Krishnaswami Venkataraman
Born(1901-06-07)7 June 1901
Died12 May 1981(1981-05-12) (aged 79)
Alma mater
Known forBaker-Venkataraman transformation
RelativesK. Swaminathan (brother)
Krishnaswami Srinivas Sanjivi (brother)
Madhav Sharma (nephew)
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorRobert Robinson
Doctoral students

Krishnaswami Venkataraman FNA, FASc, FNASc, FRSC (1901–1981), popularly known as KV, was an Indian organic chemist and the first Indian director at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL Pune) and University Department of Chemical Technology, Mumbai (UDCT). He was known for the demonstration of an organic chemical reaction involving 2-acetoxyacetophenones which later came to be known as the Baker–Venkataraman rearrangement and for his contributions in developing NCL into one of the leading research centres in organic chemistry. He was an elected fellow of several science academies which included the Royal Society of Chemistry, Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, USSR Academy of Sciences, Prussian Academy of Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Indian National Science Academy. The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan, the third highest Indian civilian award, in 1961.[1]


Chennai Presidency College
Chennai Presidency College
Morus alba
Morus alba

Krishnaswami Venkataraman was born on 7 June 1901 in Madras (present-day Chennai), Madras Presidency during the British Colonial rule, to P. S. Krishnaswami, a civil engineer, Sanskrit scholar and the translator of Valmiki Ramayana into Tamil, as the middle-born of his three sons.[2] His brothers were K. Swaminathan, a professor of English who was the chief editor of the collected works of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Krishnaswami Srinivas Sanjivi, a noted medical doctor who founded Voluntary Health Services and is considered by many to be the father of the primary health care movement in India.[3] Madhav Sharma, an actor of films and television, is his nephew.

He studied chemistry at Presidency College, Madras and obtained his MA from Madras University in 1923.[4] Subsequently, he moved to England where he joined the University of Manchester on a scholarship from the Government of Tamil Nadu and obtained MSc (Tech) in colour chemistry. He remained in England for his doctoral research, along with another noted chemist, T. R. Seshadri, at the laboratory of Robert Robinson which earned him a PhD and later a DSc from the University of Manchester.[2]

On his return to India in 1927, he worked at the Indian Institute of Science as a research fellow for almost a year and in 1928, joined Forman Christian College, Lahore (then part of undivided India).[2] He stayed in Lahore until 1934 when he joined the then newly formed University Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT-present-day Institute of Chemical Technology) of the University of Bombay as a reader and became a full Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1936. In 1938, he was appointed as the head of the department and as the director in 1943, thus becoming the first Indian director of the Institute.[5] After retiring from UDCT in 1957, he became the third director of the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, the first Indian director to hold the post.[6] He served as the director of NCL until 1966, but continued his association with the laboratory eve after his retirement.[2]

Venkataraman married Shakunthala at the age of nineteen when his bride was only fourteen.[2] The couple had one daughter, Dharma Kumar, who went on to become a noted economic historian.[7] Lovraj Kumar, an Indian civil servant and a former secretary of the ministries of Petroleum and Steel, was his son-in-law and Radha Kumar, a noted author, historian, feminist and academic was his granddaughter.[8] Venkataraman died on 12 May 1981 at New Delhi, survived by his wife and daughter.[2]

Scientific and professional contributions

One of the major scientific achievements of Venkataraman was his experiments with 2-acetoxyacetophenones when he demonstrated, along with Wilson Baker, and English organic chemist, that the compound transformed into o-hydroxydibenzoylmethanes and finally to flavones which later came to be known as Baker-Venkataraman transformation.[9][10] This process, a variant of Allan–Robinson reaction, is in use for the synthesis of flavones and chromones. Through his experiments with Artocarpus heterophyllus, commonly known as Jackfruit, he was able to isolate artocarpanone, a tyrosinase inhibitor, as well as eight flavones and later, he isolated similar flavones from Morus alba (White Mulberry). These experiments helped establish the taxonomical relationship between the two species.[2][note 1]

Shortly after the Second World War, Venkataraman was invited for a visit IG Farben, a German dyestuff manufacturing company, and this gave him an opportunity to study the international dyestuff industry.[2][note 2] He collected data which was later copied and published as an 8-volume book, The Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes, which is considered by many as a seminal work on dye chemistry.[11][12] He also submitted a report to the Government of India for the development of dyestuff and intermediaries industry in India, known as the Pai/Venkataraman report which paved way for the development of the industry in the country, earning him the moniker, the father of the Indian dyestuff industry.[13]

Another of Venkataraman's contributions was his work on lac pigments.[9] He focused his research on the chemistry of laccaic acid and later on other anthraquinonoid insect pigments. With the help of his findings, he proposed revised structures for kermesic acid and ceroalbolinic acid.[note 3] He was the first scientist in India to use X-ray crystallographers for finding solutions to problems of organic structure.[4]

During his tenure at UDCT, Venkataraman was instrumental in starting several courses chemical technology, combining pure science and technology.[4] He guided around 85 students in their doctoral research which included such notable chemists as B. D. Tilak,[14][15] B. S. Joshi,[16] Nitya Anand and A. V. Rama Rao.[2][note 4] His contributions are reported in the development of National Chemical Laboratory into one of World's leading research centre in dyestuff chemistry.[9] He sat in the editorial boards of many journals, which included Tetrahedron, Tetrahedron Letters and Indian Journal of Chemistry. Besides The Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes, he also edited another 612-page book, The Analytical Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes[17] and these nine books remain reference texts in the discipline.[18] Besides, he also published 271 scientific articles.[19]

Venkataraman served as the president of the Indian Academy of Sciences for three terms (1943–46, 1949–55, 1965–67) and as the vice president from 1952 to 1955.[20] He also served as the vice president of the Indian National Science Academy.[9]


Venkataraman was elected a fellow of the Chemical Society (FCS) in 1932,[21] which became the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1980. He was elected a founding fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (FASc) in 1934,[22] and as a Fellow of the National Institute of Sciences of India (FNI, now the Indian National Science Academy in 1939.[n 1] [23] He was also a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India (FNASc).[23] In 1960, Academy of Sciences Leopoldina elected him as a member.[24] He was also a fellow of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, USSR Academy of Sciences, and the Polish Academy of Sciences.[9]

The Government of India awarded Venkataraman the third highest civilian award of the Padma Bhushan in 1961.[1] He received the Professor T. R. Seshadri 60th birthday commemoration medal in 1973.[25] He was also a recipient of the Acharya P.C. Ray Medal of the Indian Chemical Society.[9]


See also


  1. ^ Page 152
  2. ^ Page 154
  3. ^ Quoted directly from source
  4. ^ Page 155
  1. ^ Prior to 1970, the Indian National Science Academy was named the "National Institute of Sciences of India", and its fellows bore the post-nominal "FNI". The post-nominal became "FNA" in 1970 when the association adopted its present name.


  1. ^ a b "Padma Awards | Interactive Dashboard". Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anand, Nitya (22 May 2018). "Krishnaswami Venkataraman (1901–1981)" (PDF). Indian National Science Academy. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Visionary doctor's legacy". The Hindu. 28 March 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2018.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c "Father of dyestuff research". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 17 May 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  5. ^ "ICT Mumbai". Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  6. ^ "CSIR- National Chemical Laboratory". Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  7. ^ "The last liberal". The Hindu. 4 November 2001. Archived from the original on 25 August 2002. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Obituary: Lovraj Kumar". The Independent. 1 April 1994. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "INSA :: Deceased Fellow Detail". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  10. ^ Mahal, Harbhajan S.; Venkataraman, Krishnasami (1934). "387. Synthetical experiments in the chromone group. Part XIV. The action of sodamide on 1-acyloxy-2-acetonaphthones". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed): 1767. doi:10.1039/jr9340001767. ISSN 0368-1769.
  11. ^ Atkinson, Edward R. (1952). "The Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes. Volume 1 (Venkataraman, K.)". Journal of Chemical Education. 29 (8): 426. Bibcode:1952JChEd..29..426A. doi:10.1021/ed029p426.3. ISSN 0021-9584.
  12. ^ Brode, Wallace R. (18 December 1953). "The Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes, Vols. I and II. K. Venkataraman. New York: Academic Press, 1952. 1442 pp. Illus. $29.00 for set of 2 vols". Science. 118 (3077): 757. Bibcode:1953Sci...118..757B. doi:10.1126/science.118.3077.757-a. ISSN 0036-8075.
  13. ^ "Chemistry Tree - Krishnaswami Venkataraman". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  14. ^ Panse, G.T. "Bal Dattatreya Tilak Obituary". Archived from the original on 25 February 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  15. ^ R. A. Abramovitch (15 September 2009). Pyridine and Its Derivatives, Supplement. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 615–. ISBN 978-0-470-18816-3.
  16. ^ "B.S. Joshi's scientific contributions". ResearchGate. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  17. ^ The Analytical chemistry of synthetic dyes. New York: Wiley. 1977. ISBN 978-0471905752. OCLC 2542360.
  18. ^ Augart, Dietmar (1978). "Book Review: The Analytical Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes. Edited by K. Venkataraman". Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English. 17 (2): 139. doi:10.1002/anie.197801391. ISSN 0570-0833.
  19. ^ "Krishnaswami Venkataraman - NeglectedScience". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  20. ^ "Fellow profile - Indian Academy of Sciences". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Proceedings of the Chemical Society: Ordinary Scientific Meeting". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed): A001–A097. 1932. doi:10.1039/JR93200BA001.
  22. ^ "Fellowship - Indian Academy of Sciences". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b "INSA :: Biographical Memoirs". Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  24. ^ "Mitgliederverzeichnis". (in German). Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  25. ^ "INSA :: Awards Recipients". 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.

Further reading