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PROFESSOR OBAID SIDDIQI - The father Of Modern Biology in India
Science, these days has become a collective organized activity and its tremendous growth and the possible implications, have direct relationship on the advancement of the society. In this context, it is exceptionally rare to find someone who has become an institution in itself during his life time.
One such person that has reached that stature was Prof. Obaid Siddiqi, "the Father of Modern Biology" in India. He is certainly in the same league of Indian scientist such Meghnad Saha, Homi Bhabha, and C.V.Raman.
This great man worked solely for the 'love of science', and for him, lab was a lifetime of commitment and dedication. The first ever mapping of a gene, a work that eventually earned Mr. Pentecorvo, the Nobel Prize in Physiology, had some important contributions by this Indian scientist.
Prof Obaid Siddiqi further went on to contribute a lot more to projects spanning from protein synthesis, bacterial gene exchange, to synaptic vesicle recycling, to the first exploration of the genetic basis of taste and smell.
Tata Institute of Fundamental research (TIFR), Mumbai, the premiere research institute in the country, owes much to him, for the setting-up of National Centre for Biological Sciences.
He also presided over the Indian Academy of Sciences and has played an important role in the 'Third World Academy of Sciences' to get the developing world on a global scientific map.
Prof Obaid Siddiqi never gave up his humble fight for progressive and enlightened values, to transform the whole of the Indian subcontinent, united by common cultural threads.
Being a creative and objective person, he never bothered about individual scientific success but as a responsible scientist showed a lot of concern for the society as a whole. Science as a tool for social change was what he firmly believed in.
The sudden expansion of research institutions, compromising their quality and standards really made him worry. In this mad race for publications, he indeed had something inspirational in him that not many scientists of our times have.
He advocated against the succumbing of educational institutions under the pressure of religious forces to incorporate astronomy in the official course work.
He did not support the various political interventions in deciding the fate of the central universities.
Despite his ideological differences with successive Indian governments, he still had his say in matters that really mattered to the welfare of the Indian science.
Setting up a Science policy, guided by rational and positive approach, was definitely his top priority, aimed at betterment of the society through the medium of Science.
Apart from, running the most prestigious lab in South Asia, he was highly involved in social activities and even contributed many of his personal resources for the right causes, giving away books to students who couldn't afford them.
After dedicating his whole life, working with stalwarts from different walks of Science, for creating awareness about scientific values, he never really expected anything in return. Prof Obaid Siddiqi was too humble, to acknowledge his contributions at times, and would let others take the credit.
It was unfortunate moment for the world of Science and in the Indian context particularly, that the last of the giants of the South Asian scientist, met with a freaky road accident.
His tireless efforts for building a democratically accountable structure of Science and Technology never ceased all through his life and will continue in future through the efforts of his trained students. Several generations of scientists equipped, with rational thought have passed out of his lab. It's hoped his trained young scientists would surely strive hard to carry on his vision of a modern South Asia.
- Danish Khatana