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Chemistry


Chemistry the science concerned with the composition of matter and of the changes that take place in it under certain conditions. The discipline has different branches. Organic chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with carbon compounds. Inorganic chemistry deals with the description, properties, reactions, and preparation of all the elements and their compounds, with the exception of carbon compounds. Physical chemistry is concerned with the quantitative explanation of chemical phenomena and reactions, and the measurement of data required for such explanations. This branch studies in particular the movement of molecules and the effects of temperature and pressure, often with regard to gases and liquids.

Chemistry as a modern discipline began to be taught in Bengal to students of calcutta medical college in the early1840s. It was taught as part of a course on pharmacology. It was introduced as a subject in the First Arts Examination in 1872. Enthusiasm for the subject however remained limited and few institutions offered a course in the subject. Calcutta Medical College in fact was the only institution which continued to impart instruction in the subject not only to its own students but to those of presidency college. Dr O'Shaughnessy who taught chemistry at this early period is also remembered in connection with the introduction of telegraphy in India. He is the author of Bengal Pharmacopoeia which contains a great deal of useful information based on his personal investigation of the effects and uses of important Indian drugs.

General Indian interest in chemistry remained limited till the 1860s and 70s. Lack of proper infrastructure for teaching the subject remained a serious constraint in most cases. As far as research in the subject was concerned much of it was carried out in connection with an ongoing interest in pharmacology. One of the pioneers in this field was Kanailal Dey Bahadur, who made a special study of the subject and taught at Campbell Medical School and later at Calcutta Medical College. He devoted himself to a study of indigenous plants and their medicinal uses. Other important works in pharmacology were brought out by Moodeen Sheriff and Ram Chandra Datta in the 1880s and 1890s respectively.

Such chemical researches did not come under the formal discipline of chemistry. The beginning of research in the subject was organised by Sir Alexander Pedler who taught at Presidency College and carried out a wide range of investigations. Their results were published in the Journal of the Chemical Society, London, and the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Later a much more sustained and systematic effort to organise research was initiated by Sir Acharya prafulla chandra ray who joined as Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Presidency College in 1889. The Bengal Pharmaceutical and Chemical Works, the product of his sustained efforts were established in 1892.

In 1894 the chemical laboratory of Presidency College moved to a more spacious location in a newly-built building. Acharya Ray collected a large supply of minerals from the Geological Survey of India to analyse rare Indian metals. Later, Ray made a significant discovery, a compound of Mercurous Nitrite. The report of this work was read at a meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in December 1895 and published in its journal the following year. In the same year two other papers in chemistry, one jointly by Alexander Pedler and Jyotibhushan Bhaduri and the other one solely by Chandra Bhushan Bhaduri were published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

From these early successes in original research Acharya Prafulla and his team of young researchers began to make significant contributions to the theory and practice of chemistry. Soon after, Ray's interests led him into research on the origins of chemical research in India. In 1902 the first volume of History of Hindu Chemistry was published as the first major work of its kind. The book was divided into six chapters including one on chemistry in Charak and Sushruta, chemistry in Vagbhata, Chemistry in the transitional (800-1100 AD) and Tantric (1100-1300 AD) periods, and Chemistry in the Rasarnava (1300-1500 AD) and in the Rasaratnashamuchya. The second volume of this book appeared in 1909.

With the establishment of the University College of Science in 1914 and the appointment of Acharya Ray as the first Palit Professor of Chemistry, study and research in the subject took new strides and directions. By the 1930s Indians had made major contributions to almost all branches of the subject.

As in many other countries research in inorganic chemistry remained confined to a few laboratories and was pursued by a limited number of scientists. Nevertheless, the Indian contribution in this field was significant. Active schools in addition to the one pioneered by Ray were maintained by Priyadaranjan Ray and PB Sarkar in Calcutta, HB Duncliff in Lahore, and by RC Ray in Patna.

Researches in physical chemistry originating in the works of Prof NR Dhar in 1915 at Presidency College were taken over and developed by prominent scientists in the field such as Jnan Chandra Ghosh, Jnanendranath Mukherjee and SS Bhatnagar. Many advances were made in the field of organic chemistry. NR Dhar, Hemendra Kumar Sen and Jnan Chandra Ghosh made a major theoretical advance with the reinterpretation of the Shulze-Hardy law.

Significant advances were also made in the other important fields such as analytical chemistry and, later, biochemistry. Some of the major contributions to the discipline in the 1930s and 1940s came from the field of applied chemistry. The course of study in Applied Chemistry at the University of Calcutta gradually became so specialised and technical that it appeared necessary to develop applied chemistry as a separate department. The Chemical Engineering at the universities was also established a few years later. [Madhumita Mazumdar]

Practice of Chemistry in Bangladesh The practice of ancient chemistry in Bangladesh has been elaborately documented in the monumental work of Sir Achariya Prafulla Chandra Ray, A History of Hindu Chemistry. Perhaps there was no formal education system in chemistry for common people but the methods of chemistry were used from time immemorial in this region. Svante Arrhenius in his book Chemistry in Modern Life mentioned the use of metallic and especially mercurial drugs as discussed by PC Ray. The introduction of Islam in Bangladesh began in the 12th century through the humanitarian activities of missionaries. The Sufies established collegiate bodies for the dissemination of knowledge for the welfare of mankind. But the alchemical belief in transmutation of base metals into gold persisted as in the Middle Eastern countries.

It is reported that under the east india company the English established the first school in dhaka in July 1835 for teaching English literature and science. Upto the beginning of the 20th century there were only 11 colleges in Bangladesh. Chemistry was taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Most of these colleges offered a BSc course with chemistry as one of a combination of subjects, mostly comprising Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry.

It may be noted that the majority of the population of Bangladesh during the period up to 1947 could not derive much benefit out of the facilities of scientific, medical and engineering education mainly for socio-economic and political reasons. However, in the past chemistry used to be taught in different universities of Bangladesh as a major course for 3 years at Honours level and 2 years for ordinary graduation after the pre-university level of education. The MSc course is of one-year duration for 3 year BSc (honours) graduates and of 2 years' duration for BSc (pass) graduates who are required to pass the MSc (preliminary) examination before taking up the final course. Dhaka University has recently introduced a 4 year BSc (honours) degree from the 1997-98 session. Nowadays the MSc course is of one-year duration for 4 year BSc (honours) graduates. Chemistry is also an essential requirement for degrees in medicine, engineering and agriculture and a subsidiary or minor subject for many other science major courses. Agricultural Chemistry was established at the only Agricultural University in Bangladesh situated at mymensingh. In Addition to BSc, MSc and PhD students of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the bangladesh university of engineering and technology (BUET) there are also MPhil and PhD students in pure chemistry studying there.

There are about nine university colleges where chemical education of Honours and MSc level exists. Similarly, there are 17 colleges under the national university which provide chemistry Honours and MSc level of education and 215 colleges have facilities for BSc Pass courses. Only one or two private universities and medical colleges provide education in chemistry dealing with environmental sciences. The University of Science and Technology, chittagong at present acts as a feeder institution to a private medical college at Chittagong, mainly in elementary biochemistry and pharmacy. The environmental chemistry education has been incorporated in the syllabuses of all the universities at the graduate and post-graduate levels.

Polytechnic Institutes together with the Institute of Graphic Arts, Textile College, Leather Technology College, Glass and Ceramic Institution, Agricultural Colleges, Home Economics College and Technical Teachers Training College also follow some elementary courses in chemistry relevant to their specific job requirements. Higher secondary level covers the pre-university or pre-degree stage of education. In addition, many of the degree level colleges under the academic jurisdiction of the National University also provide higher secondary level of chemical education for science students as a compulsory subject.

These days teaching of chemistry through the Open University system is possible because of the development of VIDEO and CD-ROM format which provide the means to teach practical chemistry outside the laboratory. [SZ Haider]

Chemistry journals and periodicals Scientific societies, research institutions and universities, at present play a very important role in publishing research results and in increasing awareness for research. In Bangladesh, chemistry journals and periodicals are published regularly by societies and research and educational institutions.

The Bangladesh Chemical Society Publishes Journal of the Bangladesh Chemical Society (JBCS), which first appeared in 1988 containing original research work on many branches of chemistry. This journal is published in English twice a year (June and December). The Journal of the Society for Pharmaceutical Chemists is published quarterly by the Society for Pharmaceutical Chemists. The Housing and Building Research Journal, a half-yearly journal published by the housing and building research institute, publishes research articles on aspects of housing and building materials, including ceramic chemistry.

bangladesh academy of sciences, Bangladesh Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), bangladesh atomic energy commission, Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), asiatic society of bangladesh, and all the public universities publish science journals regularly on their own research activities and chemistry occupies a considerable part of those. Besides these, there are also some more journals published by different organisations regularly or irregularly. A few of those are in Bangla.

Among the periodicals dealing with chemistry Purogami Vijnan (in Bangali) is the oldest and has been a quarterly science journal published by the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) since 1964. Rashayan (chemistry) the Bangla periodical of the bangladesh chemical society appeared first in 1985 and is being published regularly twice a year. The main objective of this periodical is to create awareness of chemistry among the masses of the country especially among the students of schools and colleges. It includes news about everyday chemicals in our domestic life and industry, chemical processes used in the industries and updates on chemical research. Apart from these, there are also numbers of periodicals which contain popular articles on chemistry in both the Bangla and English languages. [Md Rabiul Islam]