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Table of Contents    
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 66  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 301-303

Founders of Indian Neurosciences: Professor Autar Singh Paintal and Professor Darab Kersasp Dastur

Department of Neurosurgery, National Brain Research Institute, Manesar, Haryana, India

Date of Web Publication15-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Prakash N Tandon
Department of Neurosurgery, National Brain Research Institute, Manesar, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.227288

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How to cite this article:
Tandon PN. Founders of Indian Neurosciences: Professor Autar Singh Paintal and Professor Darab Kersasp Dastur. Neurol India 2018;66:301-3

How to cite this URL:
Tandon PN. Founders of Indian Neurosciences: Professor Autar Singh Paintal and Professor Darab Kersasp Dastur. Neurol India [serial online] 2018 [cited 2021 Sep 28];66:301-3. Available from:

Professor Autar Singh Paintal (24 th September 1925-21 st December 2004)

Professor Paintal was born on the 24th September 1925 in Mogok, a town in Northern Burma (Myanmar) known for its ruby mines. His father was a doctor and was frequently transferred, resulting in his schooling in different places including Saint Paul's School in Rangoon, Saint Peter's School in Mendelay and Kingswood School in Kalaw. During the World War II, in 1939, he moved to Lahore for matriculation from the Khalsa High School. He then passed his intermediate examination (FSc) of Punjab University from Forman Christian College in 1943. As a 'Bumese Evacuee', he was supported by the British Government and admitted to King George Medical College, Lucknow, for his MBBS degree.[1] In 1948, he graduated from the college winning the Hewitt gold medal and several other prizes, for standing first in the university. He, then, joined as a house physician in the Department of Medicine but within a few months “seeing the same patients of typhoid, tuberculosis, heart failure and ascites” moved to the Department of Physiology to satisfy his “quest for scientific research.” He obtained his MD degree in Physiology while working on the project entitled, “Electric resistance of the skin in normal and in psychotics,' establishing the so-called “Paintal Index.” He then went to the University of Edinburgh on a Rockefeller Fellowship to work in Professor David Whitteridge's laboratory. For his PhD research, he rigged up much of his equipment from material brought from junk-shops and flea markets. Contrary to the assertions of his mentor, he described the “pulmonary vascular nerve fibres.”

On returning to India, he initially worked in a the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory in Kanpur from 1952-54 but soon moved to the newly established Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute at Delhi University as an Assistant director.[2] It was here in 1954 that he made his most important discovery, the J-receptors (juxtapulmonary capillary receptors). His major contribution to science is in the development of a single-fiber technique for recording afferent impulses from individual sensory receptors.[1]

Between 1958-64, he joined the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, as a Professor of Physiology where he worked on the mechanism of muscle pain in addition to several visceral receptors. He returned to Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute as its Director in 1964. Here, he continued to work on J-receptors and their clinical relevance, especially with respect to breathlessness induced by exercise and in acute respiratory distress syndrome. He also studied the clinical importance of other receptors like Type B atrial receptors, gastric stretch receptors, mucosal mechanoreceptors of the intestines and ventricular pressure receptors. He was also the first Principal of the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi. Between 1986-91, in recognition for his valuable research and administrative experience, he was appointed as the Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Professor Paintal was an avid collector of limericks, and was also fond of rowing and bird watching. He upheld the highest standards of ethics in science and established the Society for Scientific Values, which he presided over. He could challenge the highest authorities in scientific matters. He was a recipient of a large number of awards and honours, which included the Shakuntala Devi Amir Chand Prize (1956); Basanti Devi Amir Chand Prize (1957); Dr. B.C. Roy National Award (1973) and the Silver Jubilee award (1979) both of the Medical Council of India; the Barclay medal (from the Asiatic Society) [in 1982]; Rameshwar Das Birla National Award (1982); Jawaharlal Nehru Award in Sciences instituted by the Government of Madhya Pradesh (1983); Acharya JC Bose medal (1985); Silver Jubilee award of AIIMS, New Delhi (1986) and the Padma Vibhushan (1986). He was also nominated as a Fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences (FAMS), Indian Academy of Sciences (FASc), and the Indian National Science Academy (FNA). He served as the President of the Indian National Science Academy in 1987-88. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of London (FRS), and the Foreign Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He also served as the President of the Indian Science Congress Association. He was a Visiting Professor to a number of institutions in the UK and USA including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, Universities of Utah, USA and Gottingen Germany (1956-58). He was honoured by Doctor of Science [Dsc] (Honoris Causa) by four universities.

Professor Darab Kersasp Dastur (6 th February 1924-16 th February 2000)

Professor Dastur was born in Bombay to well-educated, upper-middle class, Parsi parents. His early education was at the newly opened, nationalistic minded New Era School and he underwent his college education with a BSc. in Zoology and Botany at the renowned Wilson college at Bombay. He obtained his MBBS degree from Grant Medical College and the Jamshetjee Jejeebhoy (JJ) Hospital in 1949, and MD in Medicine from the Bombay University in 1952. He started his career as an Assistant Research Officer under Professor VR Khanolkar in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Neuropathology unit at Tata Memorial Hospital to work on experimental poliomyelitis in primates, and later on focused on leprosy, correlating cutaneous changes with histopathological changes in cutaneous nerves in skin biopsies. The biopsies were obtained from patients at the Acworth Leprosy Hospital. The studies were published in the prestigious journal 'Brain'. This research earned him the degree of MSc in Research in 1953.[3],[4],[5] He was awarded the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1956 to work with Drs. Seymour S Kety (an American neuroscientist who was credited with making modern psychiatry a rigorous and heuristic branch of medicine by applying basic science to the study of human behavior in health and disease)[6] and Dr. Louis Sokoloff (American neuroscientist considered to be a pioneer in the functional imaging of the brain using positron emission tomography)[7] in the Brain Metabolism Laboratory of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA. He returned to the Tata Memorial Hospital Neuropathology Laboratory where he worked from 1958 to 1962 along with Dr CGS Iyer and Dr. Noshir H. Wadia. He undertook studies on diverse neurological conditions like Japanese encephalitis, nutritional neuropathology, lathyrism, Kyasanur forest disease, in addition to his seminal work on brain tumours and muscle disease. The Indian Council of Medical Research's Neuropathology Unit shifted to the Postgraduate Research Laboratory of the JJ Hospital Mumbai with Dr. Dastur as the officer-in-charge. Soon after, he was appointed as the Professor of Neuropathology of Bombay University, which was the first chair of its kind in the country. Retiring from this position in 1981, he moved to the Medical Research Centre of the Bombay Hospital as the Director of the Department of Neuropathology and Applied Biology, where he worked until the last day of his life.

Dr. Dastur was a meticulous, deeply committed, untiring scientist with an obsession for details and clinicopathological correlation, who contributed to diverse neuropathological conditions that soon started attracting international acclaim. These research interests included his work on neuro-tuberculosis, neuro-oncology, developmental disorders of the nervous system and pathology of protein calorie malnutrition. His two close associates in the laboratory were Dr. V.S. Lalitha and Dr. D.K. Manghani. In this effort, he interacted with a large number of clinicians. The prominant ones among them were Drs. Noshir Wadia, BS Singhal, NH Antia, Subha Pandya, EP Bharucha, Anil D Desai and J Kirtane.[4]

He published over 200 scientific papers; co-edited books on leprosy with Dr. NH Antia; a monograph of the Indian Academy of Medical Sciences on “Tuberculosis of the nervous system” (along with Drs. CC Kapila, Baldev Singh and PN Tandon); and, an atlas on Pathology of Tumors of the Nervous System (along with Dr. Daya Manghani). His publications are on diverse subjects including craniovertebral anomalies, spinal dysraphism, nutritional disorders, Wilson's disease, tuberculosis, toxicology, degenerative disorders, slow virus infections and brain tumours. One of his unique and inspiring accomplishments was to always personally examine the patients prior to giving the person's pathology report. He was extremely fond of teaching and would conduct “brain-cutting sessions” once a week. He was also a research guide for several M. Sc. and Ph. D. students.[4]

Dr. Dastur was the recipient of a large number of awards which included Fellowship of the National Academy of Medical Sciences (1969), the Royal College of Pathologists (1975), and the Indian National Science Academy (1982). He represented India at the International Society of Neuropathologists from 1967-1987 and served on its Executive Committee in the years 1988-1990. He was a member of the World Health Organisation Committee on Classification of Brain Tumours. He was elected as the President of the Neurological Society of India in 1966. He received the Rameshwar Das Birla National award in 1991 and was the VR Khanolkar Orator in 1989.[3],[4],[5] Professor HM Zimmermann named him one of the “39th Neuropathologists of the 20th Century”.[4]

He breathed his last on 16th February 2000 due to a sudden heart failure.

  References Top

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Pandya S. Two founders of Bombay Neurosciences: Professor Gajendra Sinh and Professor Noshir Hormusjee Wadia. Neurol India 2017;65:240-4.  Back to cited text no. 3
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Manghani DK. Darab K Dastur (1924-2000). Available from: [Last accessed on 2018 Feb 25].  Back to cited text no. 4
Deopujari CE. Neurosurgery at the Bombay Hospital. Neurol India 2017;65:600-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
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