Bimal Kumar Bachhawat earned his BSc and MSc degrees from Calcutta University, after which he joined Jadavpur University, Kolkata where he worked on antibiotics in the Department of Food Technology under the supervision of Professor AN Bose. From 1949 to 1957 he studied and worked in USA, first at Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a research trainee, and then at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign to obtain his PhD degree (1953) under the supervision of Professor Vestling. Subsequently he worked with Professor MJ Coon at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and discovered the enzyme HMGCoA lyase, the key enzyme in the function of ketone bodies. On returning to India, Bachhawat was at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. In 1976, he moved to Kolkata as Director of the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), and in 1985, to Delhi University as the Head of the Department of Biochemistry, and then as Dean of the Faculty of Interdisciplinary and Applied Sciences, from where he retired in 1990.
Academic and Research Achievements: At Vellore, Bachhawat started a neurochemistry laboratory. Here he initiated both teaching and research programmes in bio and neurochemistry. His research turned to the study of amino acid and inorganic sulphate metabolism, isolation and characterization of glycosaminoglycan and its role in the developing brain, and subsequently led to the discovery of molecular cause of the inherited disease metachromatic leucodystrophy . He published over 150 research articles, edited several books, and mentored a large number of students including about 42 PhD students.
Other Contributions: Bachhawat set up the first internationally recognized centre of neurochemistry and glycobiology in Vellore and created the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Delhi (South Campus). As Director of IICB, Kolkata, he transformed this institution into a major centre of biological sciences in the country. In recognition of his contributions, he was elected twice the President of Society of Biological Chemists, India. He was on the Editorial Board of the Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics. He also served as INSA Council Member (1975-77).
Awards and Honours: Professor Bachhawat received the SS Bhatnagar Prize (1962); JC Bose Award (1980); RD Birla Award (1986); Bhatnagar Fellow (1990); Padma Bhushan (1990); Outstanding Teacher Award (1993); Bashambar Nath Chopra Memorial Lecture Award (1997), BC Guha Memorial Lecture Award (1984) and SS Bhatnagar Medal of INSA (1994). He served as the Vice-President of INSA (1987-88). He was a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.