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Biresh Chandra Guha took India’s biochemistry research to new heights

14 November, 2022 11:07:27
Biresh Chandra Guha took India’s biochemistry research to new heights

Nowadays, Biochemistry is a well-known subject and is sought by many students. It is a sub-discipline of both chemistry and biology. Almost all universities have a department of biochemistry or biological chemistry. The subject has come to be associated with our day-to-day lives as well. Biochemists execute tests, such as sodium, potassium, lipid profile, and many more, prescribed by doctors. But the inspiration behind India’s progress in biochemistry is Dr. Biresh Chandra Guha.

Dr. Biresh Chandra Guha was an Indian biochemist, a meritorious student, a scholar, and an enthusiastic researcher. He was born on 8th June 1904 in Mymensingh. His ancestral home was in Barishal, Banaripara, Bangladesh. He specialized in industrial chemistry as well. He graduated from St. Xavier’s College, achieving the first rank in Biochemistry Honours in 1923. He also ranked first in MSc. He was closely associated with Ashwini Kumar Dutta, a revolutionary and a patriot. Hence, Biresh Chandra Guha was inspired by Ashwini Kumar Dutta and took part in the freedom struggle movements very actively. He participated in the famous Non-Cooperation movement even after he got a chance to study at Presidency College, which is why he was forcefully dropped by the authorities in 1921. 

Biresh Chandra Guha, a keen researcher, went to many European countries to explore new scientific processes and got familiar with modern research facilities. He did his Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) and DSc from the University of London. His research was about discovering vitamin B-2 from bulls’ livers. He came to be associated with the famous biochemist of Cambridge University, Nobel Laureate, F.C. Hopkins, and worked under him. After he returned in 1932, he worked at Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, where he worked on different types of Vitamins. In 1936, he was appointed as the Head of the Biochemistry Department at Calcutta University. He still was not satisfied enough with these achievements, so he went abroad again. There were huge facilities for biochemistry, and he learned how biochemistry is taught in London and other countries mastered them, and came back to India.

The most important contribution of Biresh Chandra Guha and his colleagues was ascorbic acid biosynthesis. His work showed the importance of biochemistry as the connecting link between the two extremes of molecular genetics and species evolution in life sciences. Guha has done significant research in applied chemistry as well. He also worked towards waste utilization and waste management in the interest of the national economy. 

Guha is known for his research on ascorbic acid or Vitamin-C. India got a new perspective on biochemistry and life sciences because of him, which is why Guha is referred to as the “Father of Modern Biochemistry in India.” His enthusiasm to learn about new things was unfathomable. On one hand, he worked on the importance of proteins and vitamins in the human body at different stages of life, which inspired the establishment of ‘The Food Technology Research Institute.’ On the other hand, he worked on the difference between sea fishes and other fishes in terms of proteins and other benefits. 

Guha was also very socially active. He was involved in much social work at different intervals of his life. He was closely related to Ashwini Kumar Dutta, which inspired him to participate in the freedom struggle of India, and he helped a lot during the widespread famine of 1943. He was a member of Damodar Valley Corporation. In 1945, when UNESCO was established, Guha was one of the five chosen people who were to form a committee. He married Phulrenu Guha, an Indian activist, educationist, and politician. She was a member of the Rajya Sabha for quite a few years and a Padma Bhushan awardee. After the death of Biresh Chandra Guha, his wife, Phulrenu Guha donated their house in Ballygunge to Calcutta University for research in biochemistry. It is now known as “The Guha Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology” (GCGEB).

Guha was a unique person who loved to learn. He never believed in just studying; he focused more on applying. He was a revolutionary in the field of science; an individual that made the Bengalis, and the Indians proud. His contributions were a milestone in India’s scientific progress.  

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