Bires Chandra Guha obtained his PhD and DSc from the University of London. His specialization was in biochemistry and industrial chemistry. He was a Scientist in Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works (1932-36) and a Professor of Applied Chemistry, University of Calcutta (1936-43). He was also the Chief Technical Adviser, Food Department, Government of India (1944).
Academic and Research Achievements: The most important contribution of Guha and his colleagues was ascorbic acid biosynthesis. The significance of this lies in its evolutionary implications. He showed that in amphibians and reptiles, the key enzymes systems mediating ascorbic acid synthesis are mainly localized in kidneys or embryologically related tissues. As one goes higher on evolutionary scale, this role is taken over by liver and in primates, even liver to mediate the key enzyme reactions, it is lost irreversibly. Guha’s work laid the basis, at the molecular level, for the biochemical mechanism involved in this dependence or independence from growth factors in different species on the evolutionary scale. His work showed the importance of biochemistry as the connecting link between the two extremes of molecular genetics and species evolution in life sciences. Guha’s researches in applied chemistry were equally significant. He worked on problems of coal gasification and waste utilization in the interest of national economy. He developed methods for utilization of jute wastes, large-scale retting of jute, and fermentative production of citric and gluconic acids. He planned for a comprehensive study of the biochemistry of tea leaves from the green stage to the maturation, curing, storage and blending.
Other Contributions: Guha’s name is inextricably linked with postgraduate courses and summer schools in biochemistry. Guha was actively associated with the administration of Indian Science Congress Association and Association of Scientific Workers of India, as also of ICMR, CSIR and other research bodies. He was the Founder-Editor of Biotechnol Bioengng.
Awards and Honours: The annual ‘Guha Research Conference’ celebrates the memory and contribution of BC Guha.
The Indian National Science Academy has instituted the Bires Chandra Guha Memorial Lecture in his honour.