Page 33 - Science India August 2022
P. 33

           UNSUNG HERO
Kishori Mohan Bandyopadhyay A Wronged Hero of Indian Science
In denying the young Indian credit for his vital assistance in the study of malarial parasite, Nobel laureate Ronald Ross exemplified the most bigoted face of British imperialism
Image Courtesy: Kishori-Mohan-Bandyopadhyay/Facebook
  n Prof Ayan Datta
Have you heard of the top-secret mission of the Chinese dicta- tor Mao Zedong called Project 523? It was a Chinese research project to find a cure for the choloroquine-resis- tant P. falciparum that would kill hun- dreds and thousands of people in Chi- na every year. In a hurriedly gathered meeting of scientists from different de- partments in May 1967, various ancient Chinese traditional medicine texts (the connection between Indian Ayurveda and Tibetan and Chinese medicine has been richly explored) were critically ex- amined and by 1972, Tu Youyou (Nobel Laureate, 2015, in Medicine) discovered Artemisinin (extracted traditionally from sweet wormwood tree). Artemis- inin reduced China’s malaria caseload
from twenty lakh to ninety thousand in the decade of 1980-1990. The work of Dr Tu Youyou has been a great example of how traditional knowledge can be improvised into modern context.
In the past, India has also been an active place to study Malaria. The most famous example has been the work of Dr Ronald Ross (Nobel Laureate, 1902, in Medicine). He demonstrated that the malaria parasite was transmit- ted by mosquitoes. Ross succeeded in showing the lifecycle of the parasites of malaria in mosquitoes, thus estab- lishing the hypothesis of Laveran and Manson that that mosquitoes are con- nected with the propagation of the disease. One must note that he did not build his concept of malarial trans- mission in humans, but in birds. Sir Ronald Ross remained one of the most decorated British-origin scientists in the ~200-year-old Victorian rule of India. He was knighted, became FRS in 1901 and in 1926, became the Director-in- Chief of the Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases, which was estab- lished in honour of his works. In fact,
Ross fit exactly in the model of global British hegemony — the first British No- bel Laureate, and the first born outside Europe (Ross was born in Almora, now in Uttarakhand, India) to receive the award.
The very large body of the experi- mental work of Ross relied on sample collection for which he was supported by a team of several extremely bright native researchers. While the tropical and marshy land of Gangetic Bengal was a fertile ground for mosquito growth, yet, the cases of malarial fever had to be recognised and blood drawn from the patients within the time-line of the growth of the parasite. Ross desper- ately started looking for researcher and field assistant in this direction. Several advertisements were published in news- papers and yet hardly anyone suitable could be recruited. Luckily, a young man — Kishori Mohan Bandyopadhyay — showed the interest and dedication to work for Ross. This story is about this young man who was denied his due rec- ognition by Ross and the British admin- istration. He was neither acknowledged

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