Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan receives UK’s Royal Order of Merit

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Indian-born Nobel Prize winner Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan received the prestigious Order of Merit from King Charles III of Great Britain in recognition of his distinguished services to science.

The 70-year-old UK-based molecular biologist is one of six appointments made to the historic order by the late Queen Elizabeth II before her death in September and the first to be appointed by Charles.

The Order of Merit is an exclusive mark of honor conferred by the British Sovereign.

“His Majesty the King has had the pleasure of making six new appointments to the Order of Merit. Appointments to the Order are made in recognition of distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature or for the advancement of culture,” Buckingham Palace said on Friday evening.

“The people were chosen by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in early September,” he said.

Professor Venki was born in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu and studied biology in the USA before moving to the UK where he is the group leader of the main research center MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge .

He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for his work on ribosomal structure and was knighted by the Queen in 2012. He was President of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom from November 2015 to November 2020.

“Ironically, the first [Royal Society] Fellows to come into contact with India were colonizers like Robert Clive and Warren Hastings, or colonial administrators like Thomas Macaulay and Richard Temple. They certainly did not regard the Indians as their equals in any way, and frankly would have been amazed if one day someone born in India would become a member, let alone President of the Society,” Professor Venki noted in his speech. farewell to the Royal Society two years ago.He is also a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of India.

More recently, he has used electron microscopy to visualize ribosomes in action in higher organisms. This work has advanced human understanding of how the ribosome works and how antibiotics inhibit it.

In the past, he has also worked on the structure of histones and chromatin, which helps to understand how DNA is organized in cells.

The Order of Merit, founded in 1902 by King Edward VII, is conferred on persons of exceptional distinction in the armed forces, science, the arts and literature, or for the promotion of culture based on the personal choice of the monarch .

It is limited to 24 members at any one time and other new recipients this week include: Baroness Floella Benjamin, architect Sir David Adjaye, nursing expert Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Professor Margaret MacMillan from the University of Oxford and geneticist and biologist Sir Paul Nurse are the other recipients of the honour.

Other members of the Order include Sir David Attenborough, the famous British environmentalist, artist David Hockney, former Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd and the computer scientist who founded the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

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