Rabindra Prasad Purkayastha obtained MSc (Botany) (1958) from the University of Calcutta; PhD from University of London; and DIC (1965) from Imperial College, London. He worked as Lecturer (1969-77), Reader (1977-86), Professor (1986-92), Professor and Head (1992-94) and Sir Rashbehari Ghosh Professor (1995-2000), all in the Department of Botany, University of Calcutta.
Academic and Research Achievements: While studying induced resistance in plants, Purkayastha demonstrated the involvement of phytoalexins (PA) in differential resistance of rice, jute broad bean and soybean cultivars to fungal diseases. He did pioneering work on the application of immunoserological technology for determining the basic compatibility factor in legume hosts and their fungal parasites and discovered that chemically induced resistance could alter antigenic pattern of host plants and accelerate phytoalexin synthesis. These findings led to the development of a new method for screening disease resistance/susceptible germplasm in vitro. He showed that different plant defense activators could trigger systemic resistance in plants by inducing different sets of defense-related proteins depending on the nature of activator and identified potent defense activators for use in plant disease management. He had also made significant contributions to mushroom science. He had published more than 200 papers, authored/edited 5 books and mentored 28 PhD students.
Other Contributions: Professor Purkayastha served as Member of the Scientific Panel of ICAR, New Delhi (1982-85), Review Committee, UGC (1993), Programme Advisory Committee, DST (1994-97) and Technical Advisory Committee, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata (2002-03). He was associated with British Mycological Society (1965-90), Federation of British Plant Pathologists (1968-76), International Society for Plant Pathology (1971-78) and New York Academy of Sciences (1981-83). His visits under Bilateral Exchange of Scientists include: INSA/ Royal Society, London (1982) and INSA/ JSPS, Tokyo (1996).
Awards and Honours: Professor Purkayastha was awarded Paul Johannes Bruhl Memorial Medal by Asiatic Society (1991), Professor SN Dasgupta Memorial Lecture Award by IPS (1997) and Platinum Jubilee Lecture Award by ISCA (2001). He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1995), National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi (1996) and West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology (1989) (Foundation Fellow).