Famed Indian Biologist Dies

Obaid Siddiqi, regarded as one of the founders of modern biology in India, has passed away at age 81.

Aug 1, 2013
Chris Palmer

Obaid Siddiqi passed away on July 26 at age 81 VENKI RAMAKRISHNAN

Acclaimed Indian scientist Obaid Siddiqi died on Friday (July 26) at age 81 from injuries suffered when he was struck by a moped 2 days prior. Siddiqi, still actively engaged in research at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore at the time of the accident, is credited with several pioneering achievements in the fields of genetics and molecular biology, including the discovery of stop codons in the genetic code and the mechanism of chain termination in polypeptide synthesis.

Upon founding the Molecular Biology Unit at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, in 1962—considered a seminal moment for the field of biology in India—Siddiqi successfully recruited to the institute many prominent scientists of Indian origin who had studied in the United States. In the 1970s, his work with Seymour Benzer at Caltech to discover temperature-sensitive paralytic Drosophila mutants spawned the age of behavioral genetics. A decade later, his further explorations into Drosophila genetics led to the understanding of how taste and smell are encoded in the brain.

Over the course of his career, Siddiqi served as president of the Indian Academy of Science and was a member of the Royal Society in London, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences. He is survived by his wife Asiya, sons Imran and Kaleem, and daughters Yumna and Diba.

“Siddiqi was among that crop of scientists who helped lay the foundation of our country’s scientific research effort,” said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a statement. “Siddiqi will be missed deeply by his friends and colleagues as a great researcher, educationist and a very warm human being.”