GOPALASAMUDRAM NARAYANA RAMACHANDRAN Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters


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When in 1952 the University of Madras made Gopalasamudram Narayana Ramachandran head of a department, though he was only 30 years old, no one was surprised. He had studied under two giants of science, C. V. Raman and Lawrence Bragg of Cambridge.


Ramachandran not only ran the department well but also introduced a new subject, molecular biophysics, concerning the giant molecules of a living body. Every chemical is made up of molecules. And scientists are even now trying to find the arrangement of molecules of certain chemicals produced in the human body, for example, proteins. Noble Laureate Linus Pauling had then put forward a hypothesis about how molecules are arranged in some proteins and this fascinated Ramachandran. He, therefore, decided to take up research in this field.


At the suggestion of J. D. Bernal, the English historian of science and crystallographer, who was then on a visit to India, Ramachandran began research on the unclear molecular structure of collagen. Collagen is a commonly occurring protein in the human body and is found in connective tissues of the skin, bones and tendons as well as linings of many organs. Leather, for instance, is entirely collagen.


Through persistent efforts Ramachandran and his students finally established the way molecules are arranged in collagen. It has a triple helical structure. Today he is recognized the world over for this significant discovery. He was awarded the Meghnad Saha Medal, the S. S. Bhatnagar Award and the Watumull Memorial Prize. In 1977 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.


Ramachandran later set up the molecular biophysics unit at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and raised it status to an international level. Besides collagen, he and his students have studied other giant molecules of biological importance, for example, protein, nucleic acids and polysaccharides. He has also done research in varied fields, from crystals to meteorology to computer science.


“Be free, be strong and be original", is Ramachandran’s advice to students. “Do not think that you should be wrong just because so many others say so. Accept that you are wrong only if your mind says so".