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Ashutosh Mukherjee: Teacher who identified talents

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Don’t we celebrate Teacher’s Day on the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan? But did you know he had a mentor-teacher in none other than Ashutosh Mukherjee, who was the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University between 1906-1914 and 1921-1923. Other than being a brilliant educationist and academician himself, Mukherjee had the rare ability as a teacher to identify and groom young talents, who later, went on to become well-known academicians recognized globally.

How many of us are aware that Nobel Laureate C V Raman had a mentor in Mukherjee? Ashutosh Mukherjee persuaded the famous physicist to teach at CU. Raman was then posted at the government’s finance department. Mukherjee convinced the budding physicist to work as a Palit Professor of Physics at the Science College. Such was his charisma as a teacher and mentor, that Raman decided to join at a much lower salary. But well, Raman’s coming to Calcutta was a blessing for the physicist. It was from CU that he started his pioneering research on Raman’s Spectrumthat led him to win the Noble Prize in Physics.

In 1921, Ashutosh Mukherjee convinceda budding philosopher, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to join the Calcutta University. And this Teacher’s Day, we remember Radhakrishnan who had a mentor in Mukherjee. Mukherjee had also inspired famous mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujam and helped him to put forth his theories in the academic circle.

As a teacher and mentor, he was fiercely supportive of students. Young Subhas Chandra Bose, then a student of Presidency College, where he assaulted a professor for abusing Indians was thrown out of college. The British asked the then Vice-Chancellor Ashutosh Mukherjee to remove Bose from the University as well. Mukherjee was not ready to destroy the career of a brilliant student who stood up against injustice. He made alternate arrangements for Bose to study at Scottish Church College.