Prof. D.N. Wadia Professor Darashaw Nosherwan Wadia was born on 23rd October, 1883 at Surat. He came from a respectable family of ship-builders for the East India Company who had settled in and around Surat Gujarat, India.
Dara, as he was affectionately called by the family, was sent to Surat for his early education. He spent these years under strict care and discipline of his maternal grandmother. He first studied in private Gujarat School and then joined the J.J. English School.
At the age of 12, Dara joined the Baroda High School. He was profoundly influenced by his eldest brother, late M.N. Wadia, a reputed educationist of Baroda State, and under his personal care developed an abiding love of nature, devotion to knowledge and a zeal for learning.
In 1905 Prof. Wadia obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Science with Natural Science, Zoology and Botany as his subjects from the Baroda College. His interest in Geology, so far a less taught subject in India, was kindled by the college Principal Professor Adarjee M. Masani. He offered Geology as one of the subjects for his Bachelor’s degree even though Baroda College at that time did not have sufficient facilities for imparting education in Geology. He graduated with credit mostly through self study and personal scholarship. Wadia later on also served as a lecturer for sometime in the Baroda College.
Wadia was appointed as lecturer in the Prince of Wales College, Jammu in 1906. Jammu provided an ideal environment for his geological pursuits and recognizing his merit and capabilities he was entrusted the task of organizing the Department of Geology from its very inception.
He continued to teach in the College till 1921, when he accepted the post of Assistant Superintendent with the Geological Survey of India. During his tenure at Jammu, Prof. Wadia devoted many years of greater part of his holidays from 1907 to 1920 towards geological field work and during these he collected plenty of material and evidence to frame some new ideas regarding the Himalaya. In 1919 he published his Geology of India (Macmillan, London).
Wadia’s appointed as Assistant Superintendent in the Geological Survey of India at a relatively advanced age of 38, provided him with the ample chances for carrying out geological researches on the stratigraphy and tectonics of the Northwestern Himalaya. With intense and detailed work in NW Punjab, Wazirstan, Hazara and Kashmir, he was not only able to interpret the structure of this complex region, but also influence the geological thinking in the country as a whole.
He was with the Geological Survey till 1938. During his tenure with the Survey, he spent his study leave in 1926-1927 at the British Museum, working on vertebrate fossils, collected from Potwar and Kashmir. He also visited geological institutions in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia and attended a course in Apline geology at the University of Geneva. His paper on the Syntaxis of the Northwestern Himalayas, the acute arcuate knee bend of the entire Himalayan belt around a pivotal point of Nanga Parbat brought him both National and International fame. In 1937, at the request of the International Geological Congress, Moscow he contributed his famous paper on the Tectonic Relations of the Himalayas with the North Indian Foreland.
Wadia retired from the Geological Survey of India in 1938, when he was offered the post of Government Mineralogist in Ceylon (now in Sri Lanka). He spent nearly six years intensively studying the Geology of this Island, considered by him as graceful pendant of the Indian peninsula.
Dr. Wadia was appointed Geological Adviser to the Government of India in 1944.In this capacity he initiated and formulated a mineral policy for the country.
Atomic Energy Commission of the Government of India to explore domestic resources of radioactive raw materials established its Atomic Minerals Division in 1949 and Dr. Wadia became its First Director. He continued to head this Unit until his death on 15th June, 1969.
Wadia’s love and devotion to the study of the Himalaya was unlimited. It was because of his initiative and efforts that the Institute of Himalayan Geology was establish in 1968. The Institute was renamed as the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in his memory. He was also responsible for getting established the National Geophysical Research Institute at Hyderabad and the National Institute of Oceanography in Panaji, Goa.
He received the Back Award of the Royal Geographical Society in 1934 and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1943.
He had subsequently been President of the National Institute of Sciences of India (now called the Indian National Science Academy ) during 1945-46, Mining Geological and Metallurgical Institute of India (1950), the Geological Mining and Metallurgical Society of India, Geological Society of India, Indian Society of Engineering Geology, Geographer’s Association of Indian and Honorary Correspondent of the Geological Society of America.
During this period he also headed the Research Advisory Committees of many Scientific Institutions including the CSIR. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1957 a distinction not conferred on any other Indian geologist so far. The crowning honour of his career came in Professor in Geology. He presided over the XXII International Geological Congress held in New Delhi in December, 1964.
The Government of India honored him with the award of Padma Bhushan. Dr. Wadia authored nearly one hundred original research papers, monographs on various topics and the Records and Memories of the Geological Survey of India.