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In fond memory of those we lost in 2017 : Dr. Lalji Singh

  • Infographic : Purabi Deshpande / Research Matters

Dr. Lalji Singh was born in the small village of Kalwari in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh on 5th July 1947, to a farmer and head of village, Suryanarayan Singh. With no higher education facilities in his village, Lalji strived for an education early on, travelling to a nearby village to complete his schooling and joining the reputed Banaras Hindu University. After completing his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from BHU, Lalji was admitted for his PhD in the same university.

Singh’s passion for biology showed early on, when he chose to pursue a degree in zoology and cytogenetics -- the study of chromosomes. He took a keen interest in the emerging field of cytogenetics, going on to do his doctorate in the same field by studying the evolution of snakes.

After his PhD, Lalji had a brief stint abroad at the University of Edinburgh and the Australian National University. He then returned to join the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) of which he later became the Director.  He also served at the governing board of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and as the Vice-chancellor of BHU.

Lalji Singh’s work on the evolution of Banded kraits--a species of snake found in India and Southeast Asia--is considered to be the foundation for the development of DNA fingerprinting technology in the country. With time, the fingerprinting techniques evolved, and was used widely as forensic evidence in several civil and criminal cases. Lalji also established the Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) in Hyderabad, to provide effective DNA fingerprinting for humans. His contributions to the field earned him the honor of being called the “father of DNA fingerprinting” in India. He was also awarded the Padma Shri for his contributions to Indian science and technology.

On 10th December 2017, at the age of 70,  Lalji Singh complained of a chest pain and was admitted to the BHU trauma center, where he passed away from a heart attack. With his contributions, Lalji had already laid the foundations for the advancement of the emerging field of DNA fingerprinting, but his loss surely weighs heavy on the nation.