Ruchi Ram Sahni (1863-1948) was the first person from Punjab to make a career in science. He was the first Indian officer in the India Meteorological Department (1885). Moving by choice to teaching, he became the first Indian science professor at Government College Lahore which he served from 1887 till his retirement in 1918. The University instituted Ruchi Ram Sahni Declamation Contest Prize in his honour. He is also India’s first nuclear scientist who published two research papers in 1915 and 1917 working in the laboratory of Ernst Rutherford in Manchester where he interacted with Niels Bohr. (Interestingly, in his laboratory work, he was assisted by his son Birbal Sahni, the well known pale botanist, who was at the time studying in Cambridge.) Sahni entered Punjab Legislative Council as a member of the Swaraj Party.
Ruchi Ram was a conscientious and inspiring teacher who spent six months learning carpentry for the sake of laboratory work.He was an enthusiastic advocate of Punjabi (and regional languages in general) ‘as a vehicle of scientific ideas’. He gave public lectures in Punjabi in Lahore, other towns and even remote villages. All his lectures were ‘illustrated with easy experiments, often with simple apparatus which any one could make for himself’.
A life-long adherent of the Brahmo Samaj principles, he held all religions in high esteem. In or after 1945 he wrote Struggle for Reform in Sikh Shrines, which was later edited by Dr Ganda Singh and published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). With his characteristic thoroughness, he preserved all the press communiqués on the subject which SGPC had issued from time to time and subsequently presented a complete set to SGPC whose own collection had gaps.