Back in the 1970s, when large tropical forests were in danger due to the construction of an hydroelectric power plant, a woman stepped in to save the land. This plant was aimed to provide employment opportunities to hundreds of residents in Kerala, but the project could have destroyed several species of flora and fauna. At the age of 80, Janaki Ammal stepped forward to save the Silent Valley National Park, which is home to endangered species of orchids and more than 1000 species of flowering plants.Janaki Ammal Edavalath Kakkat was an Indian botanist and cytogeneticist who made significant contributions to the field of botanical science. After completing her education, Ammal returned to India and worked at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi. She also worked at the Sugarcane Breeding Institute in Coimbatore and the Botanical Survey of India in Calcutta. She was honored with Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for her contributions to the field of botanical science. Janaki Ammal passed away on 7 February 1984. She was the first woman cytogeneticist in India. She was an inspiration to many women who followed her in the field of botany and cytogenetics.Like every other Indian, if you are also inspired by the first Indian woman botanist and wish to know who is Janaki Ammal, this blog might provide a deep insight into her life and achievements that made her a remarkable person.Early Childhood of Janaki AmmalIt is known that Janaki Ammal was born on 4th November 1897 in Tellicherry, a town in the southern Indian state of Kerala. She was the daughter of a wealthy judge and her family was well-educated. She was raised in an atmosphere of academic excellence and was encouraged to pursue her education from an early age. She completed her early education in Tellicherry and was one of the few women in her town to have received a formal education. She attended Queen Mary's College in Madras where she completed her bachelor's degree in science. She later went on to pursue her PhD in Cytogenetics in the United Kingdom.In a family where women were married off early, Ammal had other plans. She wanted to learn more about plants and women at that time were discouraged from getting higher education. When she went overseas for a PhD, she was mistaken as a long dark-haired Indian princess who was always in silk attires. And I did not deny that, she had said in one of her interviews.Family Background of Janaki AmmalJanaki Ammal is the 10th daughter of a large family of 19 sisters and brothers. Her father was wealthy and she was raised with facilities that most Indian women at that time could not receive. Her father is said to be a judge in one of the subordinate courts in that city. He is said to have written two books on extinct birds found in the North Malabar region in India. In her family environment, Ammal grew curious about the things her dad was studying and aspired to educate herself in the field of botany. When all her sisters were getting into arranged marriages, she secured a scholarship to study at a prestigious university in London.While pursuing her courses in the UK, Dr Janaki Ammal studied plant cytology, which is the study of plant genetic composition and gene expression.Her Life as an Active Indian ScientistJanaki Ammal, an active Indian scientist in the 18th century, made significant contributions to the field of botanical science during her career. After completing her education in the UK, she returned to India and worked at various institutes, including the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, the Sugarcane Breeding Institute in Coimbatore and the Botanical Survey of India in Calcutta.Ammal's most notable work was in the field of cytogenetics, the research on the structure and function of chromosomes in plants. She made significant contributions to the understanding of chromosome behavior in plants, including the study of polyploidy, which is the presence of more than two sets of chromosomes in an organism. Her research also included the study of plant breeding and genetics. She was also a member of several scientific societies and was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Sciences, India, and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences.Her Journey to Become a Renowned BotanistJanaki Ammals knowledge of sugarcane breeding and her expertise in on the subject matter was particularly talked about at the Imperial Sugar Cane Institute (it is now known as the Sugarcane Breeding Institute). The Institute was trying to increase the production of native sugarcane crop, which grows faster than sugarcane varieties imported from Java. With her help, the Institute was able to develop varieties of sugarcane that could beat the one imported from Indonesia. She crossed dozens of home-grown sugarcane plants to determine which hybrids matched the sucrose content of Saccharum.She moved to England to start her research journey at the John Innes Institute with Cyril Dean Darlington - a eugenicist and geneticist. His research on the influence of chromosomes on heredity became a hot topic in eugenics. He continued to research how intelligence is inherited through different races. In the five years of collaborative research with Janaki Ammal, he recorded the chromosome numbers of about 100,000 plants. They co-authored The Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants (1946), which is used by numerous plant scientists to date. While other atlases recorded the botanical classification of several plants, this one stood out by recording the number of chromosomes and breeding information of those plants.Her Contributions to Indian BotanyJanaki Ammal also made significant contributions to the understanding of plant breeding and genetics and her work helped to pave the way for further research in these areas. She also worked on the study of the cytogenetics of sugarcane, and her work on sugarcane cytogenetics helped in the development of high-yielding varieties. She also made contributions to the field of botanical taxonomy, and her research on the taxonomy of Indian plants helped to increase our understanding of the diversity of Indian flora.In addition to her research, Ammal also played an important role in promoting botanical science in India. She was a member of several scientific societies and was elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Her work and dedication to the field of botany in India have been widely recognised and continue to inspire many young scientists to take up research in botanical science.Her Contributions to the Botanical Survey of IndiaJanaki Ammal made numerous contributions to the field of botanical science during her time at the BSI, also known as the Botanical Survey of India. The BSI is an organisation responsible for the survey, exploration, and study of India's plant diversity. She worked on the taxonomy of Indian plants, which helped to improve the classification of India's plant species.During her tenure at BSI, Ammal also made important contributions to the study of plant breeding and genetics. She was also one of the first Indian scientists to work on the application of cytogenetics to crop improvement. Ammal's work at the BSI helped to establish the foundation for further research in botany in India, and her contributions continue to be recognized by the scientific community.Her Awards and AccoladesJanaki Ammal was recognised for her contributions to the field of botanical science throughout her career and received several awards and accolades.● Padma Shri in 1977● Padma Bhushan in 1979● She was elected as a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences● She was elected as a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy● She was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India● She was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural SciencesConclusionShe is credited with discovering around 112 new species of plants. Their genus, Jankia, was named in her honour by Bengali botanist Debabrata Bose. The Janaki Ammal National Park in southern India's Nilgiri Hills was named after her in 1969. In 2007, the government of Tamil Nadu declared that her birthday would be celebrated every year as Women's Day to commemorate her contributions to Indian botany.FAQsWhat did Janaki Ammal discover?After years of research on cross-breeding, Janaki Ammal discovered a high-yielding variety of sugarcane that would thrive in the Indian climate.By what name is Janaki Ammal known in India?Janaki Ammal is known as the Mother of Botany and the First Indian Female Botanist.Where did Janaki Ammal live?Janaki Ammal lived with her family in Thalassery (formerly Tellicherry) in Kerala.