Skip to main content

Architect of Indian Pharmacy Education : Prof. Mahadev Lal Schroff


Clinical courses


Clinical research courses

Architect of Indian Pharmacy Education

Dr. R. S. Thakur
Former Secretary, Pharmacy Council of India.
Email :


Life sketch
Prof. Mahadev Lal Schroff

Early Life
Mahadeva Lal Schroff was born on 6th March, 1902 at Darbhanga, Bihar. His parents expired in childhood and hence his elder brother Shri Murlidhar Schroff, a lawyer by profession and patriotic citizen took care of his schooling. Mahadeva Lal Schroff passed High School examination in 1918 from Bhagalpur in Bihar and Intermediate examination in 1920. He took admission in Banaras Hindu University to study engineering. That was the period when freedom movement was gaining momentum in India as Champaran Satyagrah of 1917 had received popular support. Educational institutions were no exception in the popular freedom movement. It was in that context that Swami Satyadeo, a religious and political personality delivered a speech  at Banaras Hindu University campus. Mr. C. A. King Principal of Engineering College, was critical to Swami Satyadeo’s speech and made uncharitable remarks about Swami Satyadeo. M. L. Schroff revolted against the Principal’s hatred for the Swami and in retaliation, organised strike in BHU. The Principal retaliated and pressurized the students to shun such activities in future and apologise. Most of the strikers yielded but M. L. Schroff did not relent and rather left BHU.  After leaving BHU Schroff decided to leave India to complete his higher education abroad.


Reference Id : PHARMATUTOR-ART-3012

Voyage Abroad
It was in tune with that determination and craze for higher education that M. L. Schroff silently left for Hong Kong from Outram Ghat, Calcutta on the 19th October, 1921. His friend Sri Narayan Das Jhunjhunwala, saw him off at the port as Schroff even did not inform his elder brother about his voyage. He hardly had enough money, and when he reached Hong Kong, he was left with Rs.15/- only. Roaming helplessly in the streets one day he met an Indian gentleman, who advised him to go to Osaka in Japan. He had no choice but to leave Hong Kong and explore better prospects in Japan. In Osaka he started giving tuitions to some students and earned his livelihood. He started teaching Hindi in some school and also worked as an assistant editor of Osaka Mainichi, English daily. At the invitation of the editor of Osaka Mainichi he wrote a life sketch of Mahatma Gandhi in about 200 pages and received 200 yens for the work. Thus in the very first attempt in Journalism, his ambition for higher studies saw a ray of hope. Thus at the age of 22 years he set on journey to America.

Education in America
In the United States of America his ambition for higher studies made him to join B. Sc. Chemical Engineering course at Iowa and where after one term, by virtue of his merit, he earned scholarship. However, it happened so that in September 1923 the admission clerk badly treated him and made derogatory comments about Indians, which Schroff could not tolerate and decided to leave Iowa immediately. He sent a strong protest letter to the Registrar and left Iowa.
After leaving Iowa he took admission at Cornell University and obtained Bachelor’s degree with honours in Chemistry. Later, he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in 1927 obtained M.S.  in Chemistry and Microbiology. During studies at MIT he also attended lectures of reputed Professors at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His life in the United States was hard and rigorous because of concomitant earning and learning requirements. Besides devoting himself to studies at M.I.T. and Harvard University between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. he used to work in a factory at Maynard, Massachusetts from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and then walk down 2 miles to his residence.

Back Home
After getting his M.S. he worked for about a year in Johns Manville Corporation, New Jersey and returned back to India in 1929. He got employed by M/s Birla Brothers Ltd.  As, he could not find the job very suitable for his ideal character, he promptly left that job. The then prevailing conditions of the Indian society made him sad. The social imbalance and might of money power haunted his mind. The down-trodden people were highly exploited. A strong national struggle for home rule was in the offing. Altogether, M. L. Schroff felt disgusted and thought of going back to the United States. At this fateful time he met Sri Jamnalal Bajaj, who once again ignited enthusiasm and vigour in him. Now Schroff had to choose between his personal career and his love for the motherland.

Patriotic Fervour
The feeling of patriotism within Schroff was awakened by Sri Jamnalal Bajaj and he decided to work with him as his Secretary. He started taking active part in the freedom struggle once again. When ‘Salt Satyagraha’ started in March 1930 against the salt tax imposed by British Government in India, Schroff actively involved in the stir in Bihar that led to his arrest and six months imprisonment. He remained in the Hazaribagh Jail for six months, because no plea, no pleader, no appeal policy of British regime sternly delt with Satyagrahis. On his return from jail Sri Bajaj thought it better to utilize his scientific talent in some educational field rather than using him in the political activities.

BHU Stint
Schroff was introduced to Mahamanya Madan Mohan Malaviyaji by Sri Jamnalal Bajaj for best utilization of his intellect in the field of higher education. The visionary Malaviyaji invited M. L. Scroff to join the staff of Banaras Hindu University in 1931 in an Honorary capacity. Shortly after joining B.H.U. he married Kumari Prabha Basil, the second daughter of an eminent Engineer, Sri Bishan Das Basil of Calcutta.
It was at the Banaras Hindu University that Prof. Schroff adopted Pharmacy education as foremost mission of his life.  Incidently on 29th March, 1931 Drugs Enquiry Committee report was submitted to Government of India. Sooner the report was published, Schroff studied it in depth and took the recommendations of the Drugs Enquiry Committee report very seriously. He envisioned the bright prospects of pharmaceutical industry in India in times to come as the recommendations were well balanced in favour of the needs of the Nation. Schroff was fully convinced that the plight of industrialization can be successful only if adequately qualified competent personnel can be produced by Universities. It was with this conviction that in 1931, when Pharmacy as science and organized profession was almost nonexistent in India, he could convince Malaviyaji about the great potential and prospects of courses in Pharmaceutical Science in India in years to come and therefore, it is opportune moment to pioneer design and implementation of such at BHU. It did not take long for the great visionary Malaviyaji to realize the importance of the proposal and under his patronage Prof. Schroff undertook the task of organizing pharmaceutical education In India for the first time. He even set out to collect funds for this project and thus succeeded in establishing the section of Pharmaceutical Chemistry for the first time in 1932 in the Banaras Hindu University, which was subsequently rechristened B. Sc. (Pharmaceutical Chemistry) in 1934 and B. Pharm. from 1937 and develop the full-fledged Dept. of Pharmaceutics at BHU.  This was the beginning of modern pharmaceutical education on par with the education system of United States of America. Prof. Schroff thus laid down the foundation-stone of Pharmaceutical education in this country. After this, the dynamism of Prof. Schroff caused a whirlwind in the pharmaceutical sphere of India. The Indian Pharmacy owes a heavy debt to Late Professor Mahadeva Lal Schroff, who for the first time, conceived and crystallised pharmacy education par excellence in this country and provided trained manpower for domestic needs as well as demands overseas.

Important achievements
In December 1935, the United Provinces Pharmaceutical Association was started by him and he served it as Founder Secretary.
In December 1939 the U. P. Pharmaceutical Association was expanded and it became the Indian Pharmaceutical Association with branches in other States.
In 1939 he started publication of the Indian Journal of Pharmacy as its Editor-in-Chief  and continued in that position for about four years till he left Banaras in 1943.
He lent a great support to the movement for better pharmaceutical legislations in India and maintained continued follow up for the enactment of Drugs Act and Pharmacy Act in India as recommended by the Drugs Enquiry Committee. The Drugs Act of 1940 was passed as a result of his great pursuance.
He was elected a member of the first Drugs Technical Advisory Board constituted under the Drugs Act in 1941 and continued for two terms till 1947.
In 1941 he organised All-India Pharmaceutical Conference under the aegis of the Indian Pharmaceutical Association.
In 1943 he left Banaras and once again joined M/s. Birla Brothers as their Chief Chemist and Research Officer and later as the Secretary of the Birla Laboratories. Besides holding responsible post in the factory Prof. Schroff always took active part in the development of Pharmaceutical education and legislation in the country.
In 1944 he became the member of the Indian Pharmacopoeial List Committee. The Indian Pharmacopoeial List was thus first published in 1946.
He was also made a member of the Health Panel of the Planning Commission of the Government of India. He was one of the doyens in fighting for the enactment of Pharmacy Act, which was ultimately achieved in 1948.
In 1948 he organized the Indian Pharmaceutical Congress Association. The birth of Indian Pharmaceutical Congress Association was result of some developments and differences between Schroff the President and other office bearers of IPA.
In 1948 itself he organized the All-India Pharmacist Union at Calcutta, which undauntedly fought for the interests of the Indian Pharmacists in general and those of Bengal in particular.
In 1949 he was asked by the Birla College (now Birla Institute of Technology and Science) at Pilani in Rajasthan, to start another pharmacy institution and created a full Division of Pharmacy. At Pilani he laid foundation of the Rajasthan Academy of Sciences.  
In 1949 he was nominated by the Central Government as a member of Pharmacy Council of India under section 3(b) of Pharmacy Act, 1948.
On 16th May, 1949 in the very first meeting of the Pharmacy Council of India held at Delhi, he was elected the first Vice-President of the Pharmacy Council of India and continued for full term till 1954.
In 1952 once again he was called by Birlas to look after their industry and he was summoned back to Calcutta, the Professor also, due to failing health of Smt. Prabha Schroff at Pilani, preferred the change and shifted back to Calcutta. But alas! even Calcutta could not restore health to Prabhaji and after a protracted illness she passed away in June 1953, while Prof. Schroff was away in south India.
Later he was assigned the task of managing the Technical side of Sirsilk Ltd. at Sirpur in Hyderabad (now Andhra Pradesh). During this period he went abroad and extensively travelled throughout the United States of America and the continent of Europe for studying the most recent development in the manufacture of man-made fibres and fabrics.
In 1954, he was elected as President of the Pharmacy council of India and became first elected President of PCI.
During his stay at Calcutta he started the publication of another Pharmaceutical Journal, the Indian Pharmacist and also a Hindi Pharmaceutical Journal, Bhesaji Patrika. These publications made their mark and continued publications for over a decade but had to discontinue, when Prof. Schroff went abroad in 1956 and was out for a pretty long time.
From Birla brothers, he again migrated to the field of education and took charge of the newly started Department of Pharmacy at the University of Saugar as Professor and Head of the Department. This was the third Pharmaceutical Institution, which though not actually originated by Prof. Schroff, was developed to its present position almost from the scratch. Due to some differences with the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Saugar, he left Saugar and joined the Sahu Jain group and took charge of the Dhrangadhra Chemical works at Tirunelveli. In this capacity he worked till the end of 1962. On the completion of 60 years of his age he was presented in 1962, a grand commemoration volume by a large number of his students and admirers.
It is worth mentioning here that the Pharmaceutical education in the states of Bihar and Madras too owes much to the efforts of Prof. Schroff and Pharmaceutical courses leading to the Diploma in Pharmacy were started in both of them.
In January 1963, he joined the Rungta Higher Secondary School (Now Rungta Academy) as its principal.
In July 1964, Dr. Triguna Sen, Rector of Jadavpur University invited him to organise the newly started Department of Pharmacy at his University and appointed him the Professor of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Head of the Department. This was the fourth Pharmaceutical educational institution which owes its present status to this great Architect of Pharmaceutical education in India. It can be said without any fear of Contradiction that Prof. Schroff organized one of the best Departments of Pharmacy at Jadavpur University, Kolkata both in terms of equipment and Academic staff. During his stay at Javadpur University, he started the Association of Pharmaceutical Teachers of India as its founder President. This organization started publishing the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education of which Prof. Schroff was the Chief Editor.

In September 1969, the Professor got a severe heart attack, which caused a very serious set-back in his mighty endeavour of producing Pharmaceutical literature in India. But by the grace of God and his own will power he overcame his physical ailment and again got absorbed in his self-assigned task; and during his life time, he bought out:-
- Pharmaceutical Chemistry part III (Organic) Volume I (Principles);
-  Principles of Pharmacy; Biological Pharmacy Part I,
- General Pharmacy Part I, Part II (two volumes), Part III (three Volume);
- Professional Pharmacy Part I, Part II, Part III (two volumes).
• Professional Pharmacy Part V, Vol. I was in the press and could be published in 1972 posthumously.
• The manuscript of Biological Pharmacy Part II was in hand, and Prof. Schroff his favourite student Prof. G. P. Srivastava to complete that if by chance his health failed.

Contributions at a glance
1. Started the Department of Pharmaceutics at B. H. U. (1932);
2. Founded the Indian Pharmaceutical Association (1935 as U. P. Pharm. Assoc. and in 1939 as Indian Pharmaceutical Association);
3. Indian Journal of Pharmacy (1939);
4. Member Drugs Technical Advisory Board (1941-1947);
5. All-India Pharmaceutical Conference (1941, its president 1943 and 1947);
6. Member, Indian Pharmacopoeial List Committee (1944 - 46);
7. Indian Pharmacist and Bheshaji Patrika (1945);
8. President Bengal Pharmacists Association (1946);
9. Indian Pharmaceutical Congress Association (1948);
10. All-India Pharmacists Union (1948 Founder President);
11. President Bihar Pharmacists Association (1948);
12. President, Indian Pharmaceutical Association (1948);
13. Chairman, College of Pharmacy Commission, Govt. of Bengal (1947 - 48);
14. Vice-President, Pharmacy Council of India (1949 - 54);
15. President, Pharmacy Council of India (1954 - 60);
16.  Publication of Bheshajayan (1958),
17. Founder President, Association of Pharmaceutical Teachers of India (1966-67);
18. Member, Pharmaceutical and Drugs Research, Govt. of India (1966);
19. Chairman, Subject Panel on Pharmacy, C.S.T.T. (1967);
20. Chief Editor, Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (1968);
21. President, Institution of Chemists (India)  (1970-71).

Final Journey
On the 25th August, 1971 at 2.00 P.M., after he had already put in at least five hours of work, the fatal cardiac attack cut short his precious and valuable life and by the evening Professor Mahadeva Lal Schroff became memory. He was a living example of devotion to work, sincerity of purpose and service to the motherland to build a happier world.

Incidentally the author was born (1952) at a place 35 KMs away from Darbhanga (birth place of Prof. M. L. Schroff) and had an opportunity to meet Prof. M. L. Schroff at Patna in December, 1970. That time the author had just passed D. Pharm and completed his internship of 750 hours. Luckily, subsequently the author joined Jadavpur University i.e. the last of the four Pharmacy Departments set up by Prof. M. L. Schroff in India, for higher studies and obtained his B. Pharm; M. Pharm.; and Ph. D. (Pharm) degrees from there.