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Professor Nuggehalli Narayana Memorial Lecture

Professor N. Narayana was a student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, in the Department of Biochemistry during the late 1920s. He and his mentor, Professor M. Sreenivasaiah had the unique distinction of publishing the first paper in biochemistry from India in the 12th volume of the Biochemical Journal. The paper describes  microdetermination of proteins in biological material.  To-day in the burgeoning field of recombinant DNA research, microdetermination of proteins has assumed great significance. N. Narayana received the Associateship of the Indian Institute of Science for his research work  (AIISC).  In 1920s IISc did not have a University status.

Later on he moved to Bombay University where he taught Biochemistry at the G.S Medical College. There he pursued scientific research on his own, without the help of a mentor (guide) and wrote a thesis on proteins of food grains and suggested that plant geneticists should take protein content and quality (contents of essential amino acids) as determinants in plant breeding work. He was one of those first awardees of the Ph.D. degree from the University of Bombay. From Bombay he moved on to Poona where he taught Biochemistry at B. J. Medical College.  He was later appointed as the Agricultural Chemist to Government of Bombay. He established a biochemistry research laboratory at the Agricultural College Poona and introduced the discipline of Biochemistry in the post-graduate curriculum of the University of Poona. He served as Professor of Biochemistry of the University of Poona for 20 years before he retired. At the Agricultural college he introduced Biochemistry in the disciplines of Plant breeding, Plant Physiology, Plant Pathology and Dairy Sciences. He trained many students who earned their M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees by research under his mentorship. Several of his students occupied leadership positions in Agricultural Research Institutes. He was elected into the Scientific Academics in India (He was fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the National Institute (later renamed National Academy) as well as to the Royal Institute of Chemistry London. Amongst the research work he directed, he initiated a novel concept far ahead of his time. He proposed that vitamin content of plant seeds can be genetically improved by breeding plants which are enriched in the enzyme catalysing the rate limiting step in the biosynthesis of the vitamin. This research work was initiated by him and Dr.Naik in the late 1950s when molecular biology tools were not available. In another project of social relevance, he examined the use of wild honey in tribal and village rituals where it is used to induce halucinogenic effects. He demonstrated that wild honey collected for this purpose in the forests of Mahabaleshwar hills in Maharashtra contained high concentrations of the alkaloid “Hyosciamine” which is a known halucinogen. Thus, in all his research career he combined the curiosity of the basic scientist with his desire to be a useful member of the society, a vision of the founders of the Indian Institute of Science.

Prof. Nuggehalli Narayana Memorial Lecture is endowed by his family, students and friends.

More details about Dr. Nuggehalli Narayana Memorial Lecture series can be viewed here –  click here