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Members' News November 2011

A Festschrift for Prem Narain


Prem Narain


A special issue of the Journal of Indian Society of Agricultural Statistics (JISAS), New Delhi, was brought published on August 10, 2011, as a festschrift for Prem Narain on his 75th birthday. It can be viewed on the website www.isas.org.in/jisas/ under the heading “Latest Issue” (Vol. 65, 2011).


The Indian Society of Agricultural Statistics was founded in 1947 with the late Dr. Rajendra Prasad (the First President of the Indian Republic) as its founding President due to the efforts of P.V. Sukhatme, V.G. Panse and others. Prem Narain has been associated with this Society since 1961, holding various positions. Currently, he is the Executive President. The Society brings out a journal, JISAS, three times per year to publish original researches in statistics and its applications to agriculture, with the help of an Editorial Board. Currently, V.K. Gupta is Chair, Editor of this journal.


Prem Narain holds PhD and DSc degrees from Edinburgh University, Britain. He has mostly worked at the Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI), New Delhi, in various capacities, finally becoming its Director for eleven years from 1981 to 1992. He also did research work and taught courses in the USA at Iowa State University, Ames, Ohio State University, Columbus and Center for Demographic and Population Genetics, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, for short terms. Since his retirement in 1994 from the post of Dean & Joint Director at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, and a five-year stint as Professor Emeritus in a CSIR project, he has been a freelance researcher.


Narain’s principal research interest has been statistical aspects of genetics and genomics. His several research contributions include the effect of linkage in inbred systems by generalizing Malécot's concept of coefficient de parenté to an arbitrary number of linked loci for the first time, the genetics of quantitative variability by extending Hayman's method of representing mathematically the laws of genetics to multiple allelic systems and developing a new concept of the distribution of time taken for the fixation of a gene in finite populations, independently of similar work by Kimura and Ohta, which has since found useful applications in animal breeding and evolution. Along with Alan Robertson FRS, with whom he did his Ph.D. at Edinburgh University, he investigated the survival of recessive lethals in finite populations using finite Markov Chain methods. This led to the development of diffusion processes with a killing coefficient in the hands of Samuel Karlin and Simon Tavare. He also introduced the method of conditioned diffusion equations in relation to population genetic problems independently of similar work by Warren Ewens. Recently, he developed a 'dialectical approach to agriculture' as well as a general theory of the Transmission Disequilibrium Test (TDT) for two linked flanking marker loci useful in the interval mapping of a disease gene.


He has published over 300 articles and has authored several books, the most notable being Statistical Genetics that was published in 1990 and has since been reprinted thrice. He has been honoured with several awards, prizes, medals and fellowships of international and national scientific societies and academies. He is a Fellow of each of the three national academies of India, viz. Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and National Academy of Sciences, India, Allahabad and a founder Fellow of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi. He is a past Council Member and President of the International Biometric Society (Indian Region) and a past Council Member of the International Statistical Institute.


To sum up, Prem Narain has endeavored, during his career, to understand the intricacies of biological phenomena through the application of statistical theory and methods in genetics – the pursuit of truth implicit in any scientific enquiry.