American Philosophical Society
Member History

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2. Biological Sciences[X]
206. Physiology, Biophysics, and Pharmacology[X]
1Name:  Dr. Venki Ramakrishnan
 Institution:  MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology; Trinity College; Royal Society, London
 Year Elected:  2020
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  206. Physiology, Biophysics, and Pharmacology
 Residency:  resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1952
Venki Ramakrishnan was born and grew up in India. At the age of 19, he left for the United States to pursue a PhD in physics, but his interests soon turned to biology. He spent almost three decades in the USA before moving to England to work in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Most of his work has been on central problems in molecular biology, including how our DNA is packaged in cells and how genetic information is "read" to make the proteins they specify. This process is carried out by the ribosome, an enormous molecular complex of about half a million atoms. He and others determined the precise atomic structure of the ribosome which helped us to understand how it worked. The work also showed how many antibiotics work by blocking bacterial ribosomes, which could help to design better antibiotics. For this work, he shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Since 2015, Ramakrishnan has been president of the Royal Society, one of the oldest scientific organizations in the world, and is a leading voice for British science. Ramakrishnan is also the author of a popular memoir, Gene Machine, which tells about the quest for the structure of the ribosome and also describes in very frank terms what it is like to be an outsider who found himself in the middle of a race for an important problem. It talks about how science is done with its mixture of insights and persistence as well as blunders and dead ends, and how scientists behave, with their mixture of competition and collaboration, their egos, insecurities and jealousies, but also their kindness and generosity. Venki Ramakrishnan was elected a member of the Americn Philosophical Society in 2020.
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