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30 Interesting Yellapragada Subbarao Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
Yellapragada Subbarao Facts

Scientist Yellapragada Subbarao is one typical example from the modern times, who became a victim of west’s racial take on India. His legendary achievements in field of biochemistry went unsung for decades because he was denied proper credit. In this article titled 30 interesting Yellapragada Subbarao facts, we are going to learn about this legendary scientists and his important contributions.

Before we do so, we will like to mention that many educated and humble scholars from similar fields today recognize Yellapragada Subbarao’s contributions as earth-shattering. Here are a few quotes from learned people who not only appreciate Yellapragada Subbarao’s talents but are also grateful for his important discoveries:

1988 Nobel Prize winner George Hitchings (who shared the prize with Gertrude Elion in field of Medicine and who was also a colleague of Subbarao says, “Some of the nucleotides isolated by Subbarow had to be rediscovered years later by other workers because Fiske, apparently, did not let Subbarow’s contributions see the light of the day.”

Doron K. Antrim said in April 1950 issue of the magazine named Argosy, “You’ve probably never heard of Dr. Yellapragada Subbarow. Yet because he lived you may be alive and are well today. Because he lived you may live longer.”

The statements made by these scholars make it clear that Yellapragada Subbarao was no ordinary scientist and that his discoveries are of paramount importance to mankind even to this day. Let us now learn 30 interesting Yellapragada Subbarao facts.

Interesting Yellapragada Subbarao Facts: 1-10

1. Yellapragada Subbarao was born on January 12, 1895 in Andhra Pradesh’s Bhimavaram in Madras Presidency.

2. He completed his schooling from Rajahmundry but during his schooling days, he was exposed to traumatic stress caused by unexpected deaths of several of his relatives caused by diseases).

3. Because of this stress, his education was hindered to quite and extent and it took him 3 attempts to clear matriculation from Hindu High School in Madras.

4. He went to Presidency College for completing his Intermediate Examination. Post Intermediate, Subbarao went to Madras Medical College. He was already in financial crisis by then and hence, had to depend on Kasturi Suryanarayana Murthy and his friends for supporting his further studies.

5. Subbarao later went on to marry the daughter of Kasturi Suryanarayana Murthy.

6. While studying in Madras Medical College, he decided to voice his opinion against British Raj by boycotting British goods upon the call of Mahatma Gandhi. As a result he ended up wearing surgical dress made of Khadi material.

7. This choice made M. C. Bradfield, one of the professors of surgery at Madras Medical College very unhappy. As a result of this, despite Subbarao performed significantly well in written papers, he ended up receiving LMS certificate instead of a full MBBS degree.

8. Since he failed to get MBBS degree, he was not allowed to enter into Madras Medical Services, which forced him to pick up the job of anatomy lecturer in Madras’ Dr. Lakshmipathi’s Ayurvedic College.

9. While working as anatomy lecturer, he became fascinated by the healing powers of Ayurvedic medicines and hence, decided to work towards the cause of bringing Ayurveda to the forefront of medical sciences.

10. His noble idea was warmly received by Malladi Satyalingam Naicker Charities based in Kakinada. However, he did require some financial support, which came from his father-in-law.

Interesting Yellapragada Subbarao Facts: 11-20

11. With the financial aid from his father-in-law and full support of Malladi Satyalingam Naicker Charities, Subbarao managed to make his way into Boston, USA in 1922 on October 26.

12. After entering USA, he took admission in Harvard School of Tropical Medicine and completed his diploma. After attaining his diploma, he became Harvard’s junior faculty.

13. Though he was a junior member of Harvard faculty, he was still poor and he had to work in different shift to cope with his poverty. During this period, he earned several scholarships and was praised by many professors at Harvard.

14. His first scientific breakthrough came when he worked in laboratory of Cyrus Fiske at Harvard. Along with Fiske, Subbarao came up with a method that allowed measurement of phosphorus in tissues and body fluid.

15. This measurement method became popular as Fiske-Subbarao Method. However, it was later given a technical name – Rapid Calorimetric Method.

16. The next discovery was an important one for him. He discovered the exact role ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate and Phosphocreatine in muscular activities. This discovery eventually led to the inclusion of his name in biochemistry textbooks during the 1930s.

17. In the year (1930) of his second discovery, Yellapragada Subbarao earned his Ph.D. Sadly enough, despite achieving his Ph.D., Harvard denied him a post of regular faculty.

18. At that point, Subbarao decided to join Lederle Laboratories that was owned by American Cyanamid, which is currently a division of Wyeth, which in turn is owned by Pfizer.

19. While working at Lederle Laboratories, he came up with a method of folic acid (Vitamin B9) synthesis. This work was based on the works of Lucy Wills. He came up with this method of synthesis in 1945.

20. Later on, with several inputs from Dr. Sidney Farber, he gave the world a drug by the name methotrexate. This drug became the world’s first cancer chemotherapy agent and to this day, it is widely used clinical applications.

Interesting Yellapragada Subbarao Facts: 21-30

21. He also came up with polymyxin that is used worldwide in cattle feed. Not just that, he also came up with Hetrazen.

22. Hetrazen is world’s most popular drug used for fighting filariasis. World Health Organization has extensively used Hetrazen.

23. Because of Subbarao’s discovery of methotrexate, he is often called as the Father of Chemotherapy.

24. Yellapragada Subbarao was made the director of Lederle Laboratories and under his guidance, Benjamin Duggar discovered Aureomycin – the first tetracycline antibiotic of this world.

25. According to Nobel Laureate George Hitchings, many of the discoveries made by Yellapragada Subbarao were to be rediscovered at later periods simply because Fiske did not allow those discoveries to see the broad daylight.

26. Because of Subbarao’s amazing discoveries, American Cyanamid however decided to honor him by naming a newly discovered fungus after him. This fungus goes by the name Subbaromyces splendes.

27. Interestingly enough, Subbarao did not get green card for the majority of his stay in America. After 25 years of life in America, he had to file Declaration of Intention to eventually get Immigration and Naturalization Service’s ruling that he was admitted to USA legally.

28. At the age of 53, this astonishing medical minds of 20th century succumbed to a massive heart attack on August 9, 1948.

29. His wife’s name was Seshagiri and they had a child. Sadly enough, the child was born after Subbarao reached America.

30. Unfortunately, a deadly disease called Sappi eventually claimed the life of his son at the age of 9.


  • http://www.ysubbarow.info/Archive/home.php
  • http://www.ysubbarow.info
  • S. P. K. Gupta , S. Bansal , V. Ramesh. Remembering Yellapragada SubbaRow. International Journal of Dermatology 2013 Jul; 52(7):882-886.
  • S. P. K. Gupta. The dilemma of a fame-hunter, Reflections on Yellapragada SubbaRow centenary. Current Science 1995 Jan; 68 (10): 110-113.
  • P. M. Bhargava. Dr. Yellapragada SubbaRow (1895-1948) He Transformed Science; Changed Lives. Journal, Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine 2001 Jan–June; 2(1 & 2): 96-100.
  • C.H. Fiske, Y. SubbaRow. The colorimetric determination of phosphorus. Journal of Biological Chemistry 1925 Dec; 66 (2): 375-400.

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