Covid-19, hydroxychloroquine and Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray

Updated on Apr 10, 2020 05:09 PM IST

The Kolkata-based Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Limited, the only public sector unit that manufactures anti-malarial drug in India, said it will apply for a licence to produce HCQ soon.

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray transformed his initiative into Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Works Pvt Ltd, with a capital of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>2 lakh, by 1901.(Wikipedia)
Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray transformed his initiative into Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Works Pvt Ltd, with a capital of 2 lakh, by 1901.(Wikipedia)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Hydroxychloroquine or HCQ, the anti-malarial drug touted by some as a potential weapon against Covid-19, has put the spotlight on a company founded by Prafulla Chandra Ray, considered to be the father of Indian chemistry.

The Kolkata-based Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Limited, the only public sector unit that manufactures anti-malarial drug in India, said it will apply for a licence to produce HCQ soon.

Bengal Chemicals had started HCQ’s production but was stopped decades ago.

Here is more about Prafulla Chandra Ray:

* Born on August 2 in 1861, Ray set up Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals as an individual initiative in a laboratory in 1892 to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship among the youth of Bengal.

* After getting a DSc degree from Edinburgh University in 1887, Ray started teaching chemistry at Presidency College. By 1892, with a capital of about 700, he had started Bengal Chemical Works, and presented its herbal products before the Indian Medical Congress’ 1893 session held in Kolkata.

* Ray transformed his initiative into Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Works Pvt Ltd, with a capital of 2 lakh, by 1901.

* He never took any salary from the company.

* By 1908, it had made its mark in Bengal’s industrial sphere and John Cumming wrote in the ‘Review of the Industrial Position and Prospects in Bengal’ that the ‘enterprise shows signs of resourcefulness and business capacity, which should be an object lesson to capitalists of this province’.

* Under his stewardship, Bengal Chemicals grew fast. From having its first and second factories in Kolkata’s Maniktala in 1905 and the northern suburbs of Panihati in 1920, it set up a third factory in Mumbai in 1938.

* Prafulla Chandra Ray authored, among other books, the ‘History of Hindu Chemistry – From the Earliest Times to the Middle of the Sixteenth Century AD’, a book that documented India’s indigenous chemical practices starting from the Vedic era.

* He published a paper in 1896 on the preparation of a new stable chemical compound: mercurous nitrite. It made way for a large number of investigative papers on nitrites and hyponitrites of different metals, and on nitrites of ammonia and organic amines.

* Ray retired in 1936 aged 75 and died on June 16, 1944, at the age of 82.

* 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.

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