Specializing in soil science, Nil Ratan Dhar took his DSc (1917) from University of London, the degree of State Doctor of Science from France in 1919 and his honorary DSc from the Banaras Hindu University and the Universities of Allahabad, Jadavpur, Gorakhpur, Calcutta and Visva Bharati. He became the Professor of Chemistry, University of Allahabad and later, Founder Director, Sheila Dhar Institute of Soil Science, Allahabad.
Academic and Research Achievements: Dhar studied the influence of light on nitrogen fixation and nitrogen loss in soils and also the relationship between the nitrogen and phosphate status of soils. He demonstrated that organic matter which creates the humus content of soil, undergoes slow oxidation in contact with air and liberates energy; this energy aided by sunlight fixes atmospheric nitrogen on the soil surface and the phosphate, in addition to its being a plant food combines with proteins and amino acids due to phosphorylation and forms stable compounds which are resistant to oxidation and thus the loss of nitrogen is checked. He also researched on the problem of nitrogen loss from soils and explained the low recovery of nitrogen from fertilizers. The oxidation reactions of complex nitrogenous compounds in the soil, which are aided by aeration, temperature and light, were explained by his interventions. His works have been extensively quoted in textbooks of colloid chemistry, photochemistry and soil science.
Other Contributions: Dhar wrote more than a dozen books and monographs, mostly in English, and some popular books in Bengali. His autobiography, Reflections on Chemical Education, is a combination of fiction and facts. He was Member, Council (1964-66), Additional Vice-President and Additional Member (1950, 1970-71), INSA
Awards and Honours: Nil Ratan Dhar was the Corresponding Member, Academy of Sciences, France; Foreign member, French Academy of Agriculture; Founder Member, National Academy of Sciences (India) (President, 1935, 1937); Founder Member, Indian Chemical Society (President, 1933-34), Society of Biological Chemist (India), Agricultural Society of India and Indian Society of Soil Sciences (President); Fellow, Chemical Society (London) and Royal Institute of Chemistry; General President, Indian Science Congress Association (1961).