend, Gopala Krishna Gokhale. Gandhiji had just then returned from South Africa. Prafulla Chandra developed great reverence for Gandhiji at this very first meeting. Gandhiji’s simplicity, patriotism, and devotion to duty appealed to him very much. He learned that it was easy to talk about truth but that it is far nobler to practice it in one’s life. Gandhiji also had great regard for Prafulla Chandra. He knew how hard he worked to help the poor and the needy. When floods caused great suffering and destruction, Prafulla Chandra worked very hard to bring relief to the victims. This made Gandhiji call him a ‘Doctor of Floods’!

In 1904 Prafulla Chandra proceeded to Europe on a study tour and visited many famous chemical laboratories. In England, Germany, France, and other European countries, he was welcomed by scientists at universities and research institutions. He had useful discussions with them.

They praised his famous work on Mercurous Nitrite, Ammonium Nitrite, etc… Some universities conferred honorary Doctorates on him. He made the acquaintance of famous scientists like William Ramsay, James Dewar, Perkin, Van’t Hoff, and Berthelot.

In 1912 Praful a Chandra visited London again to represent the University of Calcutta at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire.

He delivered speeches at the Congress and later before the Chemical Society. Sir William Ramsay congratulated him on his fine work.

For The Sake Of Science

For the sake of Science

Prafulla Chandra said on one occasion that when the people of Europe did not know how to make clothes and were still wearing animal skins and wandering in forests, Indian scientists were manufacturing wonderful chemicals. This is something we should be proud of.

But Prafulla Chandra also knew that it is not enough to be proud of our past. We should follow the example of our ancestors and seek knowledge and progress in science.

Prafulla Chandra did not rest content with giving such advice. He worked hard to practice it. In 1916 he retired from the Presidency College.

Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, appointed him as professor of Chemistry at the University Science College.

Here Prafulla Chandra trained many talented students and with them made famous discoveries.

The University Science College had been started just then. The facilities for experiments were very meager. Hence it became difficult to do advanced work. According to the rules of the college, all the Professors had to be Indians. Perhaps because of this, the British Government did not make adequate grants to the college. However, Prafulla Chandra and his students used whatever facilities were available and did remarkable work.

And soon the college became very famous.

Prafulla Chandra worked in this college for twenty years. He remained a bachelor all his life. All these twenty years he lived in a simple room on the first floor of the college. Some of his students who were poor and could not live anywhere else shared his room. In 1936, when he was 75 years old, he retired from the Professorship.

In 1921 when Prafulla Chandra reached 60 years he donated, in advance, all his salary for the rest of his service in the University to the development of the Department of Chemistry and the creation of two research fellowships.

The value of this endowment was about two lakh rupees. Besides, he gave ten thousand rupees for an annual research prize in Chemistry named after the great Indian Chemist Nagarjuna and another ten thousand for a research prize in Biology named after Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee.

In recognition of Prafulla Chandra’s great work, he was elected President of Indian Science Congress and Indian Chemical Society more than once. Many Indian and Western Universities conferred honorary doctorates on him.

A Great Scientist a Great Man Prafulla Chandra was a great scientist. But he had several other interests also, in which he shone equally well.

He had an abiding interest in literature. He knew by heart many passages from Shakespeare’s plays and the poems of Tagore and Madhusudan Dutt. He was well-read in English literature. In 1932 he wrote his autobiography in English and named it ‘The Life and Experience of a Bengali Chemist’. It was praised everywhere.

Later, he translated it into Bengali. The book was called ‘Atma Charita’. In recognition of his service to Bengali literature, he was twice elected President of the Bengali Literary Conference.

Prafulla Chandra was the President of the National Council of Education. He believed that it was not enough for students to acquire degrees like Bachelor of Science or Master of Science; they should endeavor to acquire real knowledge.

In his opinion, to take degrees just to get government jobs was a waste. The students should rather get technical education and start their own business. Young men should enter trade and industries by themselves. He said that the medium of instruction in schools and colleges should be the mother tongue. It is much easier to acquire knowledge in one’s language.

Social service was a great Ideal in Prafulla Chandra’s life. He used to remember what he had told his mother in his youth: “I will earn money and regain the property of the family”. He said a nobler idea was to spend one’s wealth in the service of fellow-beings. He practiced what he taught; he spent all his earnings on his students and the needy people around him.

Prafulla Chandra used to keep only a small portion of his income for his own needs. He spent the rest to help poor students and schools and colleges. He had shares valued at lakh rupees in the Bengal Chemical company; these he gave away as an endowment. The profit from this was used for the benefit of poor widows, orphans, and to help spinning and the production of Khadi. The rest of his property was given to the Brahmo Samaj, a religious organization, and a high school in Raruli founded in the name of his father.

It was his strong desire that Hindus should set right the defects in their society like untouchability, child marriage and the giving of dowry.

He severely opposed these evils.

He had a scientific outlook and worked sincerely. He was never satisfied with mere words.

When people underwent suffering because of floods, famines or earthquakes, he worked actively to help them. He would organize committees for their relief and with their help procure food, clothes, and money for the victims.

He worked hard day and night for such causes.

In 1921 there was a famine in Khulna District and in 1922 a severe flood in North Bengal, Thousands of people lost all their possessions. When they begged for help, the government did not pay much attention. Prafulla Chandra organized a relief committee which included leading European and Indian citizens of Calcutta. He made his college the center of relief operations. With the help of his students and of the citizens, he collected clothes and food as well as large sums of money. These were quickly given to needy victims. In 1931, there was again a big flood in Bengal. Prafulla Chandra again helped thousands and thousands of people troubled by the flood.

Prafulla Chandra had great respect for the Charaka and Khadi movement started by Gandhiji.

At first, he was doubtful whether the crude spinning wheel could achieve what the industry could easily do. But when he saw that the spinning wheel gave both work and earnings to the poor villagers, he was convinced of its usefulness. He began to spin a yarn with the Charaka at least for an hour every day. Till the end of his life, he used to wear only Khadi clothes. Because of his very great love of Khadi, some of his friends called him ‘Charakashri’ or ‘Sir Khaddar’!

Prafulla Chandra was very affectionate towards his students. He was overjoyed when they received awards of honors. He used to repeat the Sanskrit saying, ‘A man may desire victory always but he should welcome defeat at the hands of his disciples’. Famous Indian scientists like Meghnad Saha and Shanthi Swarup Bhatnagar were among his students.

Prafulla Chandra followed a regular timetable.

He had strict control over his diet and habits and was regular in his exercise. He would not waste time. He always wore clean Khadi clothes.

But they were often not passed. He would not allow others to serve him. He washed his clothes and polished his shoes. But he was very generous in helping others. One day a student who was taking care of his daily food bought plantains for an Anna and a half (equivalent to 9 Paise), instead of the usual halt an Anna (3 paise).

He had spent more money so that his teacher might have bigger and tastier fruits. But Prafulla Chandra scolded him for wasting precious money. The same day a social worker by name Ghosh came to him and appealed for help to an orphanage, which was short of funds. Prafulla Chandra called the same student and asked him to look into his bank Pass Book and see what the balance was. He had Rs. 3,500 at credit. Prafulla Chandra wrote out a cheque for Rs. 3,000 and gave it to Mr.Ghosh. The student was astonished that his teacher, who had scolded him in the morning for the sake of just one Anna, now gave away three thousand rupees without any hesitation!

Prafulla Chandra was very simple in his clothes.

P C Ray reading books

He was unhappy when he saw Indians dressed in European style. Sometimes his simple clothes used to land him in difficulties. Once he was appointed as a member of a government committee. The meeting of the committee was held at the Grand Hotel, Calcutta. Prafulla Chandra went there early and was waiting for others. The servant there thought that Prafulla Chandra also was a servant waiting for his master. He asked him, “When is your master coming?” The operator of a lift in a hotel once refused to take him in the lift. He said, “People like you should climb the stairs. The lift is for Europeans.” Praful a Chandra would not permit such an insult to Indian clothes. He complained to the management and got the operator warned.

For many years, Prafulla Chandra used to spend an hour or two at Calcutta’s large maiden every evening, in the company of his friends and students. All subjects under the sun were discussed there freely and solutions offered with confidence and finality. Old and young were equally free to participate and give their opinion.

Whenever he got some leisure, Prafulla Chandra used to go to his native village Raruli and spend his time there with the simple villagers.

He helped them as much as he could. He never forgot his life in the village.

At the 70th birthday celebrations of Prafulla Chandra, poet Rabindranath Tagore praised his exemplary life. He said, “In the Upanishads, we learn ‘the one became Many”. Acharya Prafulla Chandra has devoted his life to his students; he now lives in the hearts of many.

In his 75th year, Prafulla Chandra Ray retired from the Professor’s post. In 1941 the Calcutta University and the public celebrated his eightieth birthday.

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray passed away on the 16th of June 1944; he died in the same room he had occupied for twenty-five years. He was 83 years old at the time.

When India was still under foreign rule and when facilities for scientific research were very meager in the Country, Acharya Ray achieved great fame even in distant countries by his brilliant research. He discovered Mercurous Nitrite when scientists did not know that such a chemical could exist. When it was thought that Indians were backward and that they should learn everything from the West, he wrote his famous book ‘The History of Hindu Chemistry’. This book served to open the eyes of many Indians and foreigners. When he grew up, he found the family burdened with debts.

Medals and decorations

Faraday Gold Medal University of Edinburgh (1887)
Companion of the OrderIndian Empire
Knight Bachelor1919 New Year Honours list

Academic fellowships and memberships

Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of BengalFRASB
Fellow of the Chemical SocietyFCS (1902)
Honorary Member of the Deutsche Akademie, Munich1919
Foundation Fellow of the National Institute of Sciences of IndiaFNI 1935
Fellow of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of ScienceFIAS 1943

Honorary doctorates

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Calcutta1908
Honorary D.Sc. degree from Durham University1912
Honorary D.Sc. degree from Banaras Hindu University1920
Honorary D.Sc. degree from the University of Dhaka1920 and 28 July 1936
Honorary D. Sc. degree from the University of Allahabad1937

He not only repaid the debts but also spent large sums of money earned by him to help students and the poor, and on scientific research. When catastrophes like famine, flood or earthquake struck, this scientist professor led the way to bring relief to the victims. He did not confine himself to his laboratory. Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray was a great scientist who was endowed with noble human qualities. He was also a great patriot and a social worker.