Dey, Pran Kumar

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Dey, Pran Kumar (1901-1990) educationist and scientist. Born on 1 February 1901 at Ratnakundali village of faridpur district, Dey obtained his BSc and MSc degrees from Dhaka University in 1922 and 1924 respectively. He stood first in both the examinations. He pursued research in organic chemistry during 1924-1926 at Dhaka University and on biological and microbiological techniques during 1927-1930 at the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore.

PK Dey's professional career started in 1930 as a teacher in Chemistry at Dhaka University where he worked up to 1946. Under the inspiring guidance of Sir JC Ghosh, he organised a small agricultural research unit within the Department of Chemistry; it gradually grew into a full-fledged Department of Soil Science. He was among the first batch of teachers of the newly founded department at Dhaka University. When the College of Agriculture was established in dhaka in 1939, the responsibility of teaching organic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology fell on him. He carried out the responsibility with sincerity, devotion and zeal. PK Dey carried out extensive research on microbiology and it was here that he observed certain species of blue-green algae capable of fixing elementary nitrogen from the atmosphere. Extension of these studies during 1936-1938 at Queen Mary College in London under Professor FE Fritsch earned him the PhD degree of London University in 1938 for his thesis entitled 'Role of Blue-Green Algae in N-fixation in Rice Field'. This discovery earned him international repute and led to a completely new theory of soil fertility.

After the partition of India Dr Dey worked as Microbiologist in the Department of Agriculture, west bengal, from 1947 to 1951. Under his leadership a group of young researchers worked on a comprehensive scheme of soil fertility, popularly known as Stewart's scheme. From 1952 to 1958 as first Principal of the State College of Agriculture, West Bengal, he worked tirelessly for agricultural education and research. In 1958 he worked for shifting the college to Haringhata, Nadia district, which later blossomed into a full-fledged agricultural university, the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya. After his retirement in 1959, he continued teaching as Professor at the indian statistical institute up to 1966 and was Honorary Professor at University College of Agriculture, university of calcutta, for more than a decade. He was not only an internationally famous microbiologist but also the pioneer organiser of agricultural education and research. In recognition of his outstanding contribution, the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya of West Bengal conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Science in 1979. He died on 12 June 1990 in Calcutta. [DK Das and SK Sanyal]