Many scientists are happy to make their discoveries, but are not interested in making a business of it. But a few rare ones understand why it's important to build bridges between science and industry. Prafulla Chandra Ray was the first Indian to realise this.
A century ago, many chemicals and medicines had to be imported from abroad. Most Indians could not afford them. P.C. Ray was then a professor at Presidency College, Kolkata. He thought that if a factory could be set up in India, it could make chemicals at much cheaper rates, using local raw materials. Therefore, in 1893, P.C. Ray started the Bengal Chemical & Pharmaceutical Works (or Bengal Chemicals in short). He put his entire savings of Rs. 700 in it. Those days it was a huge sum of money.
The factory started to make things like surgical instruments, talcum powder, toothpaste and glycerine soap. The cost of these items was lesser than imported ones. Most Indians could buy them easily. Seeing P.C. Ray, many other rich citizens began to establish other industries. His company still exists today and makes important drugs & chemicals like vitamins, cosmetics and anti-asthma drugs.
The History of Indian Science
P.C. Ray was also interested in knowing how science had developed in India over time. We think science is a Western concept, since most famous scientists we know are from Europe and America. But there are many Sanskrit books like the Charaka Samhita, Brihat-Samhita and Ayurveda. P.C. Ray read through them all and discovered that there are many scientific concepts described in these books. He discovered the work people like Charaka and Varahamihira. You can read it all in his classic book, 'A History of Hindu Chemistry'.
P.C. Ray was born on August 2nd, 1861 in a small village in Bengal. His father was a rich zamindar, so he could afford to send the young Prafulla to the expensive Hare School. He went to the UK for higher education, where he got his B.Sc. in 1886, and D.Sc. in 1887.
While in the U.K., he was impressed by the scientific progress they had made there, especially the very active community of research scientists. He wished India to become adept at scientific research too. He returned to Kolkata, and became a professor of Chemistry in 1889 at Presidency College. The place did not have good equipment and facilities for research, yet he made his department a very active place for science research in India.
He moved to Science College in 1916, and retired from there in 1936. He died in 1944.