Dr. Panchanan Maheshwari was an eminent botanist specializing in plant embryology, morphology and anatomy, plant physiology, and biochemistry.
Dr. Maheshwari was one of the first plant biologists who established the technique of test-tube fertilization of angiosperms.
Another milestone invention by Dr. Maheshwari was the production of haploids using anther culture. This discovery opened a new era in plant biology and formed the path for developing many improved crop species.
Life and Education
Dr. Panchanan Maheshwari was born on 9 November 1904 in Jaipur city of Rajasthan. He was educated at Ewing Christian College in Allahabad, intending to pursue a career in medicine.
At Ewing, Maheshwari came under the mentorship of Winfield Dudgeon and changed his studies from medicine to science. He earned his Bachelor of Science (1925), Master of Science (1931), and Doctor of Science (1931) degrees, all under Dudgeon’s influence. Maheshwari was an atheist.
In 1930, he was appointed to Agra College after the study. He taught in Allahabad, Lucknow, and Dhaka University respectively. He came as the President of Botany at the University of Delhi in 1948 and settled there for the rest of his life. Suffering from swelling of the brain, he died on 18 May 1966 in Delhi.
Dr. Maheshwari’s book, ‘An Introduction to the Embryology of Angiosperms’, which was published in 1950, is considered a classic and is one of the most cited biology texts.
He established the International Society of Plant Morphologists in 1951 and started the international journal Phytomorphology.
His research group examined more than 100 families of angiosperms and some gymnosperms in the country. He is also the author of the book ‘An illustrated Flora of Delhi’ – considered an excellent field-guide for all.
Dr. Maheshwari was a member of the Science Advisory Committee of the Cabinet and was a major contributor to the country’s major scientific organizations. He has gained much national and international recognition.
Awards and honors
Panchanan Maheshwari was a scientific citizen of the world and many academies felt honoured to make him a Foundation Fellow.
In 1934 he became a fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore. The Indian Botanical Society honored him with the Birbal Sahni Medal in 1958.
He was the General President-elect of the Indian Science Congress Association for 1968, a role he could not perform on account of his early death on 18 May 1966. It was expected of him that he did not reveal this even to his family members, who learned it later only through newspapers.
Many of his well-wishers and students admired him by naming their new findings after him, such as Panchanania jaipurensis (fungus) and Isoetes panchananii. Maheshwari was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1965, he was the second Indian Botanist to earn this honor.
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