After qualifying in the University of Punjab at Lahore in 1924, Bhatnager came to Europe and quickly added the Conjoint diploma and the MRCP in London and an MD in Lausanne. For nineteen years, from 1928, he served in the Indian Medical Service, reaching the rank of Colonel and maintaining fully the momentum of the brilliant start to his medical and scientific career.
It is not clear what he was doing, or where he was working, when in 1935 he gained his PhD in London, but from 1935 to 1937 he was at the Lister Institute and was associated with A. Felix, FRS, in the discovery of the Vi-antigen in the typhoid bacillus.
Returning to India, Bhatnager was Assistant Director first of the Central Research Institute, Kasauli, from 1938-39, and secondly, 1939-40, of the Haffkine Institute in Bombay.
Such a man must have been busy throughout the war years, but details are lacking. In 1947 he became Professor of Medical Microbiology and Director, Caius Research Laboratory, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, and Officer in Charge, the Antibiotic Research Centre, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India, posts he occupied for over 20 years. During this period, his work in microbiology and antibiotics led to his discovery of formaldehydes of sulphathiazole as a chemotherapeutic agent in cholera, but he specialized in natural products from Indian medicinal herbs. This latter interest earned him in 1958 an award from the Royal Society to study the chemistry of natural products in Cambridge.
From 1948 to 1960 he was also a member of the Board of Directors, and the Director of Research for CIBA Pharma Limited, Bombay; the first Indian to be so appointed.
News of Colonel Bhatnager’s death was given by his widow, but information about the family and personal life of this distinguished man is unfortunately lacking.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme