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Professor Obaid Siddique The Father of modern biology in India
India has produced many stalwart scholars and scientists in recent times. A few of them have earned Nobel Prize after they became expatriate. On the other hand, for those who opt to work in India, a membership to the US National Academy of Sciences is considered the highest international scientific recognition of their contribution to science.
Professor Obaid Siddiqi is one of a few non-US citizens inducted as a Fellow of the prestigious scientific academy. This fellowship bestowed on him brings an honor to the country of his residence, India.
The Indian Diaspora joins the citizen of India in feeling proud for Dr. Siddiqi's achievement. Iconic Siddiqi was one of the most transformative biologists to come from South Asia and is widely regarded as the father of modern biology in India.
His own research encompassed several model systems, levels of analysis, and fields in biology.
With Garen, during his post-doctoral studies, Obaid discovered the suppressor of 'nonsense' mutations, which led to the elucidation of chain-terminating triplets in protein synthesis.
Obaid did some of the early experiments which show that recombinant bacteria inherit labeled DNA of biparental origin. He was invited by Homi Bhaba in 1962, Director of Tata Institute of Fundamental Institute (TIFR), Bombay to develop a modern biology department which later became well known as the Molecular Biology Unit.
Obaid joined as Fellow in TIFR and became Associate Professor, Professor, and Eminent Professor very quickly with excellent research outputs coming from his hard work and dedication for science.
He personally recruited comrades for the cause of Indian Science by bringing back colleagues of Indian origin from all over the US and heralding India's entry into modern biology.
Obaid's earlier research in 1950s and early '60s at TIFR covered areas like Microbial genetics and but later he concentrated on genetic neurobiology.
At TIFR, he demonstrated that DNA transfer can be associated from replication and that recombinants arise from unreplicated DNA.
Obaid then took up the challenge of establishing National Center for Biological Sciences at Bangalore (a branch of TIFR) and served there as founder director till 1993.
Obaid has held many distinguished positions worldwide during his long illustrious career as scientist.
He was awarded highest Indian civil honor `Padma Bhushan' for his achievement and contribution to Indian and international science in 1984.
In addition to a highly thoughtful person in scientific life, Obaid is an avid lover of sports, literature and classic music. He has contributed to the science movement of India enormously and has written a large number of articles for popularization of science in India.
In his last two decades of his life, his obsessions were two fundamental issues of behavioral neuroscience that have been completely sidetracked by the majority in the mad march for quick publications.
He wondered what an appropriate measure of a behavioral response is, if one singular measure should be used at all.
He understood that almost all neuroscience labs are throwing away most of the information by taking one single measure of a response at a fixed time.
He also asked if one could really break out of strictly associative way of thinking about higher learning. He called sensory pre-exposure as Thorpean conditioning to respect few pioneering but rather inconclusive experiments done by William H. Thorpe of Cambridge in middle of the last century.
Obaid Siddiqi, who strove to transform the life sciences in South Asia died of a freak road accident. A young careless driver hit him from behind. His family true to his dream of a peaceful, considerate, educated and scientific society, decided to not press charges on the young man, as it would ruin his career and education.
His contribution to science outreach was significant and in roles such as, the president of Indian Academy of Sciences he helped put India on the map of modern biological research.
- RATNA DUBEY