Independence Day

Remembering Ancient & Modern Indian Biological Scientists on this Independence Day

On the 15th of August 2022, India will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. This is the day when Indians pay their respect and honor to all the freedom fighters, who fought bravely for the nation’s freedom. The Indian Independent movement was a series of historic events that resulted in ending the British rule. Despite of the deplorable status of education, the freedom fighters were aware of what freedom meant. They sacrificed their possessions, families, and lives for the sake of freedom. People who are born in post-Independence era are fortunate, and this fortune comes with the responsibility of resolving the current challenges before our country like hunger, poverty, inequality, gender issues, availability and accessibility of science and technology in the rural parts of our country. Knowing my responsibility, I pledge to become a good citizen and promise to do all my duties with honesty, and I expect the same from our readers.

As a Biological Science graduate, I also wish to remember the great ancient and modern scientists who played a significant role in shaping biological science.

Ancient Indian Scientists –

1. Sushruta –

Sushruta, who lived during the 5th century BC was a famous surgeon of ancient India. His book  ‘Sushruta Samhita’ is an advanced collection of surgical practices prevalent about 2500 years ago in India. Due to his numerous contributions to the science and art of surgery, he has earned the title, ‘Father of Surgery’. Sushruta had studied human anatomy in depth. He had knowledge of all type of surgeries. In his book, there are descriptions for all types of surgeries of sensitive organs like eye, nose, etc. In his scriptures, there is even reference to the modern plastic surgery. The Sushruta Samhita also included knowledge about plants, animals, birds, and reptiles classification.

2. Charaka (600BC) –

Charaka has contributed immensely in the fields of medicine and drug. He had developed several concepts in the field of medicine like several hypotheses in the field of immunity, digestion, and metabolism. He wrote remarkable book on medicine called Charak Samhita. This book consists of information about large number of diseases and their causes. Charak is respected for his contribution towards medicine.

3. Patanjali (200BC) –

 Patanjali is famous as the profounder of yoga Vijnan. Yoga works by healing the person without medicine. Yoga means yoking the mind to the inner self and detaching it from outer source of subject. Because of its wonderful results, it is being practiced throughout the world.

Modern Indian Biological Scientists –

Jagdish Chandra Bose –

He was an Indian physicist and botanist who was born on November 30th, 1858 in Mymensingh, Bengal (it is now in Bangladesh). He began his educational journey from his village. Later he moved to Xavier’s College, Calcutta (now Kolkata) for his higher studies. He then went to London to pursue higher studies in medicine. Further, he got admission in the Cambridge University with a scholarship from where he got his degree in 1884 in natural sciences. He was then employed as a Professor of Physics at the Presidency College, Calcutta.

Bose is best recognized all over the world for his studies in plant physiology. He demonstrated that plants have life. With his experiments he stated that plants have receptors for stimuli, which are identical to animals. He observed the pulse of plant stopped when its stem was dipped into poison, indicating its death.

Bose designed an extremely sensitive automatic recorder known as Cresco graph to measure sensitivity and growth of plants. Bose also became known for study of electronic waves and their polarization and reflection. He founded Bose research institute in Calcutta for physical and biological science in 1917.

In the beginning, the world did not acknowledge his work. However, the situation soon changed and he was awarded with D.Sc. of Royal Society in 1896. The Biological Society of France also nominated him as its member. Bose was knighted in 1917 as Fellow of the Royal Society, London in 1920. He became the first Indian to be so honored. He died on November 23, 1937 in Giridih, Bihar.

Birbal Sahani

Birbal Sahani was born in Bhera (now in Pakistan) in the Punjab province on 14th November, 1891. His father was interested in studying rocks and plants especially fossil rocks. Birbal Sahani inherited this curiosity. He took interest in botany and geology. After graduating from Punjab University, Lahore, he went to England for higher education. He was awarded with D.Sc for his contribution in fossil plants in 1919. After returning back to India, he worked as a professor at the Banaras University and Punjab University for a year each. His chief contributions are as follows  –

  • Established the Indian botanical society in 1921.
  • Attained D.Sc. from Cambridge University in 1919.
  • Nominated as the fellow of royal society of London in 1936.
  • Uplifted the standard of Botany teaching and Research at Lucknow University.
  • Established the Department of Geology
  • Established Palaeo Botany Institute. Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of this institute in 1949. It progressed to further elevations and attained fame by the name of Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeo Botany. He studied the formation of earth and development of the World. He also studied the development of plant and vegetation.
  • Discovered new group of fossil gymnosperms called Pentoxyleae.
  • Supported the Continental Drifts theory.
  • Conducted the study of ancient fossil in the Rajmahal rocks of Bihar (now in Jharkhand) findingout numerous new species of plants and also named them.
  • Studied the contemporary Zygno paterid ferns type of plants, their structure, and their characteristics.
  • Discovered several new fossil plants in Gondwana area in association with A.C. Seward.
  • On the basisof his excavation in 1936, he proved that there is a process of minting coins in Rohtak  (Haryana).
  • Conducted study of rocks to estimate their age. On the basis of his solid scientific study he proved that age of salt range (presently in Pakistan’s Punjab region) is forty to sixty million years, and not one hundred million years, as being thought then. He also said that age of south Madhya Pradesh rocks was about sixty-two million years.

Hargovid Khurana

Hargovind Khurana was born in 1922 in a small village in Punjab, which is now a part of Pakistan. In 1945, he went to England and studied PhD in organic chemistry in Liverpool. From 1950-1952, he was a Cambridge research fellow, where he developed deep interest in both proteins and nucleic acids.

He moved to Vancouver as Head of Department of Organic Chemistry (1952) during 1960-1970. He was a professor and Co-Director of the institute of Enzyme research at the University of Wisconsin. Later, he became Professor of Biology and Chemistry at MIT.

Khorana’s early work was on the biochemistry of enzymes, but in the 1960’s he turned to nucleic acids and genetic code. He determined the sequence of the nucleic acids, also known as ‘bases’ for each of the twenty amino acids in the human body. Khorana’s work on nucleotide synthesis at University of Wisconsin was a major contribution on genetic code.

In the early 1970’s, Khorana was the first to artificially synthesize a gene initially from yeast, and later from bacterium Escherichia coli. He shared the noble prize for physiology or medicine with Nirenberg and Holley.

He also believed to develop treatment of genetic disorders and to design babies with desired traits and qualities.  

Janaki Ammal –

E.K. Janaki Ammal was was born in Thalassery, Kerala. Janaki did her primary schooling at Sacred Heart Convent in Thalassery followed by Queen Mary’s College, Madras. She achieved an honors degree in Botany from the Presidency College. She then travelled to the University of Michigan in 1924, obtaining a Master’s degree in botany in 1926. She obtained her PhD in 1931 from the University of Michigan as an oriental Barbour fellow, becoming the first woman to obtain a Ph.D. in botany in the USA. She served as the Director-General of the BSI. She was elected fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1935. The Government of India conferred Padma Shree to her in 1977.


I would like to conclude by saying that, Science is pivotal for the growth and prosperity of any nation. Hence, it is of utmost importance to continually move forward while remembering those who paved this way for us.

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