A winter morning in Calcutta, year 1890. A classroom of Presidency College. A bearer walks in wearing a high-collared coat. A little while later, Prafulla Chandra Ray, young and bilet-pherot (England-returned), walks in, wearing the same coat.
Charuchandra Bhattacharya, his student, later came to know that Prafulla Chandra would buy cloth for four coat lengths, two for him, two for the bearer.
Prafulla Chandra Ray had led an exceptional life: as a scientist, an entrepreneur and a teacher. But his humanity was his greatest attribute, said Soumyajit Roy, who delivered the keynote address on Ray’s life, titled “Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, an academician, a chemist, an entrepreneur”, at National Library on August 19 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Ray that fell on August 2.
Roy, who teaches at the newly established Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Calcutta, in Mohanpur in Nadia district, offered glimpses into the life of Prafulla Chandra: a pioneer Indian chemist, nationalist, the founder of Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, India’s first pharmaceutical company, and a teacher who was like a father to his students. But this is a life on which not much light has been thrown.
Prafulla Chandra’s generous nature may have been genetic. His father Harish Chandra, who lived in Raruli-Katipara village in Khulna district, did not believe in the caste-system, for which he was called “mlechchha (unchaste)”. Harish Chandra had opened a library in his village.
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