Seal, Brajendra Nath

Seal, Brajendra Nath (1864-1938) philosopher, was born on 3 September 1864 at Kolkata's Rammohan Saha Lane. His father, Mahendra Nath Seal, was a reputed lawyer at Calcutta High Court. Brajendra Nath lost both his parents early in life and was brought up by his maternal uncle, Radharaman Nath. After completing his BA at Calcutta's General Assembly's Institution (later to be known as Scottish Church College) he became a lecturer there. In 1884 he obtained his MA degree in Mental and Moral Philosophy, standing first in first class. In 1910 he got his PhD degree from calcutta university for his thesis on 'Mechanical, Physical and Chemical Theories of Ancient Hindus'.

Brajendra Nath taught at a number of colleges and also served as a principal. He was the first Indian principal at Coochbihar Victoria College (subsequently renamed Acharya Brajendra Nath Seal College). He served as the main professor of Philosophy at Calcutta University from 1912 to 1921. From 1921 to 1930 he was the vice-chancellor of Mysore University. He also headed the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at Calcutta University (later named the Brajendra Nath Seal Chair of Mental and Moral Science).

On 15 October 1899 Brajendra Nath attended the Congress International Des Orientalists in Rome and presented a paper on “Comparative Studies in Vaishnavism and Christianity.” In this paper he spoke on the philosophy of history and the method of comparative history. In July 1911 he attended 'The Universal Race Congress' at London University and read a paper on 'Race Origin'. In this paper he presented a new theory on the origin of races on the basis of his studies in ethnology, anthropology, zoology, geology, sociology, economics, history and philosophy. He was the first Indian to apply the principles of mathematics to comparative literature, religion and philosophy. He was well versed in ten eastern and western languages, both ancient and modern.

Brajendra Nath was one of the greatest scholars of his time and was addressed as 'acharya'. He was also known as a “moving university” for his knowledge. He made Hindu philosophy and Indian ideals known to the western world, pointed out shortcomings in the philosophies of Hegel and Spencer, called for revision in the historical method and advocated the concept of world humanism. rabindranath tagore, swami vivekananda, Max Mueller, Michael Saddler and other advocates of world humanism were greatly attracted by his search for knowledge and concept of research. Vivekananda was a fellow student in his college. At Rabindranth's invitation, Brajendra Nath presided over the inauguration of Visva-Bharati on 23 December 1921. He also delivered the convocation addresses at the universities of Mysore, Madras, Bombay, Trivandrum, setting new directions in the field of knowledge and scholarship.

Brajendra Nath Seal acquired skill in many branches of knowledge. His essays contain profound discourse on art, literature, culture, civilization, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy. His best-known works are A Memoir on the Co-efficient of Numbers: A Chapter on the Theory of Numbers(1891); Neo-Romantic Movement in Bengali Literature (1890-91); A Comparative Study of Christianity and Vaishvavism (1899); New Essays in Criticism (1903); Introduction to Hindu Chemistry (1911); Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus (1915); Race-Origin (1911); Syllabus of Indian Philosophy (1924); Rammohan Roy: The Universal Man (1933); and The Quest Eternal (1936).

His research papers were published in the Calcutta Review, Modern Review, New India, Dawn, Bulletin of Mathematical Society, Indian Culture, Hindustan Standard, British Medical Journal, prabasi, sabujpatra and Viswa-Bharati.

For his exceptional contributions, he was awarded the DSc (1915), a knighthood (1926) and Mysore's Rajratnapradip (1930). The Indian Philosophical Congress arranged a reception in 1935 to honour him when he turned 72. Rabindranath sent him a citation on this occasion. [Pradip Kumar Roy]