The Order of Merit is an exclusive mark of honour conferred by the British sovereign and India-born molecular biologist Professor Venki Ramakrishnan has been conferred this rare honour by King Charles III in recognition of his distinguished service to science.
The 70-year-old UK-based Nobel laureate is among six appointments made this month to the historic order by the late Queen Elizabeth II before her death in September and first to be appointed by Charles.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement announcing the Order: “His Majesty The King has been pleased to make six new appointments to the Order of Merit. Appointments to the Order are made in recognition of distinguished service to the Armed Forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture.
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“The individuals were chosen by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in early September.”
Professor Venki was born in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu and studied biology in the US before moving to the UK where he is the Group Leader of the leading research hub MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for his work on ribosomal structure and was knighted by the Queen in 2012. He was President of the UK's Royal Society from November 2015 until November 2020.
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More recently, he has been using electron microscopy to visualise ribosomes in action in higher organisms. This work has advanced human understanding of how the ribosome works and how antibiotics inhibit it. In the past he has also worked on histone and chromatin structure, which help understand how DNA is organised in cells.
The Order of Merit, founded in 1902 by King Edward VII, is conferred on individuals of exceptional distinction in the armed forces, science, arts, literature, or for the promotion of culture based on the personal choice of the monarch. It is restricted to 24 members at any given time and the other new recipients this week include: broadcaster Baroness Floella Benjamin, architect Sir David Adjaye, nursing expert Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, University of Oxford professor Margaret MacMillan and geneticist and biologist Sir Paul Nurse are the other recipients of the honour.