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Sir Jnan Chandra Ghosh (14 September 1894 – 21 January 1959) was an Indian chemist best known for his contribution to the development of scientific research, industrial development and technology education in India.He was also known for his development of anomaly of strong electrolytes and the ionization theory. J C Ghosh’s other important contributions include his extensive study of photocatalysts under the influence of polarised light and developments of Fischer–Tropsch reaction for the synthesis of hydrocarbons. Dr. Ghosh made contributions in the field of application of Differential Thermal Application (D.T.A) as tool to the systematic study of solid catalysts. He also successfully guided research work on technical problems relating to the production from Indian raw materials of phosphatic fertilisers, ammonium sulphate, formaldehyde, potassium chlorate etc. During his active career in building scientific research, technical education and industrial development, he was the Head of Department of Chemistry at Dacca University, the Director of Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore, the Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, and the Director-general of Industries and Supplies, Government of India.
Jnan Chandra Ghosh was born in Giridih near Purulia District, British India. Son of Ram Chandra Ghosh, J C Ghosh belonged to a family of mica mine owner and mica merchant.He had his initial schooling at Giridih High School, where he stood first in the Chotnagpur Division in 1909 and enroll in Presidency College, Kolkata. At Presidency College, he was among finest students who would later become famous scientists. In the 1911, Jnan Chandra Ghosh got fourth position in I.Sc. examination, while his other famous classmates Satyendranath Bose topped the list and Meghnad Saha got the third position.He passed both B.Sc. and M. Sc. as first in the first class in Chemistry and it during this time he came under inspiring influence of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray. The Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee invited Jnan Ghosh to join as a lecturer even before the results were published. After his M.Sc,. he was appointed as a lecturer in of Chemistry of newly founded University College of Science, Calcutta.
Sir Tarak Nath Palit Scholarship and Premchand Raychand student of the year award enabled J C Ghosh to travel to England for his doctoral degree at University College of Science in London. In London, he took up research on various problems of photochemistry and he led to the exposition of theory of anomaly of strong electrolytes and the ionization theory. His scientific research drew appreciation from many famous scientists such as Max Planck, William Bragg and Walther Nernst. In 1918, he was awarded D.Sc. for his research on strong electrolytes. During his stay in London, he worked for some time under Frederick G. Donnan.
In 1921, J C Ghosh returned to India and joined the newly established Dacca University as professor and Head of the department of Chemistry. He served Dacca University for about twenty years and with successes in research in building a brilliant school of Physical Chemistry. The most intensive research was carried out in the field of photo-chemistry, bio-chemistry and agricultural chemistry. He also served as dean of the Faculty of Sciences in 1924 and Provost of the Dacca University Hall from 1925 til the end of his stay. He attracted many to scientific research by his devotion and personality. His service at the Dacca University is considered to be the best period in his career in shaping science education in India.In 1939, he was summoned to succeed, C V Raman as the Director of the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore. At IISc too, J C Ghosh developed the institute rapidly by introducing engineering studies such as Aeronautical Engineering, Internal Combustion Engineering, Metallurgy and Power and High Voltage Engineering. During his service at IISC, he was knighted in 1943, chiefly for his war services.
He pioneered research on the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis for obtaining liquid fuel from carbon-monoxide and hydrogen and step-wise mechanism of ammonia synthesis from its elements, nitrogen and hydrogen. The findings were published in a book titled Some Catalytic Gas Reactions of Industrial Importance.
Inspired by his mentor Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, J C Ghosh was committed to development of industries in India.Towards that goal, he led research work on technical problems relating to the production from Indian raw materials of phosphatic fertilisers, ammonium sulphate, formaldehyde, potassium chlorate. He transitioned to the role of Director-General of Industry and Supply (1947-1950) and collaborated with international experts that laid the basis of heavy industries of steel, petroleum, machine tools and radar industries. During this period, he also served as a member of All India Council of Technical Education and there he felt the inadequacy of quality trained person for large-scale industrial development. The need of technical education led to the establishment of technology institute and J C Ghosh became the first Director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. J C Ghosh built a strong foundation with cosmopolitan environment and bringing right people from across India and all over the world. He believed in close interaction between teachers, students and administration. At his highest intense involvement at IIT, Kharagpur, he was called upon to lead his alma mater, Calcutta University. The news of his departure, the students at IIT, Kharagpur went on a mass strike. Sir J C Ghosh addressed the students on the lawns of the students’s residence, Patel Hall, and broke down in the middle of his speech and cried. In 1954, he left for Calcutta to become Vice Chancellor Calcutta University where he started focusing on the improvements of living conditions of the students. In 1954, the Government of India awarded Padma Bhushan on him in recognition of his ability and service to the country.
After a year, he was inducted into the Planning Commission and was placed in charge of Education, Scientific Research and Health. Since May 1955, Dr. Ghosh had served with great distinction as Member of the Planning Commission. He took part in all the stages of the preparation of the Second Five Year Plan and had a large share in working out proposals for the expansion of facilities for technical education at various levels. He died in harness on 21 January 1959.