ANANDA M. CHAKRABARTY Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters


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Oil is transported in huge tankers over the seas. During the voyage, oil from the tankers leaks into the sea. Such pollution affects marine plants and animals. Some are crippled and some die. No solution to this problem appeared possible till Ananda M. Chakrabarty created a remarkable “bug".


Pseudomonas is a class of bacteria which can eat different compounds of hydrocarbons, molecules made up of carbon and hydrogen. Crude oil is a complex mixture of such compounds, called “Fractions". The pseudomonas bacteria could, therefore, be used to eat oil spilled on the sea, but each strain of the bacteria eats only a particular hydrocarbon compound and does not function, or even survive, if another hydrocarbon compound is present. The need was for a strain of bacteria which could eat many hydrocarbon compounds. Chakrabarty invented such a superstrain.


Chakrabarty was born on April 4, 1938, in Sainthia, 190 km. from Calcutta. His father was a rice and coal merchant, who, though he was not rich, wanted to give his children a good education. Ananda was sent to a distant school, the Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandir at Belurmath. Here the monks taught him to become a rational thinker and spend a disciplined life.


After doing his B.Sc. at St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta, he did his M.Sc. and Ph.D. at the University of Calcutta. He has great regard for his research guide, Professor S. C. Roy, who told him “how to go ahead experimenting with uncommon ideas not popular or even realistic at the time.” It was Roy who advised him to shift his interest from biochemistry to molecular genetics.


In 1965 Chakrabarty left for the USA. He first took up research in molecular genetics under Professor I.C. Gunasalus at the University of Illinois and later joined the General Electric Research and Development Center. During research there he found that under the optimum conditions of time, temperature and nutrients, the hydrocarbon-eating “qualities” of four different strains of bacteria could be transferred into one. He also showed that his superstrain of bacteria reproduces itself.


For the first time an artificial “bug” was thus created. Chakrabarty’s now patented “Superbug” digests hydrocarbons at a far faster rate than naturally occurring bacteria. It converts the hydrocarbons into a harmless protein-rich food which could be easily eaten by marine animals.