Born: 1952 (age 56–57) Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
Fields: Biochemistry and Biophysics
Institutions: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England
Known for: Structure and function of the ribosome; macromolecular crystallography
Notable awards: Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2007), Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2009)
The Nobel Prizes, instituted in 1901, annually honour outstanding contributions to literature, world peace and various sciences. Thirteen Indian citizens or people of Indian origin have been honored till date, but only three of these are or were Indian citizens, and seven of Indian origin. Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1913 and similarly Chandrashekar Venkata Raman won it for Physics in 1930; Hargobind Khorana won it for Medicine in 1968; Mother Teresa won it for Peace in 1979; Subramanian Chandrashekar won it for Physics in 1983; Amartya Sen won it for Economics in 1998 and with this Venkatraman Ramakrishnan added to the list of Nobel Laureates for chemistry for the year 2009.
Afalling apple led Issac Newton to discover the power of gravity that culminated in the formulation of his famous laws. This example proves that innovation can happen to anyone, anytime. The glocal world believes in the power of Innovation and the need for innovative ideas as ideas alone allow exploring creative faculties and taking the world to new heights of excellence. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, with his dexterity and mental alacrity made India proud by winning the Nobel Prize (2009) for chemistry.
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan stirred the world with his new findings and studies on one of life’s core processes: the ribosome’s translation of DNA information into life. Ribosomes produce proteins, which in turn control the chemistry in all living organisms. As ribosomes are crucial to life, they are also a major target for new antibiotics.
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan is gifted with the capacity to choose his present action, which is called self-effort or ‘Purusartha’. All along his life, he has been exercising this power in him and an aggregate of all these past self-efforts has determined his present destiny. In other words, the sum total of all past ‘Purusartha’ will be equal to his present ‘Prarabdha’. ‘What’ one meets in life is destiny and ‘How’ one meets it, is self-effort.
His ‘Prarabdha’ is the outcome of his determination to follow his ideas as conviction and convert them into existence to give birth to a brand new visage of the topical world. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan along with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath has been awarded for having showed what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level.
They have used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome. Inside every cell in all organisms, there are DNA molecules. They contain the blueprints for how a human being, a plant or a bacterium, looks and functions. But the DNA molecule is passive. If there was nothing else, there would be no life.
The blueprints become transformed into living matter through the work of ribosomes. Based upon the information in DNA, ribosomes make proteins: oxygen-transporting haemoglobin, antibodies of the immune system, hormones such as insulin, the collagen of the skin, or enzymes that break down sugar. There are tens of thousands of proteins in the body and they all have different forms and functions. They build and control life at the chemical level.
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan generated 3D models to show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity’s suffering.
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, now a US citizen was born in 1952 in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India. He is a Senior Scientist and Group Leader at Structural Studies Division, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan moved to Baroda (Vadodara) in Gujarat state at the age of three, where he had his schooling, except for spending 1960-61 in Adelaide, Australia. Following his Pre-Science at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, he did his undergraduate studies in the same university on a National Science Talent Scholarship, graduating with a B.Sc. in Physics in 1971. Immediately after graduation he moved to the U.S.A., where he obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from Ohio University in 1976. He then spent two years studying biology as a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego while making a transition from theoretical physics to biology. Ramakrishnan is married to Vera Rosenberry, an author and illustrator of children’s books. He has a stepdaughter, Tania Kapka, who is a doctor in Oregon, and a son, Raman Ramakrishnan, who is a cellist in New York.
To a gleaming intellect like Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, the world appears to be a field of magnificent phenomena of the discovered and the undiscovered, of great power and potentialities. Realizing this truth he reformed and reconstructed his inner instruments of experience so that the world is interpreted by him in its true perspective. The realm of different perspectives ultimately culminate to generate an idea that forms the rock bottom of every discovery that shapes the world and thus it can truly be interpreted that if one masters the mind, one can master the world.