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Published in History & Culture


Published in History & Culture


The Skill Of Pioneer Janaki Ammal To Indian Plant Biology

Janaki Ammal (b. 4 November 1897 — d. 7 February 1984) was the first Indian botanist and a Padmashee winner. She was the illegitimate daughter of a Kerala sub-judge. (Tellicherry, Kannur Dist). Janaki's father, Edavalath Kakkat Krishnan, adored gardening.
Janaki Ammal in her young days

Padmashee recipient and the first Indian botanist, Janaki Ammal (b. 4 Nov 1897 — d. 7 Feb 1984) was an illegal daughter of sub-judge of Kerala (Tellicherry, Kannur Dist). Janaki’s father, Edavalath Kakkat Krishnan was a garden lover. It was probably this interest evoke the  scrutiny of Ammal in her passionate loving career in plant science.

Her passionate interest led her to University of Michigan in the age where Indian women were hardly considered education as their priority. She had completed her schoolings from “Sacred Heart Convent” in Thalassery (a city of home of undergrowth, medium crowded, situated on Malabar Coast and beautiful sunset could be seen from the sea shore).

Janaki attended “Queen Mary’s College” in Madras. Since the family was well advanced and living on urban lifestyle and values. There was no resist from her family members on going another country for studies. Her driven interest in her subject was enough to prove for her family and friends. Thus, she acquired a degree in Botany and later did her PhD from the University of Michigan in the year 1924.

Biology will relate every human gene to the genes of other animals and bacteria, to this great chain of being.

Walter Gilbert

The high leap of almost 12600 km all was impractical thing possible due to scholarship she had received in the year 1926 from Barbour (check out complete guidelines for eligibility)

Thesis — “Chromosome studies in Nicandra physaloides” it is a species native of Peru and Chile. The complete chromosomal genes available to read here.

In the history of India, Janaki Ammal was the first gross earning woman in 1935

Rose named after Janaki Ammal (pic credit to John Innes Centre)

Mangolia Kobus Janaki Ammal” was named by the Royal Horticulture Society of Wisley Campus in honour of Janaki’s contribution to the cytogenetics and phytogeography. It was a great inspiration to thousands of Indian women. Janaki on her return to India in 1932

She also was a professor at Maharaja’s College of Science in Trivandrum. The pioneering work of Ammal on hybrid sugarcane (Cytogenetics of saccharum officinarum), the only reason of sweetening taste of India’s sugar.

She also did her experiments on other species like Bamboo and Sorghum etc. In The past, 1900s sugar in India was not that sweet as today. It was her whacking contribution to the field of Indian Botanical studies.

Honeydew yield from Fruits and Flowers of plants is a natural Devine gift by God

Lokesh Umak

Later days of Ammal

Janaki later joined as a first female researcher fellow in 1935 in Indian Academy of Science founded by C V Raman but the institute was not enough for her to praise her work. And was an annoying job (working a single lady among all the male researchers) bothered her culture of work.

She left to England and started blooming her career as a Cytologist at John Innes Horticultural Institution (check, they also offer scholarships to PhD students). Apart from earning money, she aimed to explore more chromosomal studies and continued evolving various species of flowering plants.

Best with the ability to make painstaking and accurate observations, she and her patient endeavours stand as a model for serious and dedicated scientific workers.

The University of Michigan

Mammal’s life was a bit threaten on believing that World War 2 may be the end of her career. But without bottomless thinking she concentrated on her job. And The University of Michigan announced (in 1956) an honorary L.L.D and recognized her contributions to plant science and cytogenetics. Thus followed by government of India awarded Janaki Ammal with Padma Shri in 1977.

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