Prof. Nitai Chandra Mandal passed M.Se. (1962 with Gold Medal) and got Ph.D. (1969), both in Biochemistry from C.U. He did Ph.D. research in plant biochemistry under Prof. B.B. Biswas at Bose Institute. During his post-doctoral research, he switched over to molecular biology by working on RNA bacteriophage QJ3 (1970-1972) and on bacteriophage lambda molecular biology (1972- 1973). He joined the Department of Biochemistry, Bose Institute, Kolkata in July 1974 as a lecturer, and retired in 2003 as Professor and Emeritus Scientist(CSIR). He also used to teach bacterial and bacteriophage genetics at the PG Department of Biochemistry, C.U (1974-2003) and at different times in different Universities of West Begal. At the Bose Institute, he developed molecular genetics using bacteriophage lambda as the study system which he continued till his retirement. He has been elected Fellow of all the three National Science Academies ofIndia and got several awards including one Prof. J. J. Ghosh Excellence in Teaching and Research Award, 2012 from C.U. He served as member on various National Committees including Director Search Committee.
Prof. Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay passed M. Se (1975) and got Ph.D.(1984) both in Biochemistry from C.U. He did Ph.D. research on molecular biology of bacteriophage lambda under Prof. N. C. Mandal at Bose Institute (1976-1981). He served as a Lecturer in Chemistry at the Jogrnaya Devi College, Kolkata (1981-83). He joined the Department of Biochemistry, Calcutta University as Lecturer in 1983 and became the Guha Professor in 1997, and the Co-ordinator of Dr. B. C. Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, C.U. He is now a Professor of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Director of the Centre for Research in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic), C.U. He was instrumental in initiating new PG courses in Microbiology, Genetics and Biotechnology.
I am indeed happy that the National Academy of Science, India has decided to sponsor the publication by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture of ‘Introduction to History of Science in India’ –a multivolume series commenmorating the centenary of Indian Science Congress Association and sesquicentennial Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda—one of the principal initiators of Institutional Science in India. This series , of which the present one is and introduction, I understand, would start with our science heritage followed by its growth in successive phases culminating in the present challenges, written in a language meant for the common readers.
I sincerely hope that this commendable venture would indeed generate interest and awareness of all concerned towards the basic objectives of Science—the search for eternal truth, enrichment of knowledge and alleviation of misery of the humanity as a whole.
The present volume provides with a glimpse of a few of our revered scientists who laid the foundation of modern science and explored new horizons in the field. I wish the venture a grand success.
Biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, all belong to the category of relatively modern area of the science of biology, compared to the other areas like Astronomy, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics. It was indeed a great feeling to go into the historical events starting from the prehistoric or Vedic ages and dig out information in support of how the knowledge of Biochemistry was developed through the persistent efforts of the people of that time. They were guided persuaded by an intense urge materials from natural environments for to use getting rid of various diseases without knowing their actual nature and implication. Since then, there was a long period of silence for reasons not known, though the chemistry part progressed to significant heights. The subject biochemistry started its journey in India initially in the form of physiological chemistry and classical biochemistry around the 1950s. Biophysics started earlier at the turn of the 20th Century through the efforts of Acharya J. c. Bose. The classical biochemistry got quick morphogenesis to modern biochemistry and molecular biology from the 1960s onwards. Even after such a delayed start, both teaching and research in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology took their speed in no time, and it thus helped to form the strong foundation of these subjects. By the devoted efforts of biochemists, biophysicists and molecular biologists, all these sub-areas very quickly entered their youth phase. In this path of progress, Government of India did play a significant role by taking much interest in building infrastructures and human resource development related to these areas. During last five decades, advancement of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology has been very remarkable with the volumes of literature piling up with accelerated rate.
Prof. A. K. Sharma and his whole Editorial group have given us an opportunity to peep into almost all the laboratories/institutesl, Universitiesl Medical Colleges through various forms of literatures to dig out information and to record the progress in the form of a historical document. This also provided us with the opportunity of getting acquainted with all the activities including both teaching and research in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology that have progressed with time since their start. We feel it to be a process of in-depth learning about the subjects that have been handled by the biochemists, biophysicists and molecular biologists in India.
In the Introductory Chapter (Chapter I), we have made an attempt to develop the concept of biochemistry as a special branch of chemistry. This helps the intended young readers to enter easily into the subject of biochemistry, and gradually glide into the other areas like biophysics and molecular biology. In writing the next two chapters, we have followed the directions of the Chief Editor and Members of the Editorial Board. We have tried to maintain, at least for the initial phase, the chronology of development of the subjects in the Indian perspectives. We regret to express that we could not place on record about one of the oldest biochemistry department with name 'The University Department of Biochemistry' at Nagpur University established in 1946 by the whole-hearted effort of Dr. Madhab Chandra Nath. Dr. Nath had good connections with Kolkata because of his association with the School of Tropical Medicine and with the department of biochemistry of Calcutta University. He used to come almost every year during the initial beginning of the biochemistry department of Calcutta University to conduct M.Sc. (Biochemistry) final practical examination. One of the authors (NCM) tried to get detailed historical information about this old department by communicating with its present Head of the Department through emails but without success. From Google search too, no such information was available. We regret this omission.
As biochemistry and molecular biology are directly linked to all living systems, from higher animals and plants down to microbes, the areas of these subjects are very large. Moreover, with the passage of time, the volume of work in these areas including biophysics is increasing with almost exponential rate. In this situation of rapid growth of knowledge in these subjects, even in India, it appears to be a hard task to go into all the categories of work done, especially during the recent period of time. If any piece of work has been left out, this has happened unintentionally without having any bias. This is also due to the fact that we had to run up with the time- bound schedule. The writing of such a document needs more time to allow appropriate research and thinking to achieve readability. We are much thankful that even under compulsion, our efforts have given us the opportunity to widen the horizon of our knowledge about the work done and those being done in the different areas of biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology and biotechnology within the country. This is, indeed, a kind of recapitulation of knowledge-based national heritage.
The word 'History' (Greek - historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation") may be defined to imply its domain or discipline relating to the enquiry into the past to collect and organize information about various events or activities of the humans L According to this concept, writing of a history on any subject demands the availability of true documents in any form related to the past events of interconnecting nature, establishing continuity that gives and paves its way through success and/or failure. The absence of such documents beyond a certain point of time would classify it as 'Pre- History'. Different historians may extract knowledge from the same set of documents of the past judging from different angles and develop their perceptions which may differ from one another. Such accounts mayor may not be inspiring to the curious readers.
Actually, the subjects Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology have neither any pre- history nor any history in its true sense like other branches of science. From that perspective, writing a history on the development of the above subjects in India by the persons, who themselves nurtured science related to the above subjects in the laboratories, poses a unique challenge especially with regard to the methodologies to be used for such writing. The outcome of such an effort may appear as a certain form of scientific literature. However, irrespective of methodology, the purpose would be to provide salient information about how these subjects were taken forward by Indian scientists in their effort to acquire knowledge and understanding of the biological activities that help to maintain the living systems in their unique forms.
DEFINITION OF SUBJECTS
Chemistry as a subject has evolved from the ancient times in various ways. Precisely, we can define chemistry as the subject which involves studying both physical and chemical properties of elements and their compounds that occur in nature as well as those which can be made in the laboratory by using various chemical methods under different conditions and their utility for the benefit of mankind. This definition of Chemistry would help in the understanding of Biochemistry as a separate sphere of study.
Biology encompasses the study of various types of living systems like plants and animals including man, which could be broadly classified into unicellular and multicellular living objects. Compound microscope was invented by two Dutch spectacle makers, Zaccharias Janssen and his father Hans Janssen in 1590. Hooke, while examining very thin slices of bottle cork under a coarse, compound microscope, saw a multitude of tiny pores which he called cells. In 1675, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, using single lens microscope observed bacteria for the first time which we know now to be unicellular. Later, the cells were proposed to be the basic unit of all forms of living objects including plants and higher forms of animals by T. Schwann and M. J. Schleiden in 1839.
But long, long before the proposition of the above cell theory, when man became curious to know about nature and natural processes that were occurring in their surroundings they also began to study about themselves. In this direction, several great thinkers like Hippocrates (fourth century BCE), Aristotle (384-322 BCE), Herophilus (300 BCE), Erasistratus (250 BCE) by their significant efforts born primarily out of inquisitiveness, identified different internal organs and their functional roles in running the body. Jean Fernal (CE 1497-1558), a French physician, was the first to coin the term Physiologia (Greek word Physis meaning nature, and logia meaning study of) in 1525.The anatomical aspect of biology related to medicine was developed by the contributions of Andreas Vesalius (CE 1514-1564), Bartolommeo Eustachio (CE 1520- 1574) and many others, all during the 16th century CE. During the first half of the 17th century, William Harvey discovered the circulation of blood from the human heart to different parts of the body and established that in this act, the heart functions as a pump; he also studied in detail the mechanism of how the heart pumps blood out and in through different steps.Jan Baptista Van Helmont (CE 1577-1644), a Belgian chemist and physiologist tried to explain the phenomena behind all diseases as chemical changes. He also postulated that digestion was aided by a chemical reagent, or "ferment", within the body, particularly inside the stomach In this way, Van Helmont's idea came very close to our modem concept of an enzyme." Franciscus Sylvius, also known as Franz de la Boe (CE 1614-1672), a Dutch physician conceived the body as a chemical device and he founded the Iatrochemical School of Medicine, according to which all life and disease processes are based on chemical actions. This was followed by the researches done sequentially by Robert Hooke (CE 1635-1703), Francesco Redi (CE 1626-1697), Rene Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur (CE 1683-1757), Joseph Priestley (CE 1733-1804), Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (CE 1743-1794), Thomas Young (CE 1773-1829), James Prescott Joule (CE 1818-1889), Julius Robert von Mayer (CE 1814-1878), and Hermann Ludwig Ferdin and von Helmholtz (CE 1821-1895) all of which ultimately established the relation of chemistry and energy to the physiological processes.
The chemists believed that life-associated materials or molecules have some unique properties which are not found in non-living matter and that only living beings could produce those molecules of life. But this notion was dispelled by Friedrich Wohler who prepared urea, then known to be obtained from mammalian urine only, in the laboratory by heating ammonium cyanate in 1828.8 This discovery gave birth to a branch of chemistry, called organic chemistry which started dealing with the making of life-associated molecules in the laboratory outside the living cell. But how those compounds are synthesized within the living objects was not known.
After the discovery of Rabies vaccine by L. Pasteur around the middle of the 19th century, the chemical processes involved in the immunological events within the body were studied by Robert Koch, Paul Ehrlich and others around the second half of the 19th century.
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