The life and research of JBS Haldane in India with special reference to Charles Darwin

  • Krishna R. Dronamraju


JBS Haldane (1892–1964) was a polymath, a great scientist who made important contributions to multiple sciences such as Physiology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Statistics, Biometry, Cosmology and philosophy, even though he did not possess an academic degree in any science. His most important contribution to science was the mathematical theory of evolution which combined the evolutionary process defined by Darwin and the science of genetics founded by Mendel.

Haldane moved from London to live and work in India in 1957. As a Research Professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta, Haldane directed research on local fauna and flora, which followed the Darwinian tradition. In 1962, he moved to head the Genetics and Biometry Laboratory in Bhubaneswar but died in 1964 because of cancer. Haldane’s research and teaching in India benefited many young scientists, partly because of his great knowledge, but also because of the encouragement he provided by emphasizing the dignity and value of scientists to society.

Haldane was a fierce critic of science administration and science policy. Haldane advised the Defense research organization in India in problems related to deep sea diving, and adaptation to extremes of cold temperatures and atmospheric pressures, while breathing toxic mixtures of various gases, based on knowledge gained by painfully experimenting upon himself. We were very proud that Haldane who chose to spend his last years in India. Both Haldane and his wife (scientist Dr Helen Spurway) applied for Indian citizenship which was granted in 1961. Thus, he fulfilled the promise he made to his friends in London that he would die as an Indian.


Darwin Mendel Biometry Animal behavior Human genetics Statistics Paleontology Epidemiology Speciation Population genetics Natural selection 


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Copyright information

© The National Academy of Sciences, India 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krishna R. Dronamraju
    • 1
  1. 1.Foundation for Genetic ResearchHoustonUSA

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