The story of E K Janaki Ammal has inclined me in both personal and professional perspectives. E K Janaki Ammal was an illustrious Indian woman, who compels significant contributions to genetic science, evolution, phytogeography, and ethnobotany.
India is a land of contradictions for women, nevertheless, there are several robust female Scientists. There is a considerable variation in varied regions of India within the level of development, cultural outlook, and in various economic and social veins. Thus, I feel astonished at seeing EK Janaki Ammal's growth in her career in mid-1930.
I deem at the course of her life and work in the context of her times, the upbringing, challenges, and opportunities she had to travel through and the conviction of life and work mirrored in her own life and work. These traits are what I commend her for.
Her life and work is an inspiration to the present world, particularly heartening to the women in science who have to struggle in various stages of their career and face a firm challenge when it involves a woman having a career in science. E K Janaki Ammal faced discrimination from her colleagues and additionally had to face harassment for her single status which her closed circle often gossiped about.
However, she never backed down. She overcame these challenges to emerge as one of the foremost outstanding scientists of her time.
Her contributions to science
The experience in Genetic Science cued Janaki Ammal to hitch the Sugarcane Breeding Station to work on sugarcane biology. Through intense laboratory experiments, Janaki Ammal was able to generate a high-yielding sugarcane variety that might thrive under Indian conditions.
When renowned scientist and Noble laureate C V Raman founded the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1935, Janaki Ammal was invited to be a research fellow. However, she was not able to settle for the offer.
Recognizing the talent of Janaki Ammal, the Royal Horticulture Society invited her to work as a cytologist on their campus at Wisley. The years she spent at Wisley helped Janaki meet some of the foremost proficient Cytologists, Geneticists, and Botanists in the world.
In 1951, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in person invited her to come back to India and she was asked to structure the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). After being appointed as Officer on Special Duty to BSI, she reorganized the BSI workplace in erstwhile Calcutta.
She traveled to extremely remote areas in search of plants and the autochthonous wisdom encompassing them.
After retirement, Janaki Ammal served at the Atomic research Station at Trombay before serving as an emeritus scientist at the Centre for Advanced Study in botany. At the age of 87, Janaki Ammal departed from the world on February 7, 1984, while working in her laboratory.
“It was a life staunched to swots and research. She was agile till the top of her life,”
In the year 2000, the Ministry of environment and forestry created the National Award of Taxonomy in Janaki Ammal's name. There is additionally a herbarium with over 25,000 species in Jammu Tawi that is named after Janaki Ammal, the pioneering plant scientist.
In recent days, the John Innes Centre in England chose to honor Janaki Ammal by launching a brand new scholarship for post-graduate students from developing countries in her name.
“I respect the struggles she faced and also the achievements she made as a woman in mid-1930's”.
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