Sunday, April 2

Dr. H. Y. Mohan Ram: A Botanist In India

Professor Holenarasipur Yoganarasimham Mohan Ram enriched science in India through many roles such as as a teacher and editor. He was also a philanthropist who popularized science, in his capacity as a thinker and planner.  Educational institutions and grant institutions benefited from his significant contribution. Dr. H Y Mohan Ram is a member of all four important science academies of India.

Dr. H. Y. Mohan Ram

Personal details

He was born in 1930 AD in the beautiful city of Mysore.  His family was large in which there were many children too. His mother was very fond of gardening. It was because of his mother that Mohan got interested in the plant. He studied at the Saradavilas High School in 1943–46 and Intermediate College in 1946–48.  

At the College of Mysore, he met Dr. M. A. Rau and Shri B. N. N. Rao. They were both very talented field botanists.  With both of them, Mohan traveled far and wide in search of plants by bicycle. The most important lesson he learned was the difference between a cursory glance and a close observation. Along with this he also learned about the Latin names, classifications, and uses of many plants.  After graduating from Mysore, in 1951 he enrolled in M.Sc at B. R. College, Agra. The teachers there were very acumen, kind, and interested in their profession. 

First time in Agra

For the first time in Agra, he got the opportunity to see the trees of Salvadora, Taimerix, Sida, Salsola, and Caper species.  He noticed that the trees there had also become accustomed to drought, heat, and saline soil over time.  In Agra itself, he was told that the plants of cycas revoluta, planted in the garden of Taj Mahal were all female and in the absence of male plants, they could not produce seeds.  After finishing his MSc, he was selected for the job of Lecturer of Botany at Delhi University. There he came under the influence of Professor P. Maheshwari.  Mohan did his doctorate under his supervision.

While teaching botany, he used to take most of the students to the field to show them the vegetation. According to him, botany meant walking in the forests, looking at the big trees, finding new plants, and enjoying all this. His wife Manasi was also a botanist. His never-ending curiosity about plants, sharp mind, and deep love always kept Mohan motivated to learn. She grew rare plants in their house.

Impact on Mohan’s life

His mother had formed a club for children called Makkala Kuta in Mysore in the early 1940s. Her main objective is to make children aware of the freedom movement, poverty, illiteracy, gender discrimination, and gender inequality. Along with this, she had to develop the skills of writing, drama, speaking, and singing to awaken the public.  All these activities had a deep impact on Mohan’s working life. That’s why he never turned down an invitation to meet with the students. 

He majored in general botany, taxonomy, embryology, physiology, structure development, tissue culture, and economic botany related to plant uses and processing. His laboratory published more than 250 research papers. This was the result of the cultivation of 35 research students who were working with him. 

Dr. H.Y. Mohan Ram

Dr. H Y Mohan Ram has done a lot for children in his capacity as Trustee of Children’s Book Trust and Chairman of National Science and Member of Control Board of Center for Environment Education, Ahmedabad.  Apart from this, he was the chairman of the committee of NCERT where he has written biology books for classes 11th and 12th. 

Mohan had a keen interest in Indian music and photography. Forests, wetlands, agricultural fields, barren lands, markets of rare and economically useful plants, vegetables, and fruits were his favorite subjects of photography.  The markets he photographed the most are Bangkok, Belem, Lydian, Holland, Paris, Imphal, Shillong, Gangtok, and Mysore. 

His thought on botany

In an article, he has expressed his views about botany -” A tiger, lion, or colorful butterfly will probably be more successful in attracting public attention than a weed plant, but botanists have big stars in their eyes.  Such as Saguaro Cactus, Lady Slipper Orchid, Pitcher Plant, Welwitschia, etc. Reading about them only expands the interest but finding them in their own natural surroundings is a unique experience of life. Taxonomy continues to be ignored in India even after the signing of the Rio de Janeiro Declaration. 

Many bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, and plants are yet to be identified and studied. Numerical data of plants and animals is essential to assess the impact of the environment.  Along with saving the environment, we should also make economic progress. For this, we should use the best knowledge of natural and social sciences along with cultural heritage. It is necessary to understand the primary needs of the people on the basis of equality for decision-making. It is also necessary that the interested groups should work together in a cohesive manner instead of opposing each other.”

Mohan is a member of all four important science academies of India. He has been the chairman of the apex advisory committees of the Botany and Zoology Survey and the Man and Biosphere Program (1990-1996). Professor Ram is honored with many prestigious awards.

  • He was awarded the JC Bose Award in 1979.
  • The Om Prakash Bhasin Award in 1986.
  • The Sergei Nawashin Medal of the USSR in 1990 and numerous other recognitions.

He died on June 18, 2018, just three months before turning 88. Despite illness, Dr.H Y Mohan Ram maintained his work schedule till the end at the Shri Ram Centre for Industrial Research as a Research Professor of the Indian National Science Academy.

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