Eminent Geneticist Krishna Dronamraju Passes Away, 83

Houston: Dronamraju Krishna Rao (14 January 1937 – 3 December 2020) was an Indian-born geneticist and president of the Foundation for Genetic Research in Houston, Texas. He was born in Pithapuram, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. One focus of his work has been the research of his mentor J. B. S. Haldane. He died in Houston at age 83.

Dronamraju went to M.R. College in Vizianagaram, Andhra University to study botany and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1955. He received a master’s degree from Agra University in 1957; he studied plant breeding and genetics. When J.B.S. Haldane moved to India in 1957, Dronamraju wrote to Haldane for an opportunity to pursue a research career under his direction at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta.

Early in his research career, he discovered the first case of a gene on the human Y chromosome and published a paper in 1960. It was also part of his PhD thesis at the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. Dronamraju’s research with Haldane at the Indian Statistical Institute included many areas.

Dronamraju’s research covered the visits of several species of lepidoptera to different colored flowers of Lantana camara reported the discovery of a species-specific pattern of color preference behavior by pollinating insects.

He did research in human genetics in India. In 1966, Dronamraju completed his PhD from the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. He studied under J. B. S. Haldane. The topic of his doctoral thesis was “Genetic Studies of the Andhra Pradesh population”. Dronamraju’s early research in human genetics (and the independent work of L.D. Saghvi at the Tata Cancer Center in Mumbai) eventually led to the foundation of the Indian Society of Human Genetics.

Dronamraju received advanced training at University College, London and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in genetics at the University of Alberta.[4] After he moved to the US, he continued research on inbreeding in human populations such as the Amish population in Pennsylvania in collaboration with Victor A. McKusick at Johns Hopkins. He also studied the Seneca Indians in New York State and other populations in the US and Canada.

He studied the relationship between fetal mortality and the occurrence of oral cleft defects in families.In recent years, Dronamraju’s research focused on the history of genetics and human/medical genetics. He published several books, especially with reference to the contributions of his mentor J. B. S. Haldane.