Ramachandran was born on 8 October 1922 in Ernakulam, Kerala.His
father G. Narayana Iyer was the principal of Maharaja’s college in
Ernakulam. Ramachandran did his intermediate from Maharaja’s college
and his B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics from St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchi.
In 1942 he joined the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore
as a student in the Electrical Engineering department. However, under
the influence of C.V. Raman, he shifted to Physics. He obtained his
M.Sc. and then his Ph.D. in 1947, under Raman’s supervision. He then
went to the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge and obtained his second
Ph.D degree under Prof. Wooster.
He returned to
India in 1949 and joined IISc as an Assistant Professor. In 1952, at
the young age of 30, he moved to Madras as the Head of the Physics
Department at the University of Madras. On the suggestion of J.D.
Bernal, the crystallographer and chemist, who visited the University
in 1952, he started work on determining the structure of the protein
collagen, the fibrous protein found in skin, bone and tendon. Based
on the limited data available at the time, in 1954, he proposed,
along with Gopinath Kartha, the triple-helix structure for collagen,
later revised in the light of new data to the coiled coil structure
for biomolecules. This was a fundamental advance in the understanding
of biomolecular structures. He and his colleagues C. Ramakrishnan and
V. Sasisekharan went on to develop methods to examine and assess
structures of biomolecules, in particular peptides. In 1963, this
resulted in the famous Ramachandran map, which is an indispensable
tool in the study of molecular structures today. His contribution s
in the field of X-ray crystallography such as anomalous dispersion,
new kinds of Fourier syntheses, and X-ray intensity statistics are
also extremely important. His 1971 paper with A.V. Lakshminarayanan
on three-dimensional image reconstruction was to have important
applications in Computer Assisted Tomography. (The 1979 Nobel Prize
in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to A.M. Cormack and Sir G.N.
Hounsfield for their work in CAT).
Ramachandran returned to Bangalore to set up the Molecular Biophysics
Unit at the IISc which is today a major research centre. He was
elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1977 and was awarded the
Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award. In 1999, The International Union of
Crystallography awarded him the prestigious Ewald Prize, which is
given only once in three years. He was the editor of Current Science
between 1950 and 1957.
Source: Tata Institute of