Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ACK-074: The Story of a Scientist - Y. Subba Row

An out of print ACK (#306)
Following article was published in one of the best National Newspaper of India: THE HINDU (Thursday, Mar 13, 2003 by R.Parthasarathy)

Discoverer of miracle medicines
- Y. Subba Row (1895-1948)

YERLAGADDA SUBBA Row was born on January 12, 1895 at Bhimavaram in the old Madras Presidency. He passed through a traumatic period in his schooling at Rajahmundry and could eventually matriculate in his third attempt from the Hindu High School, Madras.

He passed the Intermediate Examination from the Presidency College and entered the Madras Medical College, where his education was supported by friends and Kasturi Suryanarayana Murthy, whose daughter he married later. Following Gandhiji's call to boycott British goods he started wearing khadi surgical gloves; this incurred the displeasure of M.C.Bradfield, his surgery professor. Consequently, though he did well in the written papers, he was awarded the lesser LMS certificate and not the MBBS degree.

Subba Row tried to enter the Madras Medical Service without success. He then took up a job as Lecturer in Anatomy at Dr.Lakshmipathi's Ayurvedic College at Madras. He was fascinated by the healing powers of Ayurvedic medicines and began to engage in research to put Ayurveda on a modern footing.

A chance meeting with an American doctor, who was visiting on a Rockefeller Scholarship changed his mind. The promise of support from Satyalinga Naicker Charities, Kakinada and financial assistance raised by his father-in-law, enabled Subba Row to proceed to the U.S.

He landed in Boston on October 26, 1923 and the real struggle started.

A generous person, by name Dr.Strong, came to his rescue and met his immediate expenses. His medical degree would not qualify for a scholarship or get him internship in Boston Hospitals. He made up by taking on various odd jobs.

Subba Row obtained the Diploma of the Harvard School of Tropical Medicine in June 1924. He then joined the Biochemistry Department and worked under the guidance of Cryrus Fiske in the area of muscle chemistry.

He developed a method for estimation of phosphorous in body fluids and tissues. This got entry into the biochemistry textbooks in 1930s. He got his Ph.D degree the same year.

Subba Row continued his research for a decade more at Harvard. His own independent contributions were hailed by his colleagues.

But he was denied elevation to a regular faculty position. He moved to Ledrale Laboratories, then a little known pharmaceutical firm, in 1940. He embarked on a programme of developing new drugs: this opened new approaches for the treatment of nutritional infections and worm-transmitted diseases.

He was Director of Research till August 1948: he was found dead (possibly due to coronary thrombosis) by his associates on a Monday afternoon. He was 53 years old. He was then in the prime of his research career.

Formulation of new drugs

Subba Row established a project for protecting American soldiers fighting in the Pacific, from malaria and filariasis. He developed the wonder drug Hetrazan. WHO spread its adoption as a key element in its worldwide campaign to eradicate filariasis.

He employed Dr. Benjamin Duggar to screen thousands of soil samples for anti-biotic producing bacteria and fungi. In august 1945, an interesting golden yellow mould was seen in a culture dish inoculated with extracts from soil samples.

This proved to be a potent antibiotic producer. The antibiotic was extracted in pure crystalline form, first in the tetra-cyline group.

For the first time, a single drug called Aureomycin could be used for controlling both gram-positive and the gram-negative bacterial germs. Fleming's penicillin could battle only the former, whereas Waksman's streptomycin only the latter.

Our nation owes a deep debt to Subba Row, for the antibiotics he discovered saved thousands of lives in 1995, when plague broke out in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

His colleague, George Hitchings who shared the Nobel Prize with Gertrude Elion (The Hindu, September 5, 2001), said: "Some of the nucleotides isolated by Subba Row had to be rediscovered years later by other workers because Fiske, apparently out of jealousy, did not let Subba Row's contributions see the light of the day" (In Quest of Panacea by S.P.K. Gupta, 1999).


American Cynamid honoured his memory with a plaque at its research laboratory and inaugurated the Subba Row library. A drug was named Subbaromyces splendens.

A memorial postage stamp was released and a bust erected in Hyderabad. A.C. College of Technology, Guindy sponsored a seminar to commemorate his memory.

The man who headed medical research during World War II, had to remain an alien, without the status of a green-card holder.

Many may not have heard the name of a man: in the medical world his contributions made a dynamic impact.

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It's an Apoorva's contribution. All thanks & credits go to him.


Samik said...

plz post the normal download link... my net connection doesnt let me download HQ

Rajeev Sharma said...

thank u parbhat... i know it is asking for too much but if u could lay ur hands on the complete collection of mahabhart published by ack in some 30-40 volumes please post that...
thank u

Anonymous said...

Hi! You have a great blog and i really enjoyed going through it. I have some suggestions to make,which might be helpful to you.
- I have no idea how a blog is designed,but if possible,please add a highlited link to some specific lists ~ The complete list of ACKs, The list of ACKs still available, and most importantly,the ACKs which're out of print.
- The complete list is on wikipedia, and at http://www.silkqin.com/13pers/acklist.htm
- The out of print ACKs list is at
in the comment section (by Prabhat, your regular contributor)
- Try to get the out-of-print ACKs scanned first, as you'll be on a legally safer ground
- Since all the Mahabharata,Krishna,and Gandhi comics(42+9+2 issues)are available as omnibus collections,it'll be better to remove them from the out-of-print list.And encourage your readers to buy ACKs!! For instance,Rajeev (above comment)can easily buy the 1300 pg,3 vol,Mahabharata ACK collection from their site(only 1000rs)
- Please highlight the ACK parent site and what is still available, it'll be a pity if your labour of love starts causing troubles for the publishers
- And finally,there are some collectors around with old ACKs, who MAY help.Do look up
and also,the gentleman who has posted that complete list of ACKs

Anyway, thanks yet again for doing a wonderful job.I appreciate the fact that you've given time and effort to such an apparently minor but emotionally significant task. I am a doctor,and had fallen out of touch with ACKs for nearly 20 years, thanks to studies and work... but,now your blog has brought back that addictive desire for these classics.. I am planning to buy the complete set !!
My best wishes to you :-)

Unknown said...

@mr.rajeev sharma-first of all, its prabhat and not parbhat.

and secondly, the library from where i get the amar chitra katha comics regularly and scan them has all the volumes of the Mahabharata. i can scan them, but prabhat has already informed me that another generous contributor is already in the process of scanning them.

you may have to wait for some time mr.rajeev sharma, but they will be posted on this blog, no doubt about that.

@Dr.S.Mitra-Thank you for visitng the blog. i too encourage people to buy ACKs if they can afford it. the Mahabharata colelction is really worth it. i recently purchased the "Great Sanskrit Plays" ACK and will be scanning it soon.

Me and other regular contributors are trying our best to scan the out of print and rare ACKs first.

and i recently posted a comment in jeff's blog asking him to come forward and contribute to the blog if possible.he hasn't replied yet.

meanwhile, if you have any rare ACKs, you too join by scanning them. i know that not many would like to part with their ACKs and every fan treasures his or her ACK collection. so, scanning is a better option provided you have the time and interest.

Anonymous said...

great! thanks a lot for this rarity.

Demonoid fan

PBC said...

Samik: I was on tours, generally I give 2 links if HQ ACK scans are available. If you visited earlier here, may be noted that in most of cases at the time of posts links are available. Feel free to write, if you would feel any more difficulties.

PBC said...

Rajeev Sharma: Welcome! As we work as team, Ajay informed us about his desire to scan this series in November last year. These are in his home town. As soon as it'll possible, I'll post. In case of any difficulties Apoorva will come forward. We are a team & honor each other desire, always try to find a friendly way. Pls wait.

PBC said...

Dr.S.Mitra: Welcome! Thanks for your advice. It'll help me to improve this blog. I was also thinking about many points raised by you.

I'll try to solve many of these this week.

About me, I'm posting only. All scans are coming through contributors. Once I wished to start scanning, but now there is very nice team. Hardly find time to be fast in posting as they are in scanning.

A list was posted earlier in blog, but I'll put in side bar along with online links.

Really We don't wish to harm the publishers. As this blog was launched, the sale of ACK increased. At least 10 persons I know personally, who are interested to buy ALL ACK now.

But not agree with online & overseas costings. Their charges are too high. I personally from feild of bussiness, living aboard, know all expances (imort-export duties, VAT etc) & costing system. Physical copies are physical copies,e-copy will never take place of physical copies. Both have own advantages. Many international publishers put online their electronic version free.

If I were managing team of ACK, thought seriously about it.

But I'm very thankful to them, they increased my interest to Indian history. First person was my grandmother who told me almost all Indian mythology in childhood.

PBC said...

Demonoid fan: Welcome!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a ton and Fantastic, I was transported back 3 decades ! I am unable to read/download the Tinkle Vol 1 as the download site says, file is private. Am I doing something wrong ?

ashu said...

Guys Guys Guys

where are the download links

as all the links that are available tell the same story about the file being private

i mean whats the use of posting the link if you donot wish to share it...

anyway prabhat & apoorv

are you guys really up to help people or just there to help yourselves (i really dont understand what you get out of posting a comic and then NOT let anyone have it)

vikki said...

Files are set to private pls reupload

Aarush said...

please upload here or mail me at luthrascl@gmail.com