This year’s fellows for The Royal Society — one of the most coveted fellowships in the world of science — announced today, include six names of Indian origin. The fellowship is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. It boasts of more than 80 Nobel Laureates among its fellows.
This year’s list features, right on top, Varinder Kumar Aggarwal, a professor of synthetic biology in the University of Bristol. Born in North India, Aggarwal did all his science in the UK where he studied and worked all his life. In awarding him the fellowship, the society has acknowledged his “productivity and breadth (that) make him one of the foremost organic chemists of his generation and one who is very widely recognised internationally”.
Like Aggarwal, Shankar Balasubramanian, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Cambridge and a senior group leader at the Cancer Research UK, Cambridge Research Institute also left India as an infant. Born in Chennai (then Madras) he is an internationally recognised leader in the field of nucleic acids. The society makes special mention of his leading next generation sequencing methodology, Solexa sequencing, that makes routine, accurate, low-cost sequencing of human genomes a reality and has revolutionised biology.
However, the true blue Indian in the coveted list is Krishnaswamy Vijayraghavan, a senior professor and Director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Vijayraghavan has “worked to establish new institutions, drawing the best young scientists to India”. Under his leadership, NCBS has indeed evolved into a world-class institution. He has been recognised by the society for being an “outstanding developmental geneticist”.
Mathematician Chandrashekhar Bhalchandra Khare, who was featured in this blog when he bagged the Infosys Prize for 2010, started his career with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India and later moved out of the country. Presently he works as a professor in the department of mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles. He has been called an ‘extremely original mathematician’ studying the relationship between Galois representations and modular forms. His forte is finding ingenious but relatively simple new ideas, The Royal Society notes.
Guntur-born Mathukumalli Vidyasagar studied and worked in the US through his adult life. Vidyasagar, born in the year of Indian independence, has made outstanding contributions to the control and systems theory and statistical learning. He has combined probability theory, combinatorics, and artificial intelligence to produce a beautiful unified theory of statistical learning.
Particle physicist Tejinder Singh Virdee of Imperial College, London is distinguished for the design, construction and exploitation of the huge CMS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border. He originated the concept of CMS with four colleagues around 1990 and there are now over 3000 participants from 38 countries. He now concentrates on the search for the Higgs boson.
Congratulations to all the new fellows! They now share their fellowship with the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Charles Darwin, Sir Alexander Fleming, Dorothy Hodgkin, Stephen Hawking, Sir Ernest Rutherford, Sir J.J. Thompson, William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) and Sir Christopher Wren.