London: Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, India-born
US citizen whose pioneering work in molecular biology won him
the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry, has been honoured with a
knighthood by the royal establishment here in a rare
recognition of achievements by foreigners based in Britain.
58-year-old Ramakrishnan, known to most as Venky, is
based at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.
He has been conferred knighthood "for services to
molecular biology" in the New Year Honours List 2012,
according to an official announcement here.
After the list was released on early Saturday, Ramakrishnan
said that honouring him with a knighthood reflects the
contribution made by immigrants to British society.
In a statement to PTI, he said: "In the current debate
about immigration, it is worth noting that this award is yet
another example of the numerous contributions that immigrants
make to British society."
"Indeed, many of the founding members of the Laboratory
of Molecular Biology were immigrants themselves, and they
helped to revolutionise modern biology."
Ramakrishnan said: "This is an honour that reflects
the quality of science supported by the Medical Research
Council, in particular at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology
in Cambridge. In my case, credit should go to the numerous
dedicated postdocs, students, associates and colleagues who
made crucial contributions to the work."
It is rare for foreign citizens to be honoured with
Such individuals do not use the style 'Sir', but are
often called 'Sir' in popular parlance, such as 'Sir Garfield
Sobers' in the case of the legendary West Indies cricketer.
Besides Ramakrishnan, two other foreign-born Nobel Prize
winners based in the UK have been conferred knighthood in the
2012 honours list.
They are Russia-born Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin
Novoselov based at the University of Manchester, who were
involved in the creation of graphene, a sheet of carbon just
one atom thick. They won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.
Unlike foreign citizens who were conferred knighthood in
the past such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany, President
Francois Mitterrand of France and Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New
York, Ramakrishnan, Geim and Novoselov are based in the UK.
Born in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, Ramakrishnan studied
at Baroda University, Ohio University and the University of
California, San Diego.
Ramakrishnan was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2010.
In the 2010 New Year Honours List, Indian-origin Mota
Singh, Britain's first Sikh judge, was honoured with a
Other Indian-origin individuals to be honoured in the
2012 list include Professor Dinesh Kumar Makhan Lai Bhugra,
lately president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, for
services to Psychiatry.
Anant Barodekar, founder of Club 25 for Young People, has
been honoured for services to young people, while Kulvinder
Bassi, Community Rail Team Leader, Department for Transport,
has been honoured for services to Transport.
Also honoured are broadcaster Surjit Singh Ghuman,
founder of Panjab Radio, Dr Hasmukh Joshi, Dr Raman Kapur,
Madhurika Patel, Harbans Kaur Singh, Bakhshish Singh Sodhi and
cricketer Umesh Valjee (for services to Deaf Cricket).
The royal recognition to Ramakrishnan, Geim and
Novoselov, all immigrants, comes in the backdrop of the David
Cameron government tightening policies to curb immigration
from India and other non-EU countries.
The government's measures to curb immigration by
placing annual limit on non-EU professionals have come under
much criticism, including from Nobel prize-winning British
scientists, on the ground that it deprives Britain's science
and industry of talent.
In a letter to The Times in October last year, Geim,
Novoselev and six Nobel-winning scientists said it was a
"sad reflection" that scientists and engineers could not be
afforded the same exception to the rules as Premier League
Besides Geim and Novoselov, signatories to the letter
were Sir Paul Nurse, Sir Tim Hunt, Sir Martin Evans, Sir Harry
Kroto, Sir John Walker and Sir John Sulston.
In the letter, the academics wrote that the government
has seen it fit to introduce "an exception to the rules for
Premier League footballers.
"It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation
if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists
and engineers. " ?
They added: "International collaborations underlie
40 per cent of the UK's scientific output, but would become
far more difficult if we were to constrict our borders.
"The UK produces nearly 10 per cent of the world's
scientific output with only 1 per cent of its population; we
punch above our weight because we can engage with excellence
wherever it occurs. The UK must not isolate itself from the
increasingly globalised world of research - British science
depends on it. "
First Published: Saturday, December 31, 2011, 10:05