We all know that two people influence a lot in shaping up the career of a person, parents and teachers and what if your parents are your teacher too. The result will be someone like Dr. Shahid Jamil, a proud Aligarian and well known Virologist at national and international level. Lets know something more about his father and teacher Prof. Abdul Majid Siddiqi, a well knows Scientist, teacher and able administrator.
Being a student of Non-Life Sciences, I never had the opportunity to meet Prof. Siddiqi and Insha-Allah it will be an honor for me to see him in person during my next visit to Aligarh. I am thankful to Dr. Athar Habib Siddiqui, a close friend of mine to write this article for www.Aligarhmovement.com . I am also thankful to Dr. Shahid Jameel, Dr. Afshan Hashmil and Dr. Shaheer Khan for correcting the article and providing the pictures of Prof. Abdul Majid Siddiqi.
Athar Habib Siddiqui*
It is commonly perceived in the West that the Scientists in India in general and at Aligarh Muslim University particular are not involved in true research and imparting of their knowledge to the next generation. By and large this may also be true, but there are some people in India in general and at Aligarh Muslim University in particular who have done remarkable research despite the lack of resources and a culture that rewards excellence. They have followed their dreams. Their commitment and perseverance makes them special and distinguished in their fields of enquiry. One such person is well known Scientist, Professor and Founding Dean of Faculty of Life Science at Aligarh Muslim University, Abdul Majid Siddiqi. His remarkable research and teaching abilities helped him to earn respect from the student community and his students still remember him all across the globe. He was also an able administrator and played key role to establish an independent Department of Bio-Chemistry and Faculty of Life Science at Aligarh Muslim University.
Professor Abdul Majid Siddiqi was born in Allahabad (UP) on January 01, 1933 to Dr. Mohammad Azam and Mrs. Asiya Bibi. Dr. Azam was working in a state run clinic in the Yousoufpur Mohammadabad region of Ghazipur District of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) after graduating with a Medical degree from Agra Medical College. Dr. Siddiqi got married to Jamila Aleem; 1956; daughter of Dr. Abdul Aleem, former Chairman Department of Arabic, AMU, Aligarh, and later Vice-Chancellor, AMU (1968-73). Dr. Siddiqi has 3 children: Dr. Shahid Jameel is a Senior Scientist and Group Leader at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi, India. Dr. Afshan Naheed Hashmi is President of Global Regulatory and Business Solutions, LLC, a regulatory affairs and business development consulting company in Rockville, MD, USA. Mr. Fazlur Rahman resides at Aligarh, India.
Dr. Siddiqi obtained his primary education from Islamia School, Gorakhpur and passed High School from City High School, Ghazipur. After that he came to Christian College, Lucknow for his Senior Secondary School (Class XII). Upon completing that with distinction, Dr. Siddiqi came to AMU and where began a long career, first as a dedicated and hard working student and then as a Faculty, who envisaged a greater sphere of opportunities for the future generation of students to come.
Dr. Siddiqi obtained his BSc and MSc in Chemistry in 1951 and 1953 respectively. He was then recruited as a Teacher and then Lecturer in Science (July 1953-August 1963) to teach an integrated Science course to the 1st Year Unani Students (Pre-Tibb) of the Ajmal Khan Tibbiya College, AMU. During this period he proceeded on a study leave (Sept 1959 to May 1962) to pursue his PhD in Biochemistry from the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, a top tier University. In March 1963, Dr. Siddiqi was appointed as a Lecturer in Biochemistry Section of the Chemistry Department to teach Biochemistry to the MSc students and mentor students aspiring to do research. He continued in this position till December 1966. Dr. Siddiqi was then promoted as a Reader In-charge of the Biochemistry Section within the Chemistry Department in December 1966. His duties then increased to teaching Biochemistry to BSc and MSc students and guiding research of MPhil and PhD students. In April 1972 Dr. Siddiqi was promoted as Professor and he continued in that position till his retirement in 1995. It is worthwhile to mention here that Dr. Siddiqi played the most important role in the establishment of an independent Department of Biochemistry at AMU in 1986 and also the Faculty of Life-Sciences, of which he was appointed as the first Dean.
Among the various academic accomplishments achieved by Dr. Majid Siddiqi, here is list of few, which deserve special mention. During his doctoral thesis, Dr. Siddiqi conducted research on lipid metabolism and enzymology. This research work provided new insights into bacterial metabolism and was instrumental in elucidating the metabolism of mevalonic acid by bacteria. A major discovery by Dr. Siddiqi, entitled “Process of Combating Hypercholesterolemia” resulted in a US Patent 36,29,44,9; filed on 22.4.1968 and granted on 21.12.1971. This ground breaking research, conducted by Dr. Siddiqi at AMU provided evidence for the first time that cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors such as 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid (HMG) might find a therapeutic use in treatment of hyperlipidemia (increased lipids/cholesterol). The global exploitation and marketing rights for this study were taken by M/S Calbiochem-Behring Corporation, San Diego, USA. Since then, other workers have shown that HMG could also be used for the treatment of cholelithiasis (gall stones) and other workers have used this as a basis to file more patents based on this original work. Dr. Siddiqi’s research also led to the discovery of two isoflavones, Biochanin-A and Formononetin, in gram Cicer arietinum (chana) and these compounds were shown to have lipid lowering properties. These isoflavones showed the protective effects of HMG on alcohol-induced lipemia.
Dr. Siddiqi was the Coordinator, Ganga Action Plan Project (sanctioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India) at AMU. This project drew investigators from the Departments of Biochemistry, Botany, Civil Engineering, Geography, Geology and Zoology at AMU. Research conducted under this project in various departments yielded publications in high impact journals. This was especially true for the environmental biochemistry and mutagenesis research carried out in the Department of Biochemistry, which received widespread coverage in the national and international media. Dr. Siddiqi was an accomplished researcher, which can be gauged by the fact that he guided about 40 PhD and 39 MPhil students, who are spread all across the globe. Dr. Siddiqi also possessed great organizational skills. As a very active member of the Society of Biological Chemists, India, he organized the SBC 39th Annual meeting at AMU in 1970. Furthermore he was the convener of the XVI IUBMB India International Satellite Symposium on Biochemical Education at AMU Aligarh, Sept 1994. Dr. Siddiqi was also the Convenor and Director of UGC All-India Workshop on Use of Microcomputers in teaching of Chemistry and Biochemistry, AMU, 1985. Besides all this Dr. Siddiqi was the “Academic Resource Person” for Biochemical Education workshops at BHU (1985) and COSTED Madras (1988). He also served as a Consultant in Biochemistry with World Health Organization, and was deputed to School of Medicine, University of Khartoum, Sudan, to organize Biochemistry teaching and research (Dec 1985 to Feb 1986).
Dr. Siddiqi was instrumental in the establishment of an independent Department of Biochemistry in the Faculty of Science, AMU, despite stiff resistance and was the first Chairman of the Department. Dr. Siddiqi was appointed the first (founding) Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, AMU. In addition to that Dr. Siddiqi was also the first Provost of Mohammad Habib Hall, AMU. He was a member of all important and powerful constitutional bodies of AMU which manages the day to day administration of AMU - Academic Council, Executive Council and AMU court. Dr. Siddiqi was a member of Faculty and Board of Studies of many Indian universities –University of Delhi, Banaras Hindu University, Indore University, M.S. University Baroda, Agra University, Lucknow University, and Avadh University. Dr. Siddiqi also served as a member of selection committees at UPSC, UP State Public Service Commission and various Indian universities and Institutes. He was also a member of Expert Group on Cardiovascular Diseases, ICMR, New Delhi and of UGC Curriculum Development Committee for the course of Biochemistry. He also served as a member of MAB Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The pioneering research carried out under the leadership of Dr. Siddiqi in the Section of Biochemistry led to the sanction of a new Department of Biochemistry by the UGC Expert Committee, despite strong opposition from the parent department. Concurrently the AMU administration carved out a new Faculty, Faculty of Life-Sciences from the existing Faculty of Science. Prof. Siddiqi was a core member of administration during the tenure of Mr. Hashim Ali, as the Vice-Chancellor, AMU. One of the key members of the administration during that time, Mr. Javed Usmani, IAS topper, presently on an assignment with the World Bank, Washington DC was serving AMU as the Registrar. In one of the personal conversations with Dr. Shahid Jameel, Mr. Usmani recalled his association with Prof. Siddiqi and said that the“ balanced views and cordial nature of Prof. Siddiqi made him an ideal choice of the AMU administration to head difficult committees.”
A former MSc Biochemistry student at AMU, Dr. Abdur Rahman, recently sent the following message for Dr. Siddiqi on hearing about his ill health. “My arrival in USA and my achievements in past, present and future are due to his blessing, wisdom and foresight. To me not only he conveyed the message of AMU as well as a verse of the Quran "TAUGHT MAN WHAT HE KNEW NOT" but he also ensured that my journey to learning happens beyond India. His simple action to help me provided my family a great honor that they never imagined and went beyond the call of the duty. To this day, I carry a note that he wrote on the overhead of the Department of Biochemistry, AMU with his signature. Whenever I feel unmotivated, uninterested and lackadaisical, I look at that note and find the courage, strength and determination to perform what Prof. Siddiqi would have expected of me. Please do ensure him that he is and will always be in my prayer for his kindness towards me and my family. I hope to visit him one more time when I visit to India next. May Allah grant him health and strength to face the challenges that lie ahead with a smile and devotion to Allah”.
Among the various illustrious students of Dr. Siddiqi, these are few who have excelled in their field and are considered to be experts in their respective areas of research and study. Prominent among them are Professor M. Saleemuddin, who is an international researcher and educationist of repute. Dr. Saleemuddin is considered globally as an expert and leader in the field of Enzyme technology. Professor Saleemuddin had also served as the Vice-Chancellor of AMU, Aligarh. He is the co-ordinator of the Institute of Biotechnology, AMU. Professor Ahad Noor Khan Yusufi is the current Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Life-Sciences, AMU, Aligarh. He is an internationally famed researcher in the field of Renal Physiology. Dr. Syed Shafi Asghar, Professor of Dermatology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Professor Zafrul Hasan Beg has been a senior researcher at National Institutes of Health, USA and now serves as a Professor of Biochemistry, JN Medical College, AMU. Dr. Sardar Yaqub Ali Khan Yuzufzai – Professor, Medical College of Georgia, USA. Dr. Fazal R. Khan- serves currently as the Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Merrimack Pharmaceuticals and resides in Potomac, MD, USA. Professor Nafis Ahmad – Retired as Professor of Biochemistry, Institute of Opthalmology, AMU; now with Hamdard Education Foundation, New Delhi. Professor Akhtar Mahmood is a Professor of Biochemistry, Panjab University, India.
Prof. Abdul Majid Siddiqi lives in Aligarh with his wife Jamila Siddiqi and son Fazlur Rahman. Following his retirement from AMU, Prof. Siddiqi remained active in neighborhood social issues and regularly interacted with civic authorities on problems such as road repair, clean drains, garbage collection, etc. He also participated actively in the workings of the Ismat Literacy Centre, which his wife has organized to impart reading, writing and vocational skills to girls from poor neighborhoods next to the AMU campus. This Centre is located behind the AMU Post Office.
Dr. Athar Habib Siddiqui is an AMU Aligarh alum based in Houston Texas USA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org