Nobel for an Indian?

By Vipul Tripathi
October 7, 2009

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has been awarded the chemistry Nobel this year.

He joins a select club of scientists recognised by the Nobel foundation.

But Ramakrishnan joins an even more exclusive group — Indians (by birth) who received such recognition.

The country still awaits a second entry in the most exclusive group — an Indian who gets a Nobel staying and working in India.

So far only C.V. Raman, the founder-member of this club, qualifies.

In the days to come, Indians around the world, especially those in the country, will derive vicarious pleasure from another Indian (at least by birth) earning the top honour.

The Times of India listed India’s Nobel connections on their website, a list which includes British surgeon Ronald Ross and poet Rudyard Kipling — both born in India.

The list stretched to include all categories, as evident from above, contains only 12 names.

Whereas Ramakrishnan is the 13th Nobel prize winner from Cambridge-based MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology alone.

The WolframAlpha search engine returns an estimate of 14,172 patents filed in 2009 for U.S. for the query “U.S. patents filed”.

The comparative figure for China is 2097. For India it returns a figure of 256.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan took his PhD in physics and gets a Nobel for chemistry while investigating a biological process.

Why has no Indian working in India won a science Nobel since independence?

Is it the lack of multi-disciplinary approach in Indian institutions?

Is it our expenditure on R&D? Or the brain drain?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

When a scientist is hired in India he see thered carpet. There are three phases for a scientistin India which is very common among others.1) Honeymoon period (most scientists enjoy their life once you have a God Father in Science, It is very much true in India. Government should do something about this.)2) Adoption period (Understand the system , keep your profile low, ‘dog eating dog world: BE THE FASTEST and FURIOUS’ for survive: for funding, for research students, for recognition, basic utilities, support, etc.,) For some scientist there are 10-50 students across the country (~8 students registered in each university, and in their life cycle they complete the research with the help of at least 100-200 students / researchers, and claim the ‘power’.. it is not equal. Then people ‘stamp’ them as ‘Talent attract students’ of course the door (equal opportunities should be given) also should be opened for other scientists. Sometime the heads of department hire ‘their favorites and start growing them for their own survival’. It is there in every one’s heart, but no way to express. These information is not baseless. We need several APJs with power in the same seat, to inspire and support the scientists. Obama releasing 5 billion USD for medical research. If same amount is allocated in India, I am sure it would be ‘fetched’ by the ‘favorites and famous people rather than ‘deserving and contributing scientists’. I am waiting to see today’s DG’s of funding agencies (DST, DBT, CSIR, DAE, DST, ISRO, DRDO etc,) directors of national labs and academic institutions like IITs, IISc, IISERs, NICERS etc., in the 2020 list of Noble Winners.. I can predict right now none of them would really make it! and also I am sure next 10 years who would be in that seat would never make it.. then why should they support SCIENCE in INDIA? This is the Ego which keep the country’s scientist still slaves long after independence.Long live India.. Let us celebrate the success of at least few Indian origins who survive for science getting the best of everything what they deserve!

Posted by slumdog scientist | Report as abusive

So Mr Kalyan, we Indians excel in mathematics. OK! then why there isn’t even a single Field Medal winner from india ‘great india’?

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

I am a researcher by choice, I work in mount sinai medical centre, New York. I am one of those very few Indian fools who rejected both free or merit -medical and engineering seats and joined classical bioligy degree to persue research. I was the topper in my 12 class batch. Rest of my friends who scored less than me joined medical and engineering courses, and have very secured lifes. Iam in this field because I enjoy research. But look at my state today when all my friend have secured bank balance, untill recently I was struggling hard to keep up my family needs in India, I am forced to leave India because i neither have appropriate research oppurtunity nor pay to survive. I have desuaded many students from coming to research if they are not very ready to suffer or if they are not going to enjoy it. why will any body think about research when one is struggling hard to meet ends? please provide us , if not good, some descent renumeration so that we can compeletely concentrate on research rathe rather than worry about survival. A typical India research student spends 14-16 hours on research per day with little time for family.I completely agree with lot of you people .the major problem with our science is got to do with our attitude which is evident in all other fields.Science is a sacred profession (pursuit of truth). why do you need hierarchy? the hierarachy kils freedom of expression and results supression of truth.why do you need reservations in the scientific oppointments, at least in this field cant you think about merrit. Its all about intelligence and capability, please keep only this as criteria for selection. dont bring regionalism , loyality meter and other considerations(normally used in politics) for scientific appointments.Govt of India is pumping lot of money into research in the recent past, but unfortunately you have the same old people with same old capabilities managing it how can money alone make difference?same old criterias are used for appiontments.I know lot of good researchers with very good achivements ready to come back to India, but they hardly get a chance instead the Indian Institutions are flooded by incompetent people who have contacts in these institutions. How will Indian science improve?More over make this profession performanced based. give incentives based on performance.In many institutions scientist position is just another govt job. once into it nobody can remove them whether they perform or not. Its not so in the outside world. In Singapore and Tiwan a scientist gets monetary packages for evry publication based on its impact and relevance. if you dont publish in couple of years you loose your jobIn US most of the scientist generate a part of their salaries. No scientific positions are permanent, you perform or perish.unless such measures are in place no body will do good science in India.Dont blame brain drain, why dont we create minimal needs for those who wnat to come back to India. There are lot of Indian researchers who want to do good research in India, give them a good environment to do it. then in due course of time, may be the next generation scientists will be able to produce Nobles..there is not quqlit ycontrol in India to recruit scientists.

Posted by chandra | Report as abusive

Congratulations to the Indian people. Last year when I had car-scans an Indian physician, in India, interpreted the results. When I require tech support, the most helpful advisors are working from India and, incidently, speak the clearest English. My local convenience store is owned and operated by Indians. The cultures of India have come to symbolize family values, high moral standards, a high work ethic and commitment to learning. The world’s largest democracy is having a positive effect throughout the world.

Posted by Roy C. Klopfenstein | Report as abusive

Well, I may sound like an odd duck amongst doves but I have little or no empathy for Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, notwithstanding the Nobel which he couldn’t, in all probabilities have won residing and working in India.All of those who have made it big outside India have gone there chasing greener pastures and at least some have left the country, whenever they did so, feeling unbelonging, disconnected.While we celebrate their Nobel or other achievements here, they are making merry, caring a damn for the country they left behind. Probably some of them must be laughing at the plight, perpetual poverty and corruption saying down here that they left for good.In contrast, it’s great to live here fighting or even losing all social evils. You achieve or not, at least you didn’t leave the country like a coward does.

I think people have dissected the reasons well enough.To answer the guy who said why haven’t Indians won the Field’s medal there are Indians who have won the Abel/ Godel prizes which are also awarded to mathematicians. How many news channels covered this information?To summarize,1. Science is not a viable career in India.2. Also, in India people enter into fields for a career whereas abroad people enter it due to their interests. So, its quite obvious the smarter ones make for well paying fields like engineering and mgmt. Many of the people who are brilliant in math and physics are wasting their time in engg colleges in India. They should be identified and provided support. Unless one does what he loves one can’t excel! Passion can’t be inculcated it has be pour forth.3. Overhaul the education system stifles innovation and creativity. It teaches people to conform rather than buck the system. Ramanujan was a math genius yet the system flunked him as he didnt clear the other subjects. If Hardy hadn’t found him he would died in abject poverty and obscurity. If a person is a genius in science he should be allowed to skip all other subjects and pursue only science and still get a degree. Shows we haven’t learned a damn thing since Ramanujan. Genius is seldom seen lets encourage it.

Posted by Harish | Report as abusive

Value is created by investing in fundamental research, ideas incubation and product development. All these need long term focus. Most of the Indian commercial endeavor is in quick rewarding Asset Creation and governmental endeavor to manage hand-to-mouth existence. It is heartening that Indian parents do invest in their kids’ education, but unfortunately these kids are under severe pressure to start earning big bucks, as early in their career as possible. Pursuing excellence is never considered very rewarding.India is the biggest new convert to Materialism. Indian Middle class focus on materialistic, financially secured life is perhaps the strongest among all geographic groups, competing with China

Posted by Sankar | Report as abusive

From misspelling “Deepavali” (“Diwali”) to glamourizing AK 47 wielding vigilantes and desperadoes is a short, slippery slide that offers little time for more complex matters like building a curriculum that takes full advantage of the genius (ancient only) of India.Let us face it. India’s servant seeking elite detests originality.The middle class unabashedly thrashes the Mahatma and is clueless whether it is coming or going.So…India’s insular, necrophilous oligarchy had encountered – shot dead in cold blood – 19 year old Ishrat Jehan on idiotic dribbles.And the Prime Minister’s Office is being quiet as a mouse about the impeccable evidence it has on the corrupt, duplicitous and psychotic conduct of the Government of India, the Government Of Andhra Pradesh, The Indian editorial class, the administrators of the Right To Information Act, The Andhra Pradesh High Court and a fellow travelling klatch of “human rights” ngos.Welcome to yet another “conspiracy in corruption” .This is a documented account of the schizophrenic character of the babulog ke babalog who have formed themselves into the ruling class of India.This is a story of the most appalling illiberality and destructiveness that India’s editorial class will not report !sathyagraha.blogspot.comDivakar’s Sathyagraha – News and views from Divakar S Natarajan’s, “no excuses”, ultra peaceful, non partisan, individual sathyagraha against corruption and for the idea of the rule of law in India.Now in its 18th year.Any struggle against a predatory authority is humanity’s struggle to honour the gift of life.

As said earlier, scientists are also human being, they need good salary for their safety and fun and they need big research grant. The day India govt will do this (remember moneywise it’s big, comparable to the industrialised countries), I bet, within 10 years from then, India will get it’s own noble.

Posted by A Sarkar | Report as abusive