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Life and Experiences of a Bengali Chemist (Volume Two)

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Item Code: IDG221
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788192219530
Pages: 1035
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5"X5.5"
Weight 790 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

Prafulla Chandra Ray (2 August 1861-16 June 1944) was the founder of the Indian school of modern chemistry and a pioneer of chemical industries in India. But, intrinsically, he was a man of letters. His erudition in English, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit literature was wide ranging. He himself admitted: 'I became a chemist by mere accident.'

As the future progress of India was bound up with the pursuit of scientific inquiry, he devoted himself to scientific researches aimed at India's political, social and economic regeneration.

Although he was a practical chemist, he found time to write outstanding works like History of Hindu Chemistry and Life and Experiences of a Bengali Chemist.

His Life and Experiences of a Bengal Chemist is more than an autobiography. It is, in fact, a history of intellectual renaissance in Bengal as part of the larger enlightenment of India in the nineteenth century and in the early decades of the twentieth century. The book is a vital document of our intellectual history.



Prafulla Chandra Ray may be viewed as the last representative of the vanishing generation of 'Young Bengal'. A man of letters par excellence, who combined in himself the erudition of a scholar, the wisdom of a philosopher and the saintliness of an ascetic, he was the father of modern chemical education, chemical research and a pioneer of chemical industries in India. As it was said of him, he symbolized the best of Indian tradition and philosophy, buttressed with scientific reasoning, an analytical approach and a missionary zeal in pursuit of knowledge.

His erudition in English and Latin literature was wide-ranging. Professor Henry E. Armstrong aptly said about Prafulla Chandra Ray: 'Of distinguished literary parentage, his own early English training was literary in a way unknown even to Englishmen …and not a few English chemists have had an early so-called English. What is striking in him is the completeness and breadth classical, retrograde outlook, as opposed to the confined, purely of his modern outlook, as opposed to the confined, purely classical, retrograde outlook of so many English literary scholars …and despite his English training, he was remained absolutely oriental in habits and tastes'. (Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray Seventieth Birthday Commemoration Volume). H was also a profound scholar of Sanskrit literature.

His knowledge of history-ancient, medieval and modern-was really remarkable. In the realm of literature, Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Shakespeare were his favourite poets from whose works he could quote off-hand from memory. The works of Emerson and Carlyle fascinated him immensely. He himself candidly admitted: 'I became a chemist by mere accident.'

For over five decades, his autobiography-Life and Experiences of a Bengali Chemist-has been out of print. The first volume was published in 1932 which was followed by a second volume in 1935. The Asiatic Society has now decided to publish a facsimile reprint of these two invaluable and historical volumes as a tribute to his memory and a record of a lifetime of dedication to science and a suffering people.

Prafulla Chandra Ray had very close links with the Asiatic Society. On a number of occasions, he presented his research papers before the learned assembly at the Society. His fundamental paper on mercurous nitrite was first published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society [Jasb, vol 65, part II (1896):

In more than one sense, Life and Experiences of a Bengali Chemist is more than an autobiography. It is, in fact, a history of the social and intellectual movement that prevailed in nineteenth century Bengal, also partly in India, and in the early decades of the twentieth century. The encyclopaedic density of these two volumes make them a vital document of our intellectual history.

Prafulla Chandra Ray's autobiography amply reflects a range and plenitude of intellectual interest which is amazing for a man of science. In this book he also deals with the Arabs as the bringers of light to medieval Europe, suggesting intensive researches on 'the reciprocity of intellectual debt between Asia and Europe.' No doubt, from the beginning to the end, the objective of this autobiography is one of the highest endeavours, pulsating with vitality and intellectual force.

The emancipation of India, Political, social and economic, -was his life's dream, for which he never ceased to strive, and this is also reflected in his autobiography.

I am deeply indebted to Kanchan Das Gupta, the distinguished artist and painter, for his cover design and a portrait of Prafulla Chandra Ray for the book.

I should also gratefully acknowledge that without the untiring efforts and initiative of Professor Anil Sarkar, the Society's Treasurer, the publication of these two volumes of Life and Experiences of a Bengali Chemist would not have been possible within a span of a few weeks. I also highly appreciate the active assistance rendered by Chitrabhanu Sen and Jyotirmoy Gupta in bringing out the book.



In the preface to the first volume of this work it was mentioned that "a large mass of materials has been left out" and that "if circumstances prove favourable a supplementary volume may come out later on." I have now the satisfaction of presenting the second and concluding volume, which, for aught I know, may prove to be my swan-song.

It was with considerable diffidence, nay with fear and trembling, that I presented the previous volume to the public, but I was somewhat agreeably surprised at the favourable reception accorded to it not only in India but also in England and America. As a chemist I consider myself an international property and some critics have naturally hinted at the large amount of space devoted to matters which might be considered as extraneous and foreign to the life of a chemist, pure and simple. I submit, however, that those who have closely watched my career will not have failed to notice that I have been something more than a mere chemist. True it is that throughout- my active career, now extending over half-a-century, I have served Chemistry as the Goddess of my idolatry ; to her I have been a whole-hearted devotee, and even at this advanced age she claims me as her own. But it should not be forgotten that the present volume and its predecessor include my "life and experiences." This is my apology for the presentation of the diverse activities connected therewith.

Social and economic problems relating to India and especially to Bengal have always claimed a portion of my attention, and thus what I have written is inextricably interwoven with my life and experiences. If now and then I have been drawn into realms which might be considered as political it is because, as Professor Bowley observes, "economic ami political events cannot be disentangled."

As an educationist I have devoted considerable space in this volume to matters educational. I have traced its progress since the beginning of British rule in India and have been unsparing in criticising the wrong direction it has taken to the' serious detriment of the future prospects of our young hopefuls, who have been accustomed to. look to an academic career alone as a passport to success in life.

The saying is generally ascribed to that prince of diplomats, Talleyrand, that language was given to man to disguise his thoughts ; the student of science, however, cannot agree with the above dictum and he is inclined to call a spade a spade. Hence* my considered opinions on a variety of subjects dealt with in these volumes have been freely expressed and sometimes, I am afraid, with brutal candour.

I have reproduced verbatim el literatim several passages from my essay on India published half-a-century; ago. It is sad to reflect that there has been no material change of policy of the British Government during the last fifty years ; any change that has occurred is only a change for the worse as evidenced by the New Constitution. The problems—social and economic— which were acute then have become acuter still.

It now remains for me to express my indebtedness to Professor J. C. Ghosh, Head of the Department of Chemistry, Dacca University, for many useful hints and criticisms. Dr. P. K. Bose, my colleague and ex-pupil, has laid me under a deep debt of obligation by taking upon himself the arduous task of looking through the proofs and preparing the table of contents and the index. He has also furnished me with many valuable suggestions.




CHAPTER I Birth, Parental Home, Ancestry, Early environment 1
CHAPTER II Absentee Landlords-The Deserted Village-Water Famine-Village Breeding Grounds of Cholera and Malaria 13
CHAPTER III Education in Village-Removal to Calcutta-Description of Calcutta Past and Present 19
CHAPTER IV Education at Calcutta 26
CHAPTER V Departure for Europe-Educational Career in England-Essay on India-Tour in the Highlands 50
CHAPTER VI Returning Home-Professor at Presidency College 76
CHAPTER VII Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works 92
CHAPTER VIII New Chemical Laboratory-Mercurous Nitrite-History of Hindu Chemistry 112
CHAPTER IX Reminiscences of Gokhale and Gandhi 123
CHAPTER X Second visit to Europe-Partition of Bengal-Impetus to Scientific Study 129
CHAPTER XI Intellectual Renaissance in Bengal 140
CHAPTER XII Dawn of a New Era-Original Scientific Researches in Bengal -Indians Debarred from Higher Educational Service 152
CHAPTER XIII Original Research-Research Scholars-Indian School of Chemistry 160
CHAPTER XIV Indian School of Chemistry (contd.)-Retirement from the Presidency College-The Work of Prof. Watson and his pupils-Research Students-Indian Chemical Society 182
CHAPTER XV University College of Science 196
CHAPTER XVI Use and Misuse of Time 208
CHAPTER XVII Life outside the Test tube 227
CHAPTER XVIII Insane Craze for University Education 259
CHAPTER XIX Industry precedes Technological Institute-The Great Illusion Technology before Industry-The Cart before the Horse 316
CHAPTER XX Industrial Enterprises 337
CHAPTER XXI Gospel of Charka-Lament of a Spinner 361
CHAPTER XXII Modern Civilization-Capitalism, Mechanization & Unemployment 379
CHAPTER XXIII Economic Condition of Rural Bengal in the Sixties and Onwards 395
CHAPTER XIV Economic Condition of three Bengal Districts 412
CHAPTER XXV Bengal-the Milch Cow-Drain of the Wealth of Bengal due to Political Subjection 428
CHAPTER XXVI Bengal-the Milch Cow (contd.)-The Failure of the Bengalis and the Economic Conquest of Bengal by Non-Bengalis 440
CHAPTER XXVII Caste System-Its baneful effect on Hindu Society 502
  INDEX 545
CHAPTER I Earliest Government Educational Institutions-The College of Fort William-Charter of 1813-Education Grant of £10,000-Lord Minto's Lamentation-Orientalism favoured-Missionary Effort-Jayanarayan Ghosal -The Serampore Missionaries-The Vidyalaya-Derozio and hi 1
CHAPTER II Mass Education and Creation of Vernacular Literature-Carey's great Services-The Calcutta School Book Society and School Society-The Calcutta Committee and Vernacular Literature-The Calcutta Committee and Mass Education-Adam's Report-Substitution of Vernac 36
CHAPTER III Wastage of Time and Energy of our Youths-Vernacular as the Medium of Instruction-Calcutta University and Vernacular Medium-Medium of Instruction and Development of Intelligence-Classical Education and Development of Intelligence. 59
CHAPTER IV Neglect of Primary Education and its Effect on the Masses-Literacy in Soviet Russia-Primary Education in Italy and Japan-Press in Japan and China-Denmark and Mass Education-Modern Italy and Agricultural Improvements-Bengal Government and Primary Education 71
CHAPTER V Educational Backwardness of the Moslems of Bengal-Moslems oppose English Education-Educated Moslems and Madrassas-Catholicity of the Hindus-Hindus and Moslems ethnologically identical-Calcutta Corporation and Primary Education-Bengal Primary Education Act 85
Appendix Medium of Instruction-Minutes by Sir E. Perry, J. S. Sett, Colonel Jervis-Government of Bombay on Medium of Instruction-Sir E. Perry on Government Policy-Minute by J. P. Willoughby-Views of Thomas-Minute by J. E. D. Bethune-Educational Despatch of 1854-Pa 104
CHAPTER VI The Mentality and Psychology of the Youth of Bengal-Danger of Modern System of Education-Shaw and Barrie-The Value of College Life-Youth Movement and Mass Education in China-Why the Bengalis fail?-Realism vs. Idealism-Culture and Money-making. 112
CHAPTER VII Neglect of Sanitation and Irrigation-A Chapter from the Whiteman's Burden-Malaria and the Railways-Malaria in Italy and Angora-Effects of Malaria on Society-The great Quinine Mystery-Tuberculosis in Bengal-Death-rate in India-Government and Sanitation. 136
CHAPTER VIII Havoc caused by Floods-Causes of Floods-Water-logging of Calcutta Suburbs-Floods in Midnapore and Orissa-Manmade Malaria-Problem of Rivers in Bengal-Railways and Deterioration of Rivers in Bengal-Railways and Deterioration of Rivers-Bengal in Death Grip 156
CHAPTER IX Military Expenditure: A Huge Burden on the People of India-How has India been "Bled White"-Crushing Military Burden on India-Mercenary Army vs. National Army-Military Expenditure in India and Elsewhere-Indianisation and Retrenchment. 182
CHAPTER X Orgy of Extravagance-Construction of New Delhi-India, a Land of Contrast-Salaries in India and Elsewhere-Princely Extravagance-Public Debt of India-Income of Agriculturists-Distress in Bengal-British Investments in India-Analysis of the Budget of Bengal-B 223
CHAPTER XI Emasculation and Demartialisation of the Indian People under British Rule-Policy of Pathan Kings and the Subadars-Ostracism of Indians from Responsible Posts-No Freedom for Indians 234
CHAPTER XII A Glimpse into India Before and after the British Occupation-Pre-British Bengal-Bengal during the Reign of Aurangzib-Bengal as she is today 248
CHAPTER XIII Imperialism, Ancient and Modern-British, Imperialism-Ottawa Pact-Tea and Coffee-Fall of Empire-Growth of Nationalism in India  
CHAPTER XIV Communalism in the Twentieth Century due to Sinister Influence of British Imperialists-Divide and Rule-Separate Electorate-Separate Electorate for Depressed Classes-Nationalist Muslims on Separate and Joint Electorates-Death-Knell of Nationalism-Quo Vadis 289
CHAPTER XV Communalism Practically Unknown before the Dawn of the Twentieth Century-An Historical Retrospect-Sur Dynasty-Bengal under the Nawabs-Spirit of Toleration in India and in Europe  
CHAPTER XVI Law and Its Administration-Dilatoriness of British Law-Administration of Criminal Justice-Administration of Justice during the Muslim Rule in India 318
CHAPTER XVII Expensive Habits of our University Students-Residential Hostels and Westernisation-Student Life in Prague-Residential University-The Gurukula 333
CHAPTER XVIII Drain of the Wealth of the Land due to European Standard of Living-Perils in a Cup of Tea-The Automobiles 344
CHAPTER XIX Scientific Specialization and Narrow Outlook-Failure in Life 351
CHAPTER XX Old Age-How to battle against it-Senile mental Changes-Old Age and Productiveness-A Physician's Receipt for Longevity-Youth vs. Age 371
CHAPTER XXI Half a Century and After-Inorganic Chemistry and its Infinite Possibilities-The Role of Accident in Science-Facsimile of Handwriting of 1882, 1886 and 1935 387
CHAPTER XXII The New Constitution and Nascent National Industries-Mortgaging the Economic Resources of India-Drain of the Mineral Wealth of the Country-India vs. Persia in the Disposal of Mineral Wealth 398
CHAPTER XXIII The Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. A Page from the Diary of 1893-94-Dangers ahead-Bengalis and Indians in General in Business-Causes of Their Backwardness and Failures 409
CHAPTER XXIV Verdict of History-Conclusion 423
  Notes (a) on Communalism-(b) on Prime Minister's Award-© on University Education-(d) on the Budget of Bengal-(e) on the Police Budge-(f) on the New Constitution-(g) on "Indigenous Peace, Liberty and Justice" and Military Expenditure-(h) on Failure of Educ 423
  INDEX 461

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