Remembering State’s Top Pharamacologist

O P Sharma

Col. Ram Nath Chopra considered the  Father of Indian Pharmacology, was born, brought up and breathed his last  in Jammu and Kashmir State. He is quite famous and popular for he founded and headed the first Drug Research Laboratory (DRL) at Jammu for exploring the vast untapped medicinal plant wealth of Jammu and Kashmir as also across the country. The DRL, Jammu was later expanded and is presently named as the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) under the overall supervision of Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (ICSIR) playing a pivotal role in the Pharmacology industry and research.
Col R.N. Chopra has made notable contribution in the field of medical education as he served in the Indian Military Medical Service for quite some years during the First World War. A notable landmark is the existence of “Col. Sir R.N. Chopra Nursing Home” adjoining the Government Medical College, Jammu. Otherwise also Col. Chopra’s name is well etched in the minds of the people in Jammu and Kashmir.
Bright Career
Born on August 18, 1882 in a Punjabi family, residing in the Jammu and Kashmir State and he passed away at his home in Srinagar (Kashmir) at the ripe age of 91 years. He was greatly loved and respected and enjoyed over a long period the affection and friendship of all his Indian and European colleagues and a host of admirers from amongst research and medical professionals of all nations. He was admired notably as a man of science, passionately dedicated to research and who was held in high regard, equally for his humility, rectitude and consideration for all who came in contact with him.
Mr Chopra got his early education at the Government College, Lahore (Punjab) from where he obtained his first degree in sciences. Thereafter, in 1903, he went to Downing College, Cambridge and took his Natural Science Tripos in 1905. He continued his medical studies at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London and his first medical degree B.Ch. (Contab) came in 1908, the year he entered the Indian Medical Service. Returning to India in 1909 he was posted with the 19th Punjab Regiment in the North West Frontier. He was a Captain in 1914, when the First World War broke out. He was called up to serve in the East African Theatre, where hostilities had broken out between the British and German colonies of Kenya and Tanganyka.
Memorable Contribution
Mr Chopra’s return to army life in India was for a brief period during which he participated in the Third Afgan War in 1919.
In 1921, soon after his return from the war, Mr Chopra accepted an appointment to the Chair of Pharmacology in the newly established School of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta as Professor of Pharmacology and later also became its Director.
Man of Science
His day started at 4 a.m. and he worked late into the evening, with only short periods for relaxation and exercise. Chopra’s researches were intensive and laborious. He initiated a detailed study of Indian medicinal plants which had been widely used for centuries in Ayurvedic, Tibbia and other systems of Indian medicine. In a collaborative research programme, he isolated their actives principles and worked out their pharmacological action in experimental animals and carried out detailed clinical studies using indigenous remedies. He was author of a number of medical books, some now standard works of reference, as also of several hundred original scientific papers.
In 1925, he was awarded the Minto Gold Research Medal and in 1934, he was given the C.I.E. in recognition of his work as chairman of the Drugs Inquiry Committee. The Indian Drugs Act of 1940 generally followed the lines which he had recommended and the Biological Standardization Laboratory was established with Mr Chopra concurrently as its first Director.
Vast Medicinal Wealth
From India’s vast and varied vegetations, many substitutes for expensive remedies were discovered and brought into use. In addition, Mr Chopra devoted himself to studies of important disease problems of India.
On retirement from the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, Sir Ram Nath Chopra shifted his field of research to his home State of Jammu and Kashmir where he established pilot manufacturing plant. In this happy task he was joined by his son I.C. Chopra, who continued his work for long after his retirement from active research. This complex was later taken over by the Government of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Unique Legacy
Mr Chopra’s work in building up Indian Pharmacology established the highest standards of medical research on applied problems and marked him out as an outstanding Indian in this field. Honours came to him from all parts of medical world which he carried with humility. Col R.N. Chopra is still remembered by the people in Jammu and Kashmir as also across the country.
(Starline Syndicate Service)