Krishnaswami Venkataraman obtained PhD and DSc degrees from University of Manchester, UK and DSc (hc) from Mendeleev Institute of Chemical Technology, Moscow, Russia. He served as Professor of Organic Chemistry, Forman Christian College, Lahore (1929-34), Reader, Technical Chemistry, Department of Chemical Technology (now, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai), University of Bombay (1935-38), Mody Professor of Chemical Technology and Director, Department of Chemical Technology (1938-57), and Director (1957-66), Emeritus Scientist (till 1977), National Chemical Laboratory, Pune.
Academic and Research Achievements: One of the most important contributions was the demonstration that e-benzoyloxyacetophnones (i) undergo a base-catalysed internal Clasen condensation of an ester and a ketone to form o-hydroxydibenzoylmethanes (2), which undergo facile acid-catalysed cyclisation to flavones (3). This reaction, which came to be known as the Baker-Venkataraman transformation, has been extensively used in the synthesis of flavones and chromones. He made significant contributions in the field of isolation and structural elucidation of naturally occurring flavones, isoflavones and naphthaquinones, and in may cases derived chemotaxonomic correlations. From the heartwood of Artocarpus heterophyllus he and his associates, isolated artocarpanone and eight flavones, all characterized by the B-resorcylic acid orientation of the hydroxyl groups in the B-ring, and established the taxonomic relationship between Artocarpus and the Morus species by isolation and structure elucidation of similar flavones from M alba. Another important contribution was in the area of lac pigments, some of which were shown to contain nitrogen which fact had been overlooked till then. Structuers were assigned to all the laccaic acids based on degradation experiments and spectroscopic studies. His interest in the chemistry of lacciac acid led him to the investigation of other anthraquinonoid insect pigments and proposed revised structures for kermasic acid and ceroalbolinic acid.
Other Contributions: Venkataraman shaped NCL into one of the world’s leading centers of chemical research encompassing all its branches but especially dyestuff chemistry, as he did at UDCT, Mumbai. He was member of editorial boards of Tetrahedron, Tetrahefron Letters and Indian Journal of Chemistry. He authored Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes (2 volumes) and later edited six more volumes (Vol III – VIII) in this series. These eight volumes alongwith The Analytical Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes (edited by him) continues to be stand reference books for dyestuff chemist.
Awards and Honours:Venkataraman received the Professor TR Seshadri 70th Birthday Commemoration Medal of INSA (1975), PC Ray Medal of Indian Chemical Society, Bawa Katar Singh Memorial Lecture of Panjab University (1964). He was elected Fellow of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Institution of Chemists (India), National Academy of Sciences (Allahabad), India, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, Royal Society of Chemistry, London, Chemical Society, London, and President, Indian Chemical Society. He was Vice-President, INSA.