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Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science
Year : 2006, Volume : 54, Issue : 4
First page : ( 519) Last page : ( 520)
Print ISSN : 0019-638X.

Obituary 1

 

Professor Sushil Kumar Mukherjee, an Honorary Member and a Past President of the Indian Society of Soil Science, and the first Indian to be an Honorary Member of the International Society of Soil Science (now International Union of Soil Science) breathed his last in Kolkata on November 18, 2006 at 03:25 A.M.). Born on the first of January, 1914 in the district of Barishal, ndw a part of Bengladesh, Prof. Mukherjee obtained M.Sc. degree in chemistry from the University of Calcutta in 1936, and Associateship of the then Imperial (now Indian) Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi in 1938. He joined the Calcutta School of colloid research led by Prof. Jnanendra Nath Mukherjee. His thesis, “Electrochemical properties of hydrogen clays”, earned him the D.Sc. degree in Chemistry of the University of Calcutta in the year 1945.

Professor Mukherjee started his professional career in 1943 with All India Soil Survey for Eastern India under the programme “Grow more food” campaign of the Imperial (now Indian) Council of Agricultural Research and served up to 1947. From 1947 to 1957, he served Calcutta University as lecturer first in Pure Chemistry and then Applied Chemistry. During this period (1948–50) he visited U.S.A. and worked as a postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Missouri with Prof. C. E. Marshall, on membrane electrodes and micro-calorimetric estimation of heat of ion exchange on clay colloids. Professor Mukherjee was a UNESCO Consultant to Indonesia during 1957–60; where he established the Faculty of Science and started teaching Chemistry at the University level. Back to Calcutta, he joined the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in 1960 as Professor in the Department of Macromolecules. The next year, he went to the newly established University of Kalyani (1961–65) as its Dean of Faculty of Science and Professor of Chemistry. He rejoined the University of Calcutta as the first incumbent of the newly created Chair of Acharya P. C. Ray Professor of Agricultural Chemistry (1965–68) Subsequently, Professor Mukherjee became the Vice-Chancellor, University of Kalyani (1968–70), but before the completion of the term, he was invited by the Government of India to be a full-time member of the National Commission of Agriculture (1970–75). He returned to Calcutta as the Director of Bose Institute (1976), and within a year, became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta (1976–78). Professor Mukherjee retired from active service in 1978.

As a research leader, Professor Mukherjee established an active school of research on membrane electrodes and other aspects of soil colloidal chemistry. A large number of research students have worked under the guidance of Professor Mukherjee; more than forty students received the Ph.D. degree. Many of those students are holding responsible academic and industrial positions.

A Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy and the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Professor Mukherjee has own several distinctions and awards. He obtained the J.B. Chatterjee Memorial Medal (1980) of the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, Acharya J.C. Ghosh Memorial Medal (1983) of the Indian Chemical Society, Golden Jubilee Award of the Indian Society of Soil Science (1984) for meritorious service to the Society and for the cause of soil science, Indian National Science Academy Silver Jubilee Commemoration Medal Lecture on Agricultural Sciences delivered at Madurai (1988), Distinguished Service Award of the Indian Science Congress Association during its Platinum Jubilee (1990), Honorary Membership of the International Society of Soil Science (1986), presently renamed as the International Union of Soil Science (the first Indian to have received such recognition), Dr. B.C. Roy Birth Centenary Oration (1992). Professor Mukherjee was conferred the Honorary (Honoris Causa) D. Sc. degrees of the University of Kalyani (1983), University of Burdwan (1988) and of the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (2006).

During his professional career, Professor Mukherjee visited many countries. In 1965, he had been to USSR under the auspices of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Society, and again in 1978, to attend the Congress of the World Federation of Scientific Workers. Professor Mukherjee visited Montpellier in France in 1986 as a member of the Indian delegation to participate in discussions relating to rural development programmes in France. In 1984, Professor Mukherjee went to Vietnam on an international delegation of scientists to gather in situ evidence for the extensive pollution of soil, water, aquatic life as well as human deformations resulting from the chemical warfare launched by the U.S. forces against Vietnam during 1965–75.

Even after his formal retirement in 1978, Professor Mukherjee remained involved in varied activities. He had been associated at different periods with a number of learned organizations and institutions in advisory capacities. These include the Asiatic Society, Indian Chemical Society, Indian Society of Soil Science, Indian National Science Academy, Indian Science Congress Association, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Bose Institute, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Visva-Bharati, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Technology, and Member, State Planning Board of the Government of West Bengal, President — Pharmaceutical and Phytochemical Development Corporation Limited (A Government of West Bengal Undertaking), Paschimbanga Vigyan Mancha, Association of Scientific Workers of India, President — Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan, and so on. Professor Mukherjee had discharged for long the editorial responsibilities of the Indian Journal of History of Science and the Everyman's Science, the scientific publication of the Indian Science Congress Association.

Professor Mukherjee is survived by his wife, Professor K.K. Rohatgi-Mukherjee. Professor Mukherjee was a selfless, dedicated and very popular teacher as well as a committed seeker of scientific truth. The Member of the Indian Society of Soil Science pay their deep homage and pray for peace of the great departed soul.

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