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Prafulla Chandra Ray: Man Who Stabilised Hydroxychloroquine, The Medication For COVID-19

Prafulla Chandra Ray, popularly known as the 'Father of Indian Chemistry'. Born on 2 August 1861, he was a Bengali industrialist, historians, philanthropist and chemist. Today when the world is fighting against the COVID-19, Prafulla Chandra Ray is being remembered as our saviour. This is because he is the man behind hydroxychloroquine, the medicine which is being used for the treatment of COVID-19 affected people.

So, today let us know more about Prafulla Chandra Ray whose efforts are proving quite helpful in this pandemic.

1. Prafulla Chandra Ray was born in Raruli-Katipara village (present-day in Bangladesh). His father Harish Chandra Raychowdhury was a zamindar while his mother Bhubanmohini was the daughter of a local taluqdar.

2. Prafulla Chandra was the third among the seven siblings. His great-grandfather was a Diwan under the British East India Company.

3. During his initial days, Prafulla Chandra Ray received his elementary education from the Krishnagar Government College. He gained deep knowledge in Persian, English and Sanskrit.

4. While Prafulla Chandra Ray was in his fourth standard, he suffered from dysentery which compelled him to stop going to school and go back to his ancestral home. However, Ray always considered this as a golden opportunity and went on to study biographies, articles, English, greek, Sanskrit and many other languages.

5. Later Ray went on to pursue First Arts student at Vidyasagar College (then Metropolitan institution), during those days Chemistry was one of the important subjects in FA. But with no teaching facility of science subject in the Metropolitan College, Ray went on to study physics and chemistry as an external student in the Presidency College.

6. Eventually, he started taking interest in Chemistry. He later decided to make his career by pursuing Chemistry as the mainstream subject. While Ray was still studying for his BA examination, he applied for the Gilchrist Prize Scholarship.

7. In the year 1882, he went to the United Kingdom to study at the University of Edinburg. There he studies chemistry under Alexandar Crum Brown and his former student John Gibson. While his mentor Alexendar Crum Brown was interested in organic chemistry, Ray was inclined towards inorganic chemistry. Ray was awarded the degree of D. Sc in 1887.

8. In 1888, Ray returned to Kolkata and taught Chemistry as an Assistant Professor at the Presidency College. He also established a research laboratory where he worked with some of his dedicated students. It was in the year 1892 when he established the Bengal Chemical Work with the net capital of 700 INR.

9. Till 1896, he researched about the discovery of stable compound mercurous nitrite while working on nitrite and hyponitrite compounds. In 1901, his Bengal Chemical Work company became Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works Ltd (BCPW) which is India's first pharmaceutical company. Presently, this company is one of the leading manufacturers and producers of medicines.

10. Prafulla Chandra Ray also researched the organic compounds containing double salt, sulphur, homomorphism and fluorination.

11. The book 'History of Hindu Chemistry' comprises of some of the noteworthy works of Prafulla Chandra Ray.

12. In 1920, he was elected as the President of the Indian Science Congress.

13. He died on 16 June 1944. He was 82 years old.

14. It is due to his efforts only, that we are able to have hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of deadly COVID-19. This is because he is the one who stabilised hydroxychloroquine.

Story first published: Friday, April 10, 2020, 18:30 [IST]