Investigating Sir J.C. Bose (Botanist) and Acharya P.C. Ray (Chemist)

I have been nominated as a researcher in the UGC-UKIERI Project titled, “Scottish Orientalism and the Indian Renaissance, the Continuum of Ideas: Tagore and his Circle”, being jointly coordinated by Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland and Visva-Bharati Shantiniketan, India. While pursuing my Ph.D. at Visva-Bharati, I have been fortunate enough to pay an academic visit to Edinburgh, Scotland from 9 to 18 March, 2015.

Dr Biswanath Banerjee
Dr Biswanath Banerjee

This research trip has been very productive for my academic career. During those days I had the opportunity to conduct intensive studies on the said topic of the project. Being deeply interested in Tagore studies and the East-West encounter in the colonial era, this project has provided me the valuable opportunity to trace the exchange of ideas and people between Scotland and India from mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, locate the relevance of the work and ideas of Tagore and his circle, and to interpret the significance and impact of the ‘meeting of minds’ from West and East across borders.

On this visit I have been very fortunate to get access to the resources of the National Library of Scotland, the Edinburgh Napier University Library, the University of Edinburgh Library and the Dundee University Library. In these rich and resourceful libraries I could go through a vast body of printed records, newspaper archives, correspondence and literary sources in the field of my study on the project.

It is important to mention that Patrick and Arthur Geddes’s papers at the National Library of Scotland, and especially Patrick Geddes’s documents on education and environment, which resonate with Tagore’s own ideas and work, which has been very helpful for my research. In addition to this, Dundee University Archives has been very helpful to me, providing some enlightening records, highlighting the economic links between Dundee and Kolkata.

Many interesting records on the East-West encounter and especially the West’s conceptualization of the East in the colonial era have come up from my study of the personal journals and accounts of a number of women travellers to India. In this context, it would be worth mentioning that the papers and documents of some of the contemporaries of Tagore, especially those of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose (botanist) and Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray (chemist), the two premier scientists of India, in these libraries were very relevant and important for the project.

Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose was intimately associated with Rabindranath Tagore and took an active part in propagating the Poet’s ideas of science, education, and environment. He was also substantially influenced by the scientific ideas of Patrick Geddes. The latter wrote an enlightening biography on Bose. Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray visited Scotland to study the B.Sc. course at the University of Edinburgh in 1882 and obtained a BSc and DSc from the University.

Ray’s writings and accounts on the overall intellectual climate of the late 19th century Scotland and his detailed account of the literary, cultural and scientific ambience of the Scottish universities has been very valuable. All these documents, kept in these libraries and archives, have served as important resources to critically analyze the East-West intellectual and cultural exchange within the broader historical matrix of colonization.

My research trip to Edinburgh, Scotland could not have been possible without the active support and cooperation which I have received from Prof. Tapati Mukherjee, Principal Investigator in India, UGC-UKIERI Project and Prof. Bashabi Fraser, Principal Investigator in the UK, UGC-UKIERI Project and Prof. Amrit Sen, Co-Investigator, UGC-UKIERI Project. I would like to extend my heartiest gratitude to them for nominating me as a researcher and finding me eligible for the Project.

I had especially been extremely fortunate to stay in the hospitable company of Prof. Bashabi Fraser and Prof. Neil Fraser during my visit to Edinburgh. Their intensive research and scholarship in the field of the Project proved an immense help which shaped and moulded my thoughts and ideas. It was due to Prof. Bashabi Fraser’s cooperation and guidance that I have been able to access the resources at the different Scottish libraries.

Prof. Fraser has also made it possible for me to attend various research meetings with colleagues of the UKIERI team at Edinburgh Napier University.I shall be anxiously looking forward to see that my research work in Scotland contribute to and help towards strengthening and deepening the knowledge and interest in the continuum of ideas that has existed between Scotland and India through time. I will add significantly to the dialogue between the East and the West.


Dr. Biswanath Banerjee

Assistant Professor of English

School of Social Science and Liberal Arts Adamas

University of Barasat