There was nothing in the childhood of Darashaw Nosherwan Wadia to suggest that he would become a geologist. And a renowned one at that.
He was born on October 25, 1883, at Surat in Gujarat into a family of ship builders. And as a child he was more interested in painting than anything else. Perhaps he would have become a painter, had his elder brother not lured him to science. At Baroda College, Wadia did his M.Sc. in biology and geology. At the age of 23 he joined the teaching staff of the Prince of Wales College in Jammu.
Living as he was at the foothills of the Himalayas, geology became his main interest. During vacations he would go to the Himalayas and collect minerals, rocks and fossils. Till his death in 1969, he continued to study the geology of the Himalayas.
Wadia is world renowned for his studies of the Himalayas. He not only gave the mechanism of their formation and growth, but tried to explain the various puzzling features in their structure-for example, the acute hairpin bend in the Eastern Himalayas. Besides, he studied the geology of Joya Mair dome (now in Pakistan), Nanga Parbat and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was also an expert palaeontologist. Among his important discoveries of invertebrate fossils and plants is one of the skull fragments of Stegodon Ganesa, shaped like an elephant.
To interest students in geology, Wadia wrote The Geology of India and Burma in 1916. He always said that India had vast resources waiting to be tapped. He played a significant role in laying the foundation of geological studies in Sri Lanka.
For his contributions to geology Wadia received the Back Award, the Lyell Medal and the Meghnad Saha Medal. In 1957 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, the only Indian geologist so far to be given this honour.