Saturday, 8 March 2014

Sipra Guha Mukherjee - An Inspiration to Many Indian Women Botanists

Rabish Chandra
@rabishchandra on twitter

Happy International Women's Day 2014!

Since the days of my higher secondary school, I have observed Botany is always dominated by female. In a class of thirty postgraduate students at Ranchi University, India, each year the average admission of male students were five to six in number. Whereas in other departments like physics and chemistry the ratio was reverse. However when it comes to male and female ratio among teachers in the department of botany, again the number of male professor were  higher than that of female professors. Lower number of female botanists cannot be linked to inspiring girls and female students to consider science as a career path. Perhaps problem lies in retaining women in academia after they have obtained their degrees. Science subjects including plant sciences have the history of lower female scientists and academician than male.

Indian Botanists Blog-o-Journal, when contacted me to compile information on a female Indian Botanists on the occasion of International Women's Day, three names which came to my mind were, Professor Janaki Ammal, Professor Archna Sharma and Professor Sipra Guha Mukherjee. These names always inspires many women working in the field of plant science.  Last year on the International Women's Day Indian Botanists Blog-o-Journal remembered Professor Janaki Ammal. To mark International Women's Day, I take the opportunity to present a brief look back of career and opinions of Professor Sipra Guha Mukherjee expressed by her about lower number of females in research in general and plant science in particular.

                     Sipra Guha Mukherjee    Pic Courtesy: Springer Publisher Group

 Born- 13th July, 1938, Calcutta
Education- Bombay and Delhi
B.Sc (Botany) Honors Course - Delhi University
M.Sc- Delhi University
Ph.D - Tissue culture of flowers of Allium cepa under Dr B M Johri

Post Doctrol Research- Discovered the technique of production of haploid pollen plants through anther culture using Datura innoxia as experimental material under the guidance of Professor S C Maheswari.

 She had written a detailed account of the discovery of anther culture in a turning point article published in the journal In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology .
In 1972 she returned from West Virginia University, US to join as faculty in School of Life Sciences at Jawahar Lal Nehru Universirty, New Delhi.

Why she decided to study Botany?
"I decided to study botany because it was my favorite subject in school. As a school student I was awed by the contribution of Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose, and fascinated by his work that showed that plants were living organisms and had a metabolism similar to that of animals", she wrote in an autobiographic article.

Views on Women in Research.
She wrote in the above mentioned autobiography that research was dominated by male scientists in India as well as abroad and she felt mental inferiority from male scientists. Even scientists like P. Maheshwari and B.M. Johri thought it improper to appoint a woman scientist as a faculty member in the department. 

Reason for lower females in research
She believed that although women are as intelligent as men they could not achieve the same level of success because of their different social commitments.

Her inspirations
MadameCurie, Rosalind Franklin 

Sipra Guha Mukherjee died of brain cancer on 15th September 2007.

3. Guha Mukherjee S. (1999) The discovery of haploid production by anther culture. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol. Plant, 35, 357-359

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