R. P. Paranjpe
Sir Raghunath Purushottam Paranjpye (16 February 1876 – 6 May 1966) was the first Indian to achieve the coveted title of Senior Wrangler at the University of Cambridge, and became a university administrator and Indian ambassador.
‘Wrangler’ – What does this honor mean?
Previously, at the Cambridge University of England, a student who gains first-class honors in the third year of the University’s undergraduate exam was honored by the title of ‘Wrangler’. The highest scoring student was called ‘Senior Wrangler’. R. P. Paranjape became a Senior Wrangler in the year 1899 by excelling in these exams. In those days, the exams were conducted only orally. Later in time they switched to exams in written format. The students appearing for exams would sit on a three legged stool; hence, the exams were named ‘Tripos’. The examiners would sit on a chair facing the student and intimidate them with the most difficult questions to test their true knowledge of the subject. The student, who would become senior wrangler, would further receive many awards and liberties. A senior wrangler would get many facilities for his further education; including a fellowship, a good position in the university and an invitation to write a book.
Raghunath Paranjpye was born at Murdi near Dapoli in the coastal Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. He was educated at Maratha high school, Bombay, Fergusson College, Pune and Bombay University before entering St John's College, Cambridge in 1896. He graduated B.A. as senior wrangler in 1899. Paranjpye was elected a Fellow of St John's College in November 1901 and stayed as such until 1907, but returned to India to become a professor of mathematics at Fergusson College in 1902. One of the earliest Indian documentary film makers, H. S. Bhatavdekar, made silent documentary films, Return of Wrangler Paranjpye (1902) and Delhi Durbar of Lord Curzon (1903), featuring R. P.
In 1907, R. P. became the first librarian of the Indian Mathematical Society at Fergusson College. He became the college's principal, and stayed in that position for two decades, until 1926. Subsequently, he consecutively became the Vice-Chancellor of Bombay University and Lucknow University. In 1921, the University of Calcutta awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Sir Paranjpye was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1912 representing the University of Bombay constituency. He was again elected to the enlarged Council as per the Government of India Act 1919. As part of Diarchy in Bombay Presidency, Paranjpye was appointed as the first Minister for Education and he served in the position till 1923. He was unable to get elected in the 1923 elections losing to M. R. Jayakar of the Swaraj Party.
Paranjpye received a British knighthood in 1942. In the three years (1944–1947) preceding India's independence from the British Raj, the British government appointed him India's High Commissioner to Australia. In the days of the British Raj, there was some criticism that R. P. had often appeared on the side of British authorities at a time of nationalist ferment in India.
Acharya Atre has devoted one full chapter in his autobiography for Wrangler Paranjpye and has written about his fame all over the country and how because of him students from outside Maharashtra came to study at Ferguson College.
His younger brother, Hari Purushottam Paranjpye was a well known agriculturist of his time. In 1991, the Government of India awarded R. P.'s daughter Shakuntala Paranjpye a Padma Bhushan title in recognition of her work in the field of family planning. She was also a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha in the 1960s In 2006, the Government of India awarded R. P.'s granddaughter Sai Paranjpye a Padma Bhushan title in recognition of her artistic talents. She is a film director and a scriptwriter.
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