Thursday, 2 April 2015

Theophrastus - Father of Botany

Theophrastus was born in 370 B.C. and was a student of Aristotle, who bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and designated him as his successor at his School. He was a scholar, botanist, biologist, and physicist. The most important of his books are two large botanical treatises, Enquiry into Plants, and On the Causes of Plants, which constitute the first of the systematized work of the botanical world and were major sources for botanical knowledge during antiquity and the Middle Ages. On the strength of these works he is known as "father of botany."
These books documented types of plants commonly used at the time, and described attempts to cultivate wild plants. Theophrastus developed his own vocabulary to describe plant processes and horticultural and agricultural efforts. He was concerned about the many species of unidentified and unknown plants of the wilderness. He commissioned his students and staff to collect specimens and conduct experiments as they worked, which helped to determine which plants could be put to various uses.
The Enquiry into Plants was originally ten books, of which nine survive. The work is arranged into a system whereby plants are classified according to their modes of generation, their localities, their sizes, and according to their practical uses such as foods, juices, herbs, etc. The first book deals with the parts of plants; the second with the reproduction of plants and the times and manner of sowing; the third, fourth and fifth books are devoted to trees, their types, their locations, and their practical applications; the sixth deals with shrubs and spiny plants; the seventh deals with herbs; the eighth deals with plants which produce edible seeds; and the ninth deals with plants which produce useful juices, gums, resins, etc.
On the Causes of Plants was originally eight books, of which six survive. It concerns the growth of plants; the influences on their fecundity; the proper times they should be sown and reaped; the methods of preparing the soil, manuring it, and the use of tools; of the smells, tastes, and properties of many types of plants. The work deals mainly with the economical uses of plants rather than their medicinal uses, although the latter are sometimes mentioned. Theophrastus detected the process of germination and realized the importance of climate and soil to plants. Much of the information on the Greek plants may have come from his own observations, as he is known to have travelled throughout Greece, and had a botanical garden of his own.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Shiv Ram Kashyap

          Professor Kashyap is called Father of Indian Bryology. He was born in Punjab in 1882. He obtained his M.Sc. degree in Botany from Punjab and went to Cambridge University for further studies. After completing his research degree he joined Govt. College Lahore. Professor Kashyap was first secretary of Indian Botanical Society. He was President of Indian Science Congress in 1932. Although he did some work on Pteridophyta also, he is known mainly for the work on Bryophyta. 

    Two of his books are very famous-'Liverworts of Western Himalayas and Punjab Plains' Part I (1929) (S.R. Kashyap) and Part II (1932) (Kashyap and Chopra). He discovered some new genera and many new species of Bryophyta. His theory of Retrogressive Evolution in Liverworts (Marchantiales) is well accepted by bryologists of the world.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Janaki Ammal

       Janaki Ammal was born in 1897, in Tellichery, Kerala. After schooling in Tellichery, she moved to Madras where she obtained the bachelor's degree from Queen Mary's College, and an honours degree in botany from Presidency College in 1921. Under the influence of teachers at the Presidency College, Ammal acquired a passion for cytogenetics.

     Janaki Ammal is a name that evokes respect among botanists for her work in the fields of cytogenetics and geography. She collected plants of medicinal and economic importance from the rainforests of Kerala, and is renowned for her research on sugar cane and the eggplant. Janaki Ammal did her higher studies and research abroad, but returned to India in 1951 to reorganize the Botanical Survey of India. She worked for the Government of India in different positions in the Central Botanical Laboratory at Allahabad, the Regional Research Laboratory in Jammu, and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre at Trombay, before settling down in Madras in November 1970 as an Emeritus Scientist at the Centre for Advanced Study in Botany, University of Madras. During her years abroad, Janaki Ammal did chromosome studies on a wide range of garden plants. She has been honoured with the Padma Shri award, and a national award of taxonomy in her name has been established. 

     Ammal made several intergeneric hybrids: Saccharum x Zea, SaccharumErianthus, Saccharum x Imperata and Saccharum x SorghumAmmal’s pioneering work at the Institute on the cytogenetics of Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane) and interspecific and intergeneric hybrids involving sugarcane and related grass species and genera such as Bambusa (bamboo) is epochal. During the years (1939– 1950) she spent in England, she did chromosome studies of a wide range of garden plants. Her studies on chromosome numbers and ploidy in many cases threw light on the evolution of species and varieties. The Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants which she wrote jointly with C. D. Darlington in 1945 was a compilation that incorporated much of her own work on many species.

         With her passion for plants, Janaki Ammal defined for herself her goals and purpose, and her mission in life. Having done that, she kept her mission above everything else, and was faithful to it all her life.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Seminar on Scientific Methods of Plant Propagation- 25-03-2013

Sunday, 12 October 2014

M.O.P. Iyengar

Mandayam Osuri Parthasarathy Iyengar(1886-1963) was a prominent Indian botanist and phycologist who researched the structure, cytology, reproduction and taxonomy of Algae. He is known as the "father of Indian phycology" or "father of algology in India".
Professor M.O.P Iyengar served a major part of his life teaching at the Presidency College, Madras, and the last dozen years as Professor at the new established University Research Laboratory at Madras. Iyengar aimed to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of India’s algal wealth, its diversity and ecology.
Iyengar’s earlier studies began with the Volvocales and these provided the material for his publications, both from Madras and from Professor Fritsch’s laboratory in London. At the University research department, as a Professor and Director, many in-depth studies of the colonial Volvocales were made. Their work revealed the occurrence of singular patterns of inversion both in the vegetative and reproductive stages of development among the spherical or globular genera. The fertilization stages were also recorded.
A pseudo-filamentous alga, Ecballocystopsis Iyengar, led him to conceive of a new way of developing a filamentous condition, a step in the development of a multicellular condition. The two sibling cells do not separate from each other as in unicellular Volvocales though each gets enveloped in a complete cell wall. They remain enclosed in the remnants of the parental envelope partially or totally. With further divisions, parental envelopes of different generations begin to get ruptured but the daughter cells are kept together by fragments of parental envelopes of the immediate previous generation. The upshot is a linear, end to end association of daughter cells of many generations but without protoplasmic connections between neighbouring cells. Instead of producing a mass of cells, a multicellular condition is arrived, a pseudofilamentous condition. The objective was to understand the morphological steps representing the probable evolutionary steps to achieve a multicellular organism and ultimately the structural framework to achieve a land habit,
Iyengar described another interesting alga from India, Fritschiella which show a heterotrichous habit, one part of the body being subterranean and one part, aerial. In one of the interesting genus, named Gilbertsmithia Iyengar, the eight daughter cells formed from each parent cell take on the shape of a rosary. The eight are attached to each other by eight fragments of the parent cell. In the next generation a compound of the eight rosaries is formed. Iyengar waited many years to see the complete life cycle of his favourite organism, sometimes in vain. Many years later Prof. Smith visited India and saw it. These species constitute the floral components of an unusual habitat, and are called muddy water algae. Thus a palmelloid association is made up of partial remnants of parent walls and mucilage derived by gelatinization of portions of the parent wall.

An active teacher all his life, Iyengar had acquired a reputation for the credibility for his observations and it was hazardous to contradict him. No wonder, because he was reticent to publish in a hurry. He would wait, often endlessly, to study rare algae with their peculiar and important characteristics before publishing.
Panchanan Maheswari

Panchanan Maheswari (November 1904 – 18 May 1966) was a prominent Indian botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society, noted chiefly for his invention of the technique of test-tube fertilization of angiosperms. Till then no one had thought that flowering plants could be fertilized in test-tubes. Maheshwari’s technique immediately opened up new avenues in plant embryology and has applications in economic and applied botany. Cross-breeding of many flowering plants which cannot crossbreed naturally can be done now. The technique has proved to be of immense help to plant breeders.

He was second Indian Botanist to be awarded F.R.S. by Royal Society of London in 1965. Maheshwari was an educator and publisher. He taught Botany at the University of Delhi, establishing that department as a globally important center of research in embryology and tissue culture. Maheshwari founded the scientific journal Phytomorphology, for which he served as chief editor until his death in 1966; and the more popular magazine Botanica. He also published texts to improve the standard of teaching life sciences in the schools. In 1951, he founded the International Society of Plant Morphologists.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Rediscovery of Ophiorrhiza barnesii from Kerala

Ophiorrhiza barnesii of the family Rubiaceae was first described in 1939, by a British botanist C E C Fischer based on two collections made by Prof. Edward Barnes. Both of the two specimens were collected from Kallar Valley during 1937. However, no further researchers reported the plant from any other part of the state. According to researchers, subsequent botanical explorations even considered the chances that the plant may be possibly extinct by this time. Researchers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) have re discovered the plant from Kallar valley in Western Ghats of Kerala.