Indian-American Nobel Laureate to head UK’s Royal Society

Venkatraman-RamakrishnanIn yet another feather in the cap of the expat Indian community, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, an Indian-American and 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, has been elected as the president of Britain’s Royal Society, a prestigious organisation and home to the world’s legendary scientists.

Mr Ramakrishnan, whose pioneer work in molecular biology won him the Nobel Prize, will take up the post on December 1, 2015, the society said after the result of the ballot was announced at a meeting of the society’s council.

“It is a great honour, I feel touched that the Royal Society has chosen me for this job, especially because I only came to Britain 16 years ago from the US. I think in some ways the Royal Society, ever since its inception, has reflected the best traditions of openness in Britain. Although it is based in Britain, it is a society of the Commonwealth,” the 63-year-old scientist said.

The Royal Society was founded in 1660, and some of the previous presidents at the royal society include iconic figures, including Sir Isaac Newton, Ernest Rutherford, Joseph Banks, Samuel Pepys, Humphry Davy and Christopher Wren. Ramakrishnan will be the first Indian-origin scientist to hold the distinguished post. He will succeed geneticist Sir Paul Nurse, also a Nobel laureate.

Born in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, Mr Ramakrishnan chose to pursue higher studies in the US. He won the Nobel Prize for discovering the precise structure of ribosome – the molecule that manufactures proteins inside living cells — and shared his prize with Thomas Steitz of Yale University and Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Jerusalem.

Earlier in 2010, he was conferred Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour, by the then president Pratibha Patil.

“Appointing the first Indian-born president of the Royal Society sends a strong message about the importance of the contribution of immigrants to British science,” said Blakemore, a Royal Society Fellow from the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

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