Dr Akhtar Husain earned his BSc (Ag) and MSc (Ag) degrees from Government Agricultural College, Kanpur. He joined North Carolina State University, USA (1954) and obtained PhD in Plant Pathology (1957) under Professor Arthur Kelman. Subsequently he worked at Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station under Dr JG Horsfoll and Dr AE Diamond on physiology of Dutch elem disease and tomato wilt. On retuning to India (1958) he joined as Plant Pathologist at Regional Centre of Indian Council of Agricultural Research at Kanpur (1958) and became Head of the Centre (1962). In 1963, Dr Husain moved to Regional Research Laboratory (now known as Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu) as Senior Scientific Officer and Head of Plant Pathology Department. Later, he became Head, Agricultural Sciences at the same institute. He became Director of Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in Lucknow (1977).
Academic and Research Achievements: In Kanpur, Husain worked on diseases of bajra and mustard. He worked out a screening method for green ear diseases of bajra and Alternaria blight of mustard. He along with his PhD students also worked on physiology of pigeon pea wilt and red rot of sugar cane. At RRL, Jammu, he worked on artificial cultivation of ergot and diseases of medicinal and aromatic plants. His major contribution is on the role of polysaccharide and hydrolytic enzymes in vascular diseases. He was responsible for the development of high alkaloid strains of ergot fungus containing ergotamine, ergometrine and ergotoxins. He has published more than 150 research papers and written four books on medicinal and aromatic plants. He has guided seventeen students for their PhD degree.
Other Contributions: Husain was responsible for building the present campus of CIMAP. He developed it as a major international centre of research on medicinal and aromatic plants, and high yielding strains of palmarosa, mints, citronella and lemon grass were developed and new plants like Bulgarian rose, lavender clarysage and Quing Hao (Artimisia annua) were introduced in India. After retirement (1988), Dr Husain became Director General of Hamdard Group of research and educational institutions and developed these into a university, designated as "Jamia Hamdard". He became its founder Vice-Chancellor. The University is now one of the major places of higher learning and research in Delhi. Dr Husain has also worked as consultant to UNIDO in Egypt and Kenya and WHO consultant in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He has also worked as UNESCO expert in Afghanistan.
Awards and Honours: Dr Husain received Vasvik Award and is a Fellow of National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi.