PROFESSOR Sir Venkatraman (“Venki”) Ramakrishnan, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for chemistry, was for five years president of the Royal Society, the organisation which brings together the world’s top scientists.
Set up in 1660 under a royal charter granted by King Charles II, Venki was the first person of Indian origin to hold the post.
As president, he had wanted to deal with a number of big issues such as the need to have a “broad-based” education, both at school and at university, so that everyone in society has some knowledge of both the sciences and the arts.
“In fact, my entire term was hijacked by two issues – Brexit and how we deal with Brexit. And the second is the whole pandemic, and what we could provide as a science community to help with the pandemic,” he tells GG2.
He stepped down as president last December after nearly a year of advising the government on the pandemic. In April last year, he joined the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and was an early proponent of wearing face coverings as a way of slowing down the spread of the virus.
Venki’s arguments were crucial in helping to convince the government that masks were, after all, a good idea.
“It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts,” says Venki. “Today, both of those would be considered anti-social, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way. If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother. So just treat it as another item of clothing that