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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Rare honour for Indian geologist
Fractofusus Misrai fossil
The professor discovered the fossil in 1967
A fossil in Canada believed to be 565 million years old has been named after the Indian geologist, Professor Shiva Balak Misra, who found it.

The fossil, said to be the oldest record of multicellular life, will be called Fractofusus misrai.

The area where the fossil was discovered, Mistaken Point, has since been declared a protected area.

Professor Misra returned to India soon after the discovery to build a village school in India.

'Turning point'

"It's been 37 years since I left Canada and gave up my North American career. I had dropped out of active research," Prof Misra told the BBC.

Professor Shiva Balak Misra (Picture: Kumar Prithvi)
It feels great... At that time I didn't know the significance of these samples
Prof SB Misra

"Yet they have decided to name the fossil that I had discovered after me - I am touched by the recognition."

He was speaking just hours after receiving a message from Canada about the honour.

And now the bespectacled retired professor, in his early 70s, is busy receiving calls at his residence in the north Indian city of Lucknow, congratulating him on this achievement.

He has received many calls from universities in Canada and North America where he is a familiar name and has many friends.

"The turning point in my life came in June 1967 when in the course of my work I began to study some of the fossil samples I had. These rocks had the imprints of a leaf and a soft-bodied jelly fish. At that time I didn't know the significance of these samples," he says with a smile.

He still has some of the rock samples he collected in the late 1960s.

Prof Misra says his discovery was a significant one.

"Before this discovery, it used to be uni-cellular organisms but the fossils that I stumbled upon were multi-cellular and it established a crucial link in the history of evolution of plant life," he says.

Although Prof Misra left Canada to return to India decades ago, he has been in touch with the scientific community in North America and contributes articles to various journals on fossils.

After his return to India, he started teaching in colleges and universities and then set up a village school along with his wife where he still teaches.

"After this recognition, I have no fresh career plans. I will continue to do more writing. My interest in research is well and alive and I will continue to share ideas with my fellow researchers in North America," he says.

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