E K Janaki Ammal

The latest issue of Resonance carries a biographical sketch of EK Janaki Ammal, a botanist (pdf); though the sketch mentions that Ammal was elected to be a fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences the year the academy was founded by Sir C V Raman, namely, in 1935, from this document, it is clear that she is actually one of the founding members of the academy (and, hence the first woman member of the academy). Here is a note with her photograph (pdf). Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much of information on her on the net (and, no wiki page too, though she is listed as an eminent Ezhava).

50 Responses to “E K Janaki Ammal”

  1. Dr Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

    Just to let you know that I am writing a book on the life and science of EK Janaki Ammal, to be published by Routledge sometime in 2008.

    • Indramohan Says:

      Dear Dr. Savithri
      Just curious, what persuaded you to undertake this project?
      I would be interested in buying a copy of your book

      Best regards

      • Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

        Sorry for the late response. I have been away…the book is not ready yet, and will not be so until late 2010. It is my interest (as a historian of science) in ‘women and science’/history of plant genetics in India/environmental history that led me to EKJ. I wonder what your interest in the subject is- would love to hear more from you.

    • Gopal Says:

      Dear Savithri,

      I know of Janaki Ammal because she’s my wife Anjali’s great aunt (her dad’s aunt in other words). On the wall of Anjali’s parent’s home in Chennai hangs the framed Padma Shri janaki Ammal won. If you are writing a book on her, you’d do well to speak to her nephew VM Krishnan, (my wife’s father)

      • Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

        Dear Gopal
        Thanks very much for telling me this. I’d love to see the Padma Shri EKJ received (and what a late recognition that was for all the brilliant work she did!). And how may I meet Mr VM Krishnan, your wife’s father? Kindly inform-savithripreetha@hotmail.com

  2. Guru Says:

    Dear Dr, Nair,

    Thanks for stopping by and the great news–I am looking forward to your book. In the meanwhile, if there is any other information on Janaki Ammal that you have already published, or, know of, I would be interested in them too.

  3. shamini Says:

    Am a way-down descendant of Janaki. Got this interesting diary of Janaki’s sis Sumithra which I’ve put online-Janaki or Jani must’ve been 17 then.
    Her sis was as brilliant clearly evinced by the diary in her flawless language. Fascinating and rare insight into life in Tellicherry in 1914.

    • Gopal Says:


      How can I read the diary? Janaki Ammal is my wife Anjali’s great aunt (he father VM Krishnan is Janaki Ammal’s nephew).

    • Asha G Says:

      I am writing a book on EK Janaki Ammal and would like to read the diary written by her sister Sumithra, any written by her or other members of her family. Also any letters, photos, lab notebooks and other material about her would be welcome. Pl send me a line at dend_15@yahoo.com
      Asha Gopinathan
      Innovation Hub, Kerala State Science and Technology Museum, Trivandrum, Kerala
      Thanks .

  4. Guru Says:

    Dear Shamini,

    Thanks for stopping by and the pointer; it sure sounds interesting (and, it is a wonderful idea to put the diary online).


  5. Dr KT Rammohan Says:

    Dear Ms. Shamini,

    Good to know that you have put Sumithra’s diary online. I could not locate it though. Help?


  6. Guru Says:

    Dear Rammohan,

    You can click on this link for the diary; however, I think it is accessible only by invitation.


  7. Dr KT Rammohan Says:

    Dear Guru,

    Thanks a lot. Let me try.


  8. Dr KT Rammohan Says:

    Dear Guru,

    Could not access in the absence of invitation. Help?


  9. Dr Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

    dear shamini
    i am writing a biography of ek janaki ammal and i wouldbe very grateful if you can get in touch with me with respect to sumithra’s diary. i have seen one of Jani’s father’s transcribed by sumithra. is the diary you’re speaking of sumithra’s own or her father’s? please get in touch.


  10. Dr Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

    shamini, i’d be very happy if you contact me at savithripreetha@gmail.com

  11. pradeep Says:

    Hi Preetha
    that is great work. We are proud of you

  12. pradeepcheriyan@gmail.com Says:

    We are proud of you. PLS keep in touch.

  13. mekhala Says:

    I linked this article in a post of mine. Thank you!

  14. Guru Says:

    Dear Mekhala,

    Thanks for the link; I guess it would be great if Dr. Nair gets her book published.


  15. R.Ganapathy Says:

    Dear Shamini: I am from Tellicherry, currently residing in Bethlehem. Could you provide some more details on Janaki-Tellicherry connection?
    Many thanks

  16. R.Ganapathy Says:

    28 march 7PM EDT
    I found the Tellicherry- Janaki Ammal Connection through a Google search.
    I am looking forward to read Savithri Preetha Nair’s book on Ammal.
    Good Night.

  17. Ajita Says:

    To anyone who may still be folowing this thread:
    Is the book by Dr. Preetha out yet? Also, thanks for the link to the pdf file, Guru. I’ve been trying to find a picture of this remarkable woman and am so disappointed that there are none that survive despite her great accomplishments.
    I’m subscribing to this thread if you have anything to offer. Thank you.

  18. Aarthi Says:

    Hello everyone,
    I’m looking forward to the book too. I’m probably related to some of the other people who’ve commented here, because Janaki Ammal was my great-aunt. There are plenty of photos of her as a girl and then young adult in our family albums, and there must be plenty more in other family albums across India. =)

    • Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

      Dear Aarthi, I am visiting the site after very long. Great to hear that you have with you several pictures of EKJ. Is there anyway I can take a look at those? Will be most grateful.

  19. sheethala venugopal Says:

    Dear all,
    My name is shyam and my mother is sheethal Venugopal.
    Janaki Ammal is my mother fathers sister. Infact my mother is attending a function today in tellicherry felicitataing the great person. My mother would be highly obliged if you could provide through me ( since she is not connceted)
    any information on her niece.
    On the lighter side it was Janaki ammla who named my mother Sheethala.

    I live in Lucknow and ammal was also connceted with the LKO botanical garden.

    Best wishes

    • Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

      Good to hear about the EKJ felicitation. I would have loved to be there. Shyam, what a shame, I did not get to meet you when I visited Lucknow a couple of years ago on the EKJ trail. My book should be ready by late 2010. Do stay in touch. Looking forward to hearing from you, Preetha

  20. Shamini Says:

    All about Janaki:

    Click to access Janaki.pdf

  21. sheethala venugopal Says:

    Dear Preetha,
    my mum would be excited to hear from you. I dont know if you have met her. She would love to have a copy of your book and wish you the best. My mothers number is 09941210287.
    best wishes

    • Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

      Thanks Shyam, will do; only that I am out of the country at the moment. I will as soon as it becomes possible.

  22. Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

    Centre for Contemporary Studies
    Indian Institute of Science
    Bangalore 560012
    invites you to a talk on

    The Chromosome Woman:
    E.K. Janaki Ammal and the re-ordering of the South Asian Environment (1897-1984)

    Speaker: Dr Savithri Preetha Nair, London, UK (Fellow, New India Foundation, Bangalore)
    Venue: Centre for Contemporary Studies Seminar Hall (Formerly TIFR mathematics Building)
    Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012

    Tuesday, 13 April 2010
    Time: 4.00 pm
    (Tea/Coffee will be served at 3:30 pm)

    In her illustrated talk, Dr Savithri Preetha Nair outlines the life and work of a pioneering Indian woman scientist, Edavaleth Kakkat Janaki Ammal (1897-1984), who played a significant role in shaping plant genetics and the debate on the role of science in the emergence of the Indian nation.

    The first Indian woman to obtain a doctorate in the sciences, Janaki pioneered researches in academic ethnobotany, the systematic study of the dynamic relationship between peoples, plants and environments, to counter the aggressive strategies adopted by Indian agronomists, in the name of national security and progress. Pioneering a plant geography trajectory within the practice of plant breeding and genetics in India, Janaki’s focus was ecological rather than economic, nationalist or ideological. Very importantly, she saw herself as a member of the international community of science rather than as a representative of a specific caste, race, or nation. By mapping the origin and evolution of cultivated plants across space and time, through cytogenetics, plant geography and a sound knowledge of the cultural uses of plants, Janaki aimed to contribute to a grand history of human cultural evolution.

    Dr Nair’s forthcoming book on Janaki will be the first ever full length study on the life and science of an Asian woman scientist.

  23. Gopal Says:

    Dear Savithri,

    You can reach VM Krishnan–Janaki Ammal’s nephew–on +91 988416 0979. Residence number: +91 44 23632369. You can also reach his wife Gita Krishnan on .gita.krishnan255@gmail.com<

  24. For the readers of this blog, from IISc and/or Bangalore « Entertaining Research Says:

    […] the readers of this blog, from IISc and/or Bangalore By Guru Here is one of the comments on a post of mine about E K Janaki Ammal: Centre for Contemporary Studies Indian Institute of Science Bangalore 560012 […]

  25. lalitha varadan Says:

    Hi Dr.Savithri,
    I am Dr.E.k.Janaki”s Niece Lalitha varadan residing in Singapore.Words seem inadequate to express my gratitude to you for taking the intiative to publish the book about my Aunt. I would love to have a copy of the book.
    My contact no is 96508152
    LALITHA Varadan

  26. Dr Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

    Thanks, that’s a lot of interest on EK Janaki Ammal! I’m grateful to all of you for the contacts. And whoever can make it to Bangalore on 13 April, see you there!

  27. lalitha varadan Says:

    please let me know of the latestdevelopments.Thank you and regards

  28. Dr Savithri Preetha Nair Says:

    Thanks for all those who attended my talk on EK Janaki Ammal on 13 April at CCS, IISc Bangalore. The talked evoked excellent response and interest. You may see the details at

  29. Somava Biswas Says:

    dear Dr Nair,
    I am a student of MSc.life science.While preparing for an article on taxonomists of India,i learnt about Ammal.its a shame for us that we are so ignorant about many of those who have contributed a lot in this subject.i am sure your book will b enriching our knowledge.looking forward to read the book.also, m interested to know about you.u describe yourself a historian of science.i find this very interesting.please tell me about your career.. thank you.somava

  30. Dr B. Venugopal Says:

    The NMNH (National Museum of Natural History (Govt. of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests) will organise a National Seminar on E K Janaki Ammal on November4 (her dateofbirth) 2010 in Thalasseri (her birth place). Many people / experts/ PhD students/ realtives/ EKJ Awardees, and biogrpaher of EKJ will attend. On account of snowballing effectof local interest, the seminar will conclude with a public function in whcih Hon VCs of Kannur, Calicut and a formerVC of Calicut Univ. will grace.
    The detailed programme will be ready within a weeek or so. In case anyone associated with EKJ is interested to get invitation/ details, please do communicate to me by email: dirnmnh@gmail. com or vbha56@yahoo.com

    Dr. B. Venugopal, Director, NMNH

  31. John Thomas Says:

    The painting competition to be organised on 4th November 2010 at Thalassery may also be publicised. John

  32. b venugopal Says:

    the details of the National Seminar is given below:
    NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests) Barakhamba Road, New Delhi-110001.
    Te: 011-2314932; Fax 011-23319173; Email: dirnmnh@nic.in
    No. 6(2) 2001-02/NMNH/Admn. 12-10-2010
    The NMNH will be organizing a National Seminar on “E K Janaki Ammal and her contribution to Indian Science” in Thalasseri (her birth place) on 4th November (her birth date) 2010. The venue will be Sharada Krishna Iyer Auditorium.
    A large number of people connected with EKJ (students, relatives, rated Taxonomists, past awardees of EKJ Award, organizers of EKJ award in the Ministry of Environment & Forests) have agreed to attend. Students and teachers of botany and zoology from the Kannur and Calicut Universities will be the main audience.
    The programme involves academic sessions related to EKJ (Life sketches of EKJ, Cytology, Taxonomy, Ethnobotany), felicitation of past awardees of E K Janaki Ammal National Award on Taxonomy constituted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, prize distribution to winners of competition for students etc. Dr Savithri Preetha Nair (from UK) who is completing a biography on EKJ has kindly agreed to give keynote speech.
    You are requested to attend the Seminar and contribute to its success. In case you are interested to have presentation on a relevant session, please send us the title and abstract of presentation by email (dirnmnh@gmail.com AND vbha56@yahoo.com). Each presenter will get about 10-15 minutes for presentation.
    You are requested to make arrangements for travel and accommodation. However, the organizers will be able to help select suitable accommodation if requested.
    An early reply will be appreciated.
    Thanking you,
    Yours faithfully,

    (Dr. B. Venugopal) Director

  33. Y. Ranga Reddy Says:

    Dear Dr Nair:

    As recipient of E. K. Janaki Ammal National Award for Animal Taxonomy, I am please to know that you are writing a biogeography of Dr Janaki Ammal. Rather fortuitously, I have collected some input for you about Dr Ammal’s visit to Banaras Hindu University (BHU), from a venerably 84-year old neighbour of mine, Dr E. R. S. Talpasai, retired Professor of Botany, BHU. Here is what Dr Talpasai has recollected from his memory:

    “Dr. E. K. Janaki Ammal visited the Department of Botany, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi sometime during 1952-53 and requested the then Head of the Department, Prof. Y. Bharadwaja to help her in collecting living material of Rhododendrons for cytological studies. Accordingly, Prof. Bharadwaja deputed our laboratory assistant, Mr Surendra Singh who was familiar with Uttar Pradesh Himalayan forests, to accompany Dr Janaki Ammal. And she made extensive collection of materials and fixed on the spot to be studied later at the Royal Horticultural Society, U. K., where she was working with Prof. C. D. Darlington. She once more visited the Department, this time along with Prof. O. J. Eigsti of USA who introduced colchicine, used by cytologists extensively to produce polyploids in plants.

    On her first visit, she was very kind to demonstrate to us aceto-carmine staining procedure personally, which we later introduced in the practical work of B. Sc. & M. Sc. students.”

  34. Jahnavi Phalkey Says:


    The interest in Janaki Ammal is inspiring! Like everyone, I am also waiting for Savithri’s book! In the meanwhile, I also have a question. Like Savithri, I am also a historian of science and was wondering if there are any essays or writings, or radio talks of Janaki Ammal that survive. I am much interested in looking at those and will be happy for any suggestions!

    Best, Jahnavi

    • Shamini Says:

      Available in Amazon-CHROMOSOME ATLAS OF CULTIVATED PLANTS. (Hardcover)
      by C. Darlington & E. K. Janaki Ammal
      Waiting for Preetha’s book!

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  36. Sunil Says:

    Janaki Ammal belongs to the Orachei family of Chokli Tellichery.Oracheri Gurus were teachers of Herman Gundert in India Philosaphy and languages.

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  39. Piush Says:

    Is the book out?

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