News and Event


September 10, 2023


Dr. G. N. Ramachandran, Doyen of Triple Helix Discovery


Dr. G. N. Ramachandran was an eminent Scientist of international repute for his discovery of Triple Helix model .He was born on 8 th October , 1922. The year Oct. 2022 to Oct. 2023 is the centenary year for  Dr. Ramachnadran, Unsung  hero Indian Scientist. He was the son of Prof. G.R. Narayana Iyer , professor of Mathematics at the Maharaja College, Ernakulam, Kerala. He was  fondly called as GNR among friends, students and fellow scientists. He was academically very brilliant . After standing first in the Intermediate Examination, did his B Sc (Hon) in Physics. Later GNR joined Electrical Engineering course in IISc at Bangalore, when Sir CV Raman was the Director of that Institute. At the request of V C , Madras University, NGR was transferred to Physics department by Sir CV Raman. GNR  M Sc thesis deserved two doctoral degrees. Subsequently GNR received D Sc in three years . GNR was deputed to Cavendish laboratory at the Cambridge University where he was awarded another Doctorate degree in two years.

In 1952, Prof. J.D. Bernel came to Madras and advised GNR to work on COLLOGEN, the Protein most of the body is made up of and it was the time when the structure of DNA was under initial study in the West. GNR and Dr. Gopinath, his scholar proposed and worked hard on the Collogen for two years. (1954). Even Dr. Francis Crick and Dr. Pauling of U.K. could not imagine such work done by these two brilliant Indian scientists.  GNR and Dr. Gopinath put forward  their Triple Helix theory to these British scientists. But they opposed it as they were doing on Double Helix theory. However, GNR sent the paper to Nature journal for approval and publication. The editor deliberately delayed and referred to Dr. Francis Crick. The editor wanted to help their National Hero Scientist Dr. Crick for the Double Helix Model. Ultimately , Double Helix was published for Nobel Prize .

As truth always wins, later Dr. Crick model was found to be defective and faulty also. Later in 1968, Dr. Pauling admitted that their model was wrong and appreciated the Triple Helix Model of GNR and Dr. Gopinath. GNR rebuffed and retorted Dr. Crick criticism by developing a diagram called “ Ramachandran Map/ Plot” explain in detail the Triple Helix Model and its important applications. Unfortunately GNR work was not treated well by the Western World due to powerful lobby for Dr. Crick. Thus a genius deprived of a NOBEL  PRIZE. But GNR bagged the covetable Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award  for Physics. Later elected  as a member of FRS, London. The International Union of Crystallography honoured  GNR  with prestigious Ewald Prize for his outstanding work on Crystallography.

GNR was pioneer in establishing the Centre for Advanced Study in Biophysics and Crystallography in IISc, Bangalore which is till today praised world over. GNR also developed a good number of instruments like X ray Focusing Mirror, X ray Microscope etc. In fact he got idea  for Coiled-Coil Model from Astronomy  only. No doubt his excellent work led to many essential applications like CAT ( Computer Aided Tomography) . However, the last few years for GNR was not good health wise as he developed Parkinson disease as well as Alzheimer. He breathed last on April 7th 2001. He left indelible foot prints in the field of Protein structure, Ramachnadran Map etc. Due to his intuition and   logical approach, structure of COLLOGEN was built. GNR systematic approach  solved problems in Peptides and Proteins, which proved to be of Scientific excellence. Finally,  I feel GNR did not miss Nobel Prize but Nobel Prize missed him


                                                                          K. Kailasa Nathan

                                                                          Principal Scientist (Retd.)

                                                                          IARI, New Delhi