In 1879 he passed the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University and entered the Metropolitan Institution. P.C.Roy developed his interest in science after reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and his famous ‘kite experiment’. At that time the Metropolitan Institution had no science classes or laboratories and Prafulla Chandra attended lectures in physics and chemistry at the Presidency College, Calcutta. Here he was specially attracted by the chemistry courses of professor Alexander Pedler. It was Pedler who first awakened his interest in natural science. While taking the science course for the B.A. Degree, he was awarded in 1882 one of the two Gilchrist Prize Scholarships after an all-India competitive examination. Without completing the course for his degree, Prafulla Chandra proceeded to the United Kingdom for further study and entered the Edinburgh University. In Chemistry, he was a pupil of Professor Alexander Crum Brown, F.R.S., noted for his philosophical outlook and engaging personality. Alexander Smith and James Walker were his fellow students. He obtained the B.Sc. degree in 1886, and the D.Sc. degree in 1887. He was awarded the Hope Prize. While being a student of Edinburgh University, he was elected Vice-President of Edinburgh University Chemical Society in 1888.
In 1896, he published an important paper on preparation of a new stable chemical compound: mercurous nitrite. This pathbreaking work made way for a large number of investigative papers on nitrites and hyponitrites of different metals, and on nitrites of ammonia and organic amines. All this endeavour along with his inspiring leadership gave birth to a brand new Indian School of Chemistry in 1924.
Prafulla Chandra retired from the Presidency College in 1916, and joined the University College of Science (now known as Rajabazar Science College) as its first Palit Professor of Chemistry, a chair named after Tarak Nath Palit. Here also he got a dedicated team and he started working on compounds of gold, platinum, iridium etc. with mercaptyl radicals and organic sulphides. A number of papers were published on this work in the Journal of the Indian Chemical Society.
In 1936, at the age of 75, he retired from active service and became Professor Emeritus. Long before that, on the completion of his 60th year in 1921, he made a free gift of his entire salary to the Calcutta University from that date onward, to be spent for the furtherance of chemical research, and the development of the Department of Chemistry in the University College of Science.
His contributions in the field of Chemistry were widely acclaimed. He had written 107 papers in all branches of Chemistry by 1920.
In 1902, he published the first volume of A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Sixteenth Century. The second volume was published in 1908. The work was result of many years' painstaking search through ancient Sanskrit manuscripts and through works of orientalists.
He donated money regularly towards welfare of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Brahmo Girls' School and Indian Chemical Society. In 1922, he donated money to establish Nagarjuna Prize to be awarded for the best work in chemistry. In 1937, another award, named after Ashutosh Mukherjee, to be awarded for the best work in zoology or botany, was established from his donation.
His family, in particular, his father Harish Chandra Roy, was strongly associated with Brahmo Samaj. Prafulla Chandra developed direct connections with the Samaj as he grew up; he used to attend sunday evening sermons of Keshub Chandra Sen and was deeply influenced by Sen's Sulabha Samachar.
It is stated in the Upanishads that The One said, 'I shall be Many'. The beginning of Creation is a move towards self-immolation. Prafulla Chandra has become many in his pupils and made his heart alive in the hearts of many. And that would not have been at all possible had he not unreservedly made a gift of himself. The glory of this power in Prafulla Chandra as teacher will never be worn out by decrepitude. It will extend further in time through the ever-growing intelligence of youthful hearts ; by steady perseverance they will win new treasures of knowledge.This summarizes the effect and influence that Prafulla Chandra had on his followers and countrymen.