This is a story of a man who set up the first pharmaceutical company in India.
He is called the ‘Father of Chemistry in India’, and his contributions to the fields of scientific research, pharmaceuticals, and entrepreneurship are beyond anything. A true patriot as he was, he lived a life of extreme self-denial and became a symbol of plain living. Prafulla Chandra Ray– a genius chemist who dreamed of a modern India.
He was born to a wealthy landlord and did his schooling at Hare School in Calcutta. However, in 1874, Ray had a bout of illness that forced him to take a break from his studies. It was during this time, that he took the tough period of life as a blessing in disguise and absorbed himself in biographies, articles on science, modern English and Bengali literature, history, geography, Greek, Latin, French, and Sanskrit.
In 1882, he won the Gilchrist Scholarship to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science from Edinburgh University. He joined as a lecturer at the Presidency College and dedicated himself to scientific work and the uplift of the downtrodden. Ray published over a hundred papers on Chemistry, its history, and practical applications.
In 1896, he published a paper on the preparation of a new stable chemical compound Mercurous Nitrite which made way for a large number of investigative papers on nitrites and hyponitrites of different metals. Throughout his career, Ray cultivated an army of young, brilliant chemists, who took on leadership roles in the scientific community.
Ray was visionary and believed that industrialization was a step toward India’s progress. He set up Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Works Ltd, which came to be known as the first chemical factory or pharma company in India. This fostered a spirit of entrepreneurship among Bengali youth to ensure they need not chase jobs from foreign rulers. He was a true nationalist and was instrumental in organizing relief work during the severe Bengal floods in 1923, which left millions of people homeless and hungry.
A great patriot and social worker, this scientist professor did not confine himself to his laboratory. Instead, he led the way to bring relief to the victims. The life and legacy of PC Ray are exemplary and nothing short of impeccable. He wasn’t just a scientist but also a revolutionary! His contributions went a long way in building the India of his dreams.
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