Early Life

  • Prafulla Chandra Ray was born on 2 August 1861 in Raruli-Katipara, a village in the District of Khulna (in present day Bangladesh).
  • His father Harish Chandra Ray was a land proprietor.

    Young Prafulla Chandra Ray
    Young Prafulla Chandra Ray
  • Up to the age of nine, Prafulla Chandra studied in a school in his village.


  • In 1870 his family migrated to Calcutta. Ray and his elder brother were admitted to Hare School.
  • In 1874, he suffered from a severe attack of dysentery, which hampered his health throughout his life.
  • Ray had to postpone his studies for a couple of years and return to his ancestral home in the village due to the severity of the attack.
  • In 1879, he passed the Entrance Examination and took admission into the Metropolitan Institution. Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar established has established the Metropolitan Institution.
  • After attending the village school, he went to Kolkata, where he studied at Hare School and the Metropolitan College.
  • The lectures of Alexander Pedler in the Presidency College, attracted him to chemistry, although his first love was literature.
  • He continued to take interest in literature, and taught himself Latin and French at home.
  • In 1882, while studying for his BA examination, he applied for and was awarded one of the two Gilchrist Prize Scholarships after an all-India competitive examination.
  • After obtaining a F.A. diploma from the University of Calcutta, he proceeded to the University of Edinburgh on a Gilchrist scholarship where he obtained both his B.Sc. and D.Sc. degrees.

Professional Life

  • In 1888, Prafulla Chandra made his journey home to India. Initially he spent a year working with his famous friend Jagadish Chandra Bose in his laboratory.
  • In 1889, Presidency College appointed him Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

    Prafulla Chandra Ray
    Prafulla Chandra Ray
  • After obtaining his BSc degree from the University of Edinburgh, Ray embarked on his doctoral thesis (DSc) in the same university and completed his doctorate in 1887.
  • His publications on mercurous nitrite and its derivatives brought him recognition from all over the world.
  • He remained a bachelor throughout his life who took active participation in politics. His father Harish Chandra Ray, was strongly associated with Brahmo Samaj.
  • Equally important was his role as a teacher – he inspired a generation of young chemists in India thereby building up an Indian school of chemistry.
  • Famous Indian scientists like Meghnad Saha and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar were among his students.
  • Prafulla Chandra Ray achieved only by industrialization believed that the progress of India could be .
  • He set up the first chemical factory in India, with very minimal resources, working from his home.
  • In 1901, this pioneering effort resulted in the formation of the Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works Ltd.
  • He retired from the Presidency College in 1916, and was appointed as Professor of Chemistry at the University Science College.
  • Prafulla Chandra Ray died on 6 June 1944 in Calcutta, Bengal at old age of 82.


  • In 1921 he donated all his salary for the rest of his service in the University to the development of the Department of Chemistry and to the creation of two research fellowships.
  • In 1923, Northern Bengal suffered a flood which made millions of people homeless and hungry. Prafulla Chandra Ray organised Bengal Relief Committee, which collected nearly 2.5 million rupees in cash and kind. He distributed relief material in the affected area in an organised manner.


  • Prafulla Chandra Ray combined the qualities of both a scientist and an industrial entrepreneur. Most historian acknowledge him as father of the Indian Pharmaceutical industry.
  • British Government awarded him as Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1911.
  • Prafulla Chandra Ray was an honorary fellow of the Chemical Society and Deutsche Akademie, Munich.
  • Bitish government awarded him knighthood in 1917.

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