Born On: October 8, 1922
Born In: Kerala, India
Died On: July 4, 2001
Gopalasamudram Narayana Iyer Ramachandran, popularly referred to as G. N. Ramachandran surely must be included in the list of one of the best scientists that 20th century India had produced. The best known work of G. N. Ramachandran till date is the Ramachandran plot, which the scientist had conceived along with Viswanathan Sasisekharan, to understand the structure of peptides. G. N. Ramachandran was the first scientist to suggest a triple-helical model of collagen structure. G. N. Ramachandran also made important contributions in the field of biology in the length of his career as a scientist.
Early Life & Education
G. N. Ramachandran was born on October 8, 1922 in the small town of Ernakulam in the south Indian state of Kerala in India. His forefathers were natives of the Gopalasamudram village situated in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. In the year 1942, Ramachandran came to Bangalore to seek admission in the Indian Institute of Science. He became a student of the electrical engineering department of the institution, but later switched over to the physics department, realizing that he was more interested in physics than engineering. He completed his master’s degree in Physics in the year 1942 and subsequently enrolled as a thesis student at IISc under the guidance of Nobel Prize winning physicist Sir C V Raman.
Ramachandran opted to specialize in crystal physics and crystal optics in his thesis paper and obtained his doctorate degree from Bangalore in the year 1947. Ramachandran migrated to England after the completion of his DSc from Bangalore and spent two years from 1947 to 1949 at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. He chose the subject of X-Ray diffuse scattering and its use to determine the elastic constant as his research subject in Cambridge under professor William Alfred Wooster, one of the best crystallographers of the 20th century world. Having made his own focusing mirror for an X-Ray microscope during his study years in Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, further studies in the field of X-Ray was a natural choice of research for Ramachandran.
After completing his PhD in two years, Ramachandran returned to India and joined his alma mater the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in the year 1949 as the assistant professor of Physics. His subject of interest as teacher remained crystal physics. In the year 1952, Ramachandran joined the Madras University as the head of its Physics department. Here, he shifted from crystal physics to biological macromolecules within a few months of joining. In the year 1954, Ramachandran completed his research work with Gopinath Kartha and made known through a published article the triple helical structure of collagen. His next project was to observe the different polypeptide conformations for assessing the structure of peptides.
Ramachandran continued with this research work till the year 1962. The following year, he published his reports in 1963 in the Journal of Molecular Biology, a study which is famously referred to as the Ramachandran Plot today. Thereafter, this ace scientist spent many a years after publishing the Ramachandran Plot in examining the conformation of peptides. Therefore, it may be rightly concluded that G N Ramachandran’s research contributed to the development of molecular biophysics, correlating the concepts of X-Ray crystallography, peptide synthesis, physico-chemical experimentation, NMR and additional optical studies. G N Ramachandran set up a molecular biophysics unit in the Center of Advanced Study in Biophysics at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in 1970.
The following year, Ramachandran quit the Madras University to join IISc in Bangalore yet again. The chief reason for his resignation was the drop in the standards of Madras University as an educational institution. The succession of N. D. Sundaravadvelu in place of A. L. Mudaliar as vice chancellor of Madras University had resulted in the deterioration of the institute’s standards. From 1971, Ramachandran was involved in the research of convolution-backprojection algorithms in the field of X-Ray tomography, along with fellow scientist A. V. Lakshminarayana. The algorithms suggested by Ramachandran and Lakshminarayana were successful in more numerically correct images and also saved time on computer processing for image reconstruction. The research was published in a paper the same year.
Awards and Recognition
G. N. Ramachandran was a loved and respected scientist during his tenure both in IISc, Bangalore and Madras University. Some awards which he received for his scientific contributions are: