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Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861-1944): Important Personalities of Modern India

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861-1944) upsc notes
Why this topic is important for prelims?

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Mahatma Gandhi said that some of his deepest convictions were reflected in a book titled, “Unto this Last” and the book transformed his life. What was the message from the book that transformed Mahatma Gandhi?(2011)

(a.) Uplifting the oppressed and poor is the moral responsibility of an educated man

(b.) The good of individual is contained in the good of all

(c.) The life of celibacy and spiritual pursuit are essential for a noble life

(d.) All the statements (a), (b) and (c) are correct in this context

Solution (b)

With reference to Indian freedom struggle, Usha Mehta is well-known for: (2011)

(a.) Running the secret Congress Radio in the wake of Quit India Movement

(b.) Participating in the Second Round Table Conference

(c.) Leading a contingent of Indian National Army

(d.) Assisting in the formation of Interim Government under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Solution (a)

What was the reason for Mahatma Gandhi to organize a satyagraha on behalf of the peasants of Kheda?(2011)

  1. The Administration did not suspend the land revenue collection in spite of a drought.
  2. The Administration proposed to introduce Permanent Settlement in Gujarat.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a.) 1 only

(b.) 2 only

(c.) Both 1 and 2

(d.) Neither 1 nor 2

Solution (a)

Consider the following statements :(2012)

The most effective contribution made by DadabhaiNaoroji to the cause of Indian National Movement was that he

  1. exposed the economic exploitation of India by the British
  2. interpreted the ancient Indian texts and restored the self-confidence of Indians
  3. stressed the need for eradication of all the social evils before anything else

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (a)

Which of the following parties were established by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar?(2012)

  1. The Peasants and Workers Party of India
  2. All India Scheduled Castes Federation
  3. The Independent Labour Party

Select the correct answer using the codes given below :

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (b)

Mahatma Gandhi undertook fast unto death in 1932, mainly because: (2012)

(a) Round Table Conference failed to satisfy Indian political aspirations

(b) Congress and Muslim League had differences of opinion

(c) Ramsay Macdonald announced the Communal Award

(d) None of the statements (a), (b) and (c) given above is correct in this context

Solution (c)

Annie Besant was: (2013)

  1. responsible for starting the Home Rule Movement
  2. the founder of the Theo-sophical Society
  3. once the President of the Indian National Congress

Select the correct statement/statements using the codes given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (c)

Consider the following pairs : (2019)
Movement: Organization Leader
1.All India Anti-Untouchability League: Mahatma Gandhi
2. All India Kisan Sabha: Swami Sahajanad Saraswati
3.Self Respect Movement: E.V. Ramaswami Naicker
Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1,2 and 3

With reference to the British colonial rule in India, consider the following statements : (2019)
1. Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in the abolition of the system of ‘indentured labour’.
2. In Lord Chelmsford’s War Conference’, Mahatma Gandhi did not support the resolution on recruiting Indians for World War.
3. Consequent upon the breaking of Salt Law by Indian people, the Indian National Congress was declared illegal by the colonial rulers.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

With reference to Indian National Movement, consider the following pairs : (2019)
Persons: Position head
1. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru : President, All India Liberal Federation
2. K.C. Neogy : Member, The Constituent Assembly
3. P.C. Joshi : General Secretary, Communist Party of India
Which of the pairs given above is/ are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

In the context of Indian history, the Rakhmabai case of 1884 revolved around: (2020)

  1. women’s right to gain the education
  2. age of consent
  3. restitution of conjugal rights

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

[a) 1 and 2 only

[b) 2 and 3 only

[c) 1 and 3 only

[d) 1, 2 and 3

Which among the following is associated with ‘’Songs from Prison’’, a translation of ancient Indian religious lyrics in English? (2021)

a) Bal Gangadhar Tilak
b) Jawaharlal Nehru
c) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
d) Sarojini Naidu

Who among the following was associated as Secretary with Hindu Female School which later came to be known as Bethune Female School? (2021)
a) Annie Besant
b) Debendranath Tagore
c) Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
d) Sarojini Naidu

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About this initiative

  • As you’ve seen above, this topic is really important for the UPSC prelims exam as you can score a guaranteed 4 marks after studying this topic.
  • However, you cannot find any compilation of such personalities on the internet with adequate facts for prelims and for quick reading/revision before the exam.
  • So we have come up with this initiative where we’ll post content of such personalities with more focus on key points that are important for prelims.
  • We hope it helps boost your marks in the prelims exam. All the best!!!
  • You can provide your feedback in the comment section.

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Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray was an Indian chemist, industrialist, historian, educationist, and philanthropist. He is regarded as the “Father of Indian Chemistry” and one of the first “modern” Indian chemical researchers. He was the founder of Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, India’s first pharmaceutical company.  He was first honored with the imperial title of CIE (Companion of the Indian Empire) by the British government, and later knighted in 1919. He is also noted for his social works and nationalist ideals.

Early Life and Education

Prafulla Chandra Ray was born in 1861 in Jessore district, present-day Bangladesh. Ray was associated with Brahmo Samaj from his childhood due to his father’s connection with the Samaj. Ray studied in Albert School, established by the Brahmo reformer Keshub Chandra Sen; due to his concentrated self-study over the preceding two years, his teachers found him to have advanced much further than the rest of the students in his assigned class. Ray went to the Metropolitan Institution (later Vidyasagar College) which was established by Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. He also attended physics and chemistry lectures as an external student at the Presidency College, Kolkata and he decided to make Chemistry his career as he was drawn to the chemistry courses taught by Alexander Pedler (an inspiring lecturer and experimentalist). He then went to the University of Calcutta and later to the University of Edinburgh for studying chemistry.

Contributions of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray


  • In 1896, he discovered mercurous nitrite, a stable compound that paved the way for a whole lot of research papers on metal nitrites and hyponitrites, ammonia nitrites, and organic amines.
  • He also proved that the pure ammonium nitrite is indeed stable by bringing to pass a lot of experiments and explained that it can be sublimed even at 60 °C without decomposition.
  • Ray was appointed as the General President of the Indian Science Congress in 1920.
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry dedicated its coveted Chemical Landmark plaque to Ray, the first non-European to be conferred the honour, in 2011 on his 150th birth anniversary.


  • Although Ray seldom participated directly in the nationalist movement, owing to his job as a professor at then Calcutta’s Presidency College, he knew that without political independence, India’s economic progress would be unachievable.
  • As a result, he sympathised with all political movements — be it the moderates, the extremists, or the non-cooperation movement. His affection for both Mahatma Gandhi as well as Subhas Chandra Bose is well established in his writings.
  • As a nationalist, he wished for Bengalis to advance in the business world. He set an example by founding the Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works Pvt Ltd, a chemical company (1901) in Kolkata which is India’s only public-sector manufacturer of anti-malarial drugs.
    • He is a believer in the ideal that “industry, as a rule, preceded science,” and was conscious of the impact the setting up of a factory would have on India’s knowledge reserve.
    • “In the early 1900s, almost all prominent revolutionaries had some association either with Ray or Bengal Chemicals. For the cause of Independence, Ray helped those involved in violent methods to make bombs and supplied them with acid,”
    • It was the Second World War that brought new opportunities for Ray and Bengal Chemicals. “There was a demand for essential drugs for soldiers. A new plant and a pharmacy were installed at Panihati. Two production units were shifted to Lahore in 1942. And a factory was opened in Bombay in 1938,”
    • Recently, Hydroxychloroquine or HCQ, the Anti-malarial drug praised by some as a potential weapon against COVID-19, has put the spotlight on this company.

Social reforms:

  • Ray was an outspoken rationalist who hated the caste system and other irrational social constructs.
  • He organised the Bengal Relief Committee in 1923 after the floods.
  • He made contributions to Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Indian Chemical Society, and Brahmo Girls’ School.
  • He constituted awards
    • In 1922, he donated money to establish Nagarjuna Prize to be awarded for the best work in chemistry.
    • In 1937, another award, named after Ashutosh Mukherjee, to be awarded for the best work in zoology or botany, was established from his donation.
  • He persisted in his social reformation mission until his death in 1944.

Literary Works

  • A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth Century (1902)
  • Saral Prani Bijnan (Simple Science) (1902)
  • Life and Experience of a Bengali Chemist (1932)

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