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   Above: Acharya PC Ray inaugrating Gujarat Vidyapeeth University established by Mahatma Gandhi; Right: With Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Sadhana Aushadhalaya in 1924
mentioned many times in his autobiog- raphy that India was glorious but con- temporary Indians needed to adapt and compete with the changing times. In 1885, he participated in an essay com- petition announced by Sir Stafford Northcote, Lord Rector of the Univer- sity of Edinburgh, on the topic: “India Before and After the Mutiny.” He was not awarded but he wrote, ‘The prize was awarded to my rival competitor, but my essay as well as another’s was brack- eted together as proxime accessit (near- est approach to the best).’ To spread the message of atrocities being carried out back in India by the British, he fearlessly distributed copies of his essay with an appeal to liberate India from colonial bondage. The Scottish newspaper, The Scotsman, remarked, “It contains infor- mation in reference to India which will not be found elsewhere, and is deserving of the utmost notice.’
On his return to India, Ray applied for a job at Indian Educational Service (IES) but despite his accomplishments, he remained jobless for a year. He was presented with testimonials and recom- mendations which mentioned highly of his achievements in the field of chemistry by the likes of Professor Cum Brown, Sir William Muir and Prof C H Tawney.
In those times, jobs were limited and mostly reserved for the British. Having letters of recommendations was manda-
tory to get a job under the IES of the Brit- ish. There were two classes in IES: Impe- rial and Provincial. The Imperial service was mostly reserved for Europeans with better pay and privileges. Ray was ap- pointed a temporary Assistant Professor at Presidency College with a meagre sal- ary of Rs 250, an absurdly low pay for someone with his qualifications. He went to Darjeeling to meet British officer AW Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal, to discuss the injustice meted out to him. Ray’s complaint infuriated Croft, who exclaimed, ‘There are other walks of life open to you. Nobody compels you to take this appointment.’ Ray protested against this humiliation but accepted the job due to his passion for research and teaching.
In 1916, he joined the University Col- lege of Sciences, Calcutta, where he was able to carry out research with his stu- dents and is credited for shaping it into a centre of excellence. It was during this time that his students started addressing him as ‘Acharya’.
Acharya mentioned many times in his autobiography that India was glorious but contemporary Indians needed to adapt and compete with the changing times.
As a teacher, Ray believed in the philoso- phy as elucidated in a Sanskrit shloka, which stated: ‘Wish for victory every- where except from your son and from your disciple.’ He wrote in his autobi- ography about his students, ‘The bonds existing between them and me were as subtle as those of chemical affinity. I used to visit them often in their hostel rooms and they were my constant companions in my maidan walk in the evenings.’
From 1921 onwards, he stopped accepting salary and requested Calcutta University to spend that money on devel- opment of laboratories. Many students, mainly the poor, lived with him and for achievers he established scholarships like the Nagarjuna award and Ashutosh Mukherjee award. On his retirement, he donated a huge sum to Calcutta Uni- versity for extension and development of facilities.
Ray was a synthetic inorganic chem- ist with active interest in thio-organic compounds and his famous work was on the chemistry of nitrites. In 1894, he began an analysis of rare Indian miner- als in his quest to discover new elements to fill the gaps in the Periodic table. He soon reported the first ever synthesis of previously unknown compound of Mercurous Nitrite, Hg2(NO2)2, which he narrated as ‘the discovery of mercu- rous nitrite opened a new chapter in my life’. This compound was a fascinating example of two relatively unstable ions
        Images Courtesy: Rajeev Singh

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