must give credit to the United States for giving
him the kinds of facilities to work not previously
given to any Indian. But there is another side
to the story that must be told. Let me quote from
the biography, In Quest of Panacea, some bits
that show how politics operate in the world:
admission to the U.S. and his stay there for a
quarter of a century was possible because he went
there as 'a physician' and qualified himself as
a 'chemist' two of the professions that were exempt
from the ban on immigration of Indians in force
Supreme Court ruled that Hindus were not Caucasians
and the President excluded from American citizenship
even those Indians who had been legal immigrants
and had met the minimum residence requirement.
he could get his 'student' visa, originally valid
for two years, periodically extended because he
belonged to the excepted category, 'he was always
mortally afraid . . . that he might be picked
up for some minor infraction of the law and be
shipped back to India . . . Then came the Second
World War and the Alien Registration Act of 1940.
SubbaRow had always to carry from then on a card
bearing his right thumb impression, signature
and registered number (3420564) testifying to
his status as an 'alien', one of the 3896 East
Indians on the Registry. And he had to report
his address every three months to the Department
of Justice in Washington.
1942, he had to get special clearance because
his position as Director of Research at Lederle
was considered sensitive in view of his supervision
of the processing of blood albumin for supply
to the Navy and of the research on tetanus and
gas gangrene toxoid that was of interest to the
Army and the Navy. The clearance was given after
a declaration by his company that it 'never had
any reason to doubt his devotion and allegiance
to the United States' and a thorough investigation
was made of his record both at Boston and at Pearl
New Republic fulminated in 1943 against the notion
that natives of India like SubbaRow and other
world-renowned scientists then playing valuable
roles in USA in helping to win the War were unfit
for American citizenship that was 'freely granted
to the most backward and ignorant Balkan peasant'.
That year a number of bills were introduced in
the Senate and the House of Representatives for
lifting the citizenship bar on Indians. One of
them reached the statute book in July 1946.
wished to shed the stigma of being an 'alien'
amidst people with whom he had lived 25 years
and had thrown his lot, but it took a year for
him to get the ruling of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service that he had been admitted legally into
the United States. He spread the good news among
his associates but he did not in the next twelve
months he lived file his 'Declaration of Intention'
the necessary first step to get the American citizenship.
felt within he was an Indian and he died an Indian.
he died on August 8, 1948, obituaries appeared
in Science, New York Times, New York Herald-Tribune
and newspapers and journals in many parts of the
world. The Herald-Tribune called him 'one of the
most eminent medical minds of the Century'.
SubbaRow was not born great; his mother had to
sell the little jewellery she possessed to provide
for his education. Nor was greatness thrust upon
him. He achieved greatness by imagination, self-confidence,
love of fellow humans and an inner compulsion
to alleviate human suffering. And he did what
no other Indian had ever done till then on foreign
soil: he made some of the most important and seminal
contributions that were destined to transform
a whole range of basic and applied sciences and
save innumerable human lives. If there were a
Nobel Prize for those who died virtually unknown
but whose accomplishments lit the path of many
who came later, SubbaRow would surely be among
the first to receive it.
today in our country very few people know of him.
The efforts of the Centenary Committee succeeded
in getting the government issue a stamp in his
honour in 1995. But he has not been given the
appropriate recognition by the nation till today.
We have given the Bharat Ratna posthumously to
others. Why not to Yellapragada SubbaRow?
Dr Pushpa Mitra Bhargava, formerly Director of
CCMB the Centre for Cellular and Molecular
Biology, heads ANVESHNA the sicence consultancy in