Dr. N. D. Paria is a Professor and former Head of the Department of Botany, University of Calcutta. He is the former Vice Chancellor of Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, West Bengal. Prof. Paria served the University of Calcutta in the capacity of Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, Music & Home Science and Convenor of Ph. D. Committee. He has about forty years of teaching and research experience. His expertise includes Plant Taxonomy, Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation, Palynology, Seedling Morphology, Ethnobotany and Medicinal Plants. He has published seven books on his field of expertise and about 80 research papers in national and international journals, and produced 16 Ph.D. students under the University of Calcutta. Prof. Paria is a member of West Bengal Biodiversity Board. He is the former Editor of the Journal of Botanical Society of Bengal and presently the Editor in Chief of the Journal Science and Culture, of Indian Science News Association. He is a fellow of Linnean Society of London, Indian Botanical Society, and West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology. Prof. Paria travelled widely in different countries of Europe and USA in connection with his academic assignments. He is the recipient of Prof. V. V. Sivarajan Gold Medal Award and Dr. S. K. Jain Award.
Dr. Manishi Nath Das, M. Se., Ph.D., was a Senior Scientist and Head of Botany section, National Research Institute of Ayurveda for Drug Development, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government ofIndia, Salt Lake, Sector- V, Kolkata- 700091. He published more than 100 Scientific papers and abstracts in Plant Physiology and Pharmacognosy. He is a co-author of a book entitled Pharmacognosy of Indigenous Drugs- Vol- III, published by CCRAS, Govt. of India. He also served as a project officer of the Central Scheme of Ayurvedic Pharmocopoeial Committee and a consultant scientist of the WHO project, and is presently associated with National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Kolkata.
Mr. Animesh Bose (Project Assistant) Born on 25th May, 1987 in Calcutta. Graduated from Presidency College, Kolkata, obtaining a first class with Honours in Botany. Post graduation from C. U. with first class. Participated in 15 national and international seminars/symposia. He is a guest lecturer in the Department of Botany, Rishi Bankim Chandra College for Women's, Naihati. He is doing his dissertation with UGC Fellowship (RGNF) in Taxonomy and Biosystematics laboratory, University of Calcutta, under the guidance of Pr of. N. D. Paria.
The history of plant science deals with the initiation and development of different branches of botany. It includes studies on various divisions VIZ., cryptogams, phanerogams, taxonomy, anatomy, cytogenetics, plant physiology and biochemistry, palaeobotany, etc. The description of the history of plant science in India is initiated from the prehistoric period, much before the emergence of the Rig-veda, the first written work by man. Gradually, the historical development of this natural science had been attempted during Vedic and post- Vedic period, including the period of Rigveda and Atharvaveda, and also the Upanishads.
Indian botany found a remarkable development in the later half of the 18th century through the establishment of 'United Brothers'. This society enthusiastically collected plants, dried them, prepared herbarium specimens, and sent them to Europe for identification and description. In 1768, J. G. Koenig joined the society and made useful contributions to Indian botany. He was a student of Linnaeus. Much later, after the death of Koenig two other names became well known: J. G. Klein (1766 - 1821) and Dr. Benjamin Heyne (1770 -1819).
According to Prof. S. P. Agharkar, the initial document of the history and development of botany in India was first presented by Sir George King in his address at the meeting of the British Association of Advancement of Science delivered at Dover, UK in 1899. More or less, during this period, the Imperial Agricultural Research institute at Pusa, Delhi was established in 1904. The researches in mycology and economic botany were initiated there.
Research in plant science got impetus from 1910 onwards due to the establishment of teaching and research departments in various universities and colleges in India. The index of botanical research could be obtained from the proceedings of the Indian Science Congress which was first held during 1913. The areas covering at the initial stage were mainly morphology, taxonomy, plant geography, ecology, palaeobotany, plant physiology, anatomy and forest botany. But in the later phase it covered the plant groups (i.e. cryptogams and phanerogams), including biosystematics.
In this early phase of 21st century the plant science enters into the fields of other disciplines viz. genetics, biochemistry, biophysics, biotechnology and molecular biology forming a vast multidisciplinary subject.
In this volume an attempt has been taken to highlight different studies and observations in plant science related teaching and research work carried out in different institutes, universities, colleges and scientific societies of our country beginning from the period of initiation to the present time to give a comprehensive approach that may trace an outline of the history of plant science in India for general readers interested in Science.
Apreliminary idea about "Plant Science" needs to be briefly outlined. The corpus of plant science is composed of information belonging to the following three categories:
Ethnobotany deals with all elements of the wide spectrum of man- plant relationship. Communities of men from the prehistoric days started using various vegetal materials for survival and better living. They christened the plants in their languages. Gradually, they began to classify plants and their parts as edible, poisonous, narcotic, medicinal, fit for attire, useful in making shelter, furniture, equipment, and other such uses. Human society gradually started using herbs, foliages, flowers, fruits, and different plant products for beautifying self, decorating the habitat, performing religious rites, and other cultural activities. Man also developed techniques and methods for storage of plants and their products, their protection, and conservation. Thus, through observation and experiential knowledge, "ethnobotany" came into being.
With increased familiarity, keen observations, appropriate exercises and experiments, man acquired useful information about the following aspects of plants:
The corpus of these data constitutes 'core' or 'descriptive' botany. With the improvement in instrumentation and advancement of chemical technology new areas of study have opened during the 20th century that include.
Equipped with the fundamental data regarding plants and other materials, man has been making planned efforts to modify selected attributes of various species of plants with a view to enhancing the quality of human life. This has led to the development of 'applied' or 'economic' botany. Applied botany usually encompasses the following:
Some areas of ethnobotany and applied botany often coalesce-the fundamental difference being that while ethnobotany is based on observation and experience, and occasionally extends to the spheres of myth and religious beliefs, applied botany is dependent on experimental data.
The evidences obtained from tribal sources and archaeological findings indicate that all the above three areas developed in India since the prehistoric period. Hence, it is obligatory to trace the history of plant science in India from prehistoric days - the period characterized by the absence of having any written record. Before enumerating the information gathered from various sources pertaining to plant science of different periods, one should consider the necessity of studying the history of plant science.
PRESENT STATE OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF PLANT SCIENCE IN INDIA
The history of plant science is, perhaps, the longest amongst the histories of all branches of science in India. While documentary evidence may be collected from the days of the Rig- Veda (at least before 1500 BCE), elements of the history of plant science can be obtained from the prehistoric period through archaeological remains and analytical studies of existing communities living in different climatic regions.
India is a tropical country containing segments of all climatic characteristics starting from littoral regions to alpine zones in the Himalayas. This country is endowed with a rich wealth of flora, accordance to different ecological areas. These areas have different species of plants and are populated by diverse groups of men. The attitude and utilization of plants by these diverse human communities vary considerably, extending the canvas of the history of plant science. In spite of all these, the history of plant science in India has not received appropriate attention, though some valuable pioneering works have been done by G. P. Majumdar, P. K. Gode, S. C. Banerji, K. L. Mehra, Mehra Homage, C. R. Karnick, M. A. Mehendale, M. Abdul Kareem, P. Sensarma, and others.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION REGARDING THE HISTORY OF PLANT SCIENCE IN INDIA
While information about the development of plant science in modem times can be obtained from many sources, e.g. herbaria, botanical gardens, museums, published reports and records, data regarding the prehistoric period, ancient period, and medieval period have to be collected mainly from the sources enumerated below.
India, being the seat of a very ancient civilization, has a repository of wealth in the form of written documents in several languages, viz., Prakrit, Pali, Sanskrit, and Tamil. The number of works in Sanskrit is greater than in any other language. Further, the Sanskrit texts belong to many categories. The Vedas and other components of Vedic literature represent the earliest phase of literary works. From Vedic times, a continuous stream of works written in Sanskrit, pertaining to different periods, is available. For these reasons, the Sanskrit works are considered more important in the study of science in ancient India.
Dr. N.C.Datta, former Professor and Head of the Department of Zoology, Calcutta University, passed M.Sc. from Calcutta University and got Ph.D degree from the same university. He has fifty years of teaching and research experience. He is a fellow of the National Institute of Ecology, National Environmental Science Academy (also chairman, Kolkata chapter), Zoological Society of India, and West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology. He was the sectional President in Zoology (1990) of Indian Science Congress Association and President of Bangiya Bigyan Parishad. He is a recipient of Meghnad Saha Science Prize, S.P.Basu memorial medal, Sir Dorabji Tata Gold medal of Zoological Society of India, Meen ratna Award of the Fisheries Dept. Of W.B. Government and Jnan Chandra Ghosh Science Award of Science Association of Bengal. Apart from Biological Science, his academic interest includes History of Science in India.
Dr. Pulak Lahiri, former Sir Nilratan Sircar Professor of Zoology and Head of the Department of Zoology, University of Calcutta, passed M.Sc. examination and got Ph. D. degree from this University. He was a post- doctoral fellow of Leningrad State University, Leningrad (now Pittsburg) and Institute of Cancer Research. Moscow. He was a visiting scientist to Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York more than once. His field of research is Reproductive Toxicology and Health Hazards of Air pollution. He is a former member of Pollution Control Board and Biodiversity Board of West Bengal. He is a passionate teacher and ardently believes in quality teaching. He is actively involved in various cultural and philanthropic activities.
Dr. Subrata Kar passed M.sc & got Ph.D. in Zoology from University of Calcutta. He has retired as Scientist 'C' from Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata. His specialization is on Ichthyology. He made faunistic survey of Fishes in almost all the states of India and also participated in the livelihood survey on the primitive tribe Jarawa, Andaman Island.
Mr. Animesh Bose (Project Assistant) Born on 25th May, 1987 in Calcutta. Graduated from Presidency College, Kolkata, obtaining a first class with Honours in Botany. Post graduation from C. U. with first class. Participated in 15 national and international seminars/symposia. He is a guest lecturer in the Department of Botany, Rishi Bankim Chandra College for Women's, Naihati. He is doing his dissertation with UGC Fellowship (RGNF) in Taxonomy and Biosystematics laboratory, University of Calcutta, under the guidance of Prof. N. D. Paria.
INDIA has a glorious past in science, philosophy and literature. Some Western historians of Biology believe that the contributions of early Indians in Biology is not significant. However, Bhaduri, Tiwari and Biswas (1971) held that probably due to a lack of knowledge in Sanskrit and other Indian classical languages, the Western historians could not possibly comprehend the contributions of early Indians in Biological science. Indeed no sensitive Indian can ignore the vast wealth of fauna and flora that characterise biodiversity of India. A vast wealth of information thus remains imbeded in ancient literatures like Vedas,Vedantas, Upanishad, Puranas, especially Ramayan and Mahabharat, or in folk lore and archaeological records.
Ayurveda - the concept and practice of Hindu medicine that rests on Biology in general is a pertinent example.
The progress of Zoology in the medieval period was not at all encouraging. In India, the beginning of modem science including zoology probably started with the foundation of the Asiatic Society in 1784. The Imperial Indian Museum now known as Indian Museum was established in 1814 and together with the Asiatic Society, both became the seat of early exploration and studies in Zoology. Later, establishment of Indian Association for cultivation of Science (1876), Bombay Natural History Society (1883), and Zoological Survey of India (1916) vastly increased zoological study in India. Simultaneous establishment of universities and colleges, and introduction of zoology as a curricular subject at the graduate level increased the horizon of zoological study and research in India.
The present venture is an attempt to project a concise chronicle of zoology from early period till modem time. Classical Zoology has undergone a kind of metamorphosis by incorporating other related disciplines like biotechnology, molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry, ethology etc. Zoology is now a multi disciplinary subject, and it is not easy to write a coherent and continuous depiction of the status and trend of development of zoology at one go.
India is a mega-bio diversity country. Therefore, justifiably it is very rich in both flora and fauna. The richness of animal resources of India is largely due to its geographical position and the fact that it possesses ten different biogeographic zones offering all possible kinds of ecosystem. Zoo geographically India belongs to Oriental realm, but the Ethiopian, Palaearctic species and some belonging to other realms are also found here, possibly through introduction or migration. With varied physical features, the climate ranges here from temperate to arctic in the Himalayas to tropical and subtropical in its Indo-Gangetic plains and peninsular region. With sixteen types of varied forests and vast grass lands in between, the vegetative cover is rich to sustain diverse types of wildlife. Though the area of the country is only about 2.3% of world land resource (Miller, 2005), India harbours as much as 5% of all the known species of animals and plants (Jairajpuri, 1991). The Indian fauna is estimated to comprise a little over 65,000 species. Of these, the insects constitute about 40,000 species, molluscs a little over 5,000, mammals 372, birds 1228, reptiles 428, amphibians 205 and fishes 2546 -(ibid). This is a rough estimate, the real numbers are likely to be much higher. Many areas of the country, specially the north-eastern part which harbours a biodiversity hot-spot region are yet to be fully explored; also there are several animal groups especially the invertebrates, being minute and innocuous, escape easily the scrutiny of an observer and remains unidentified. Due to a lack of proper infrastructure, marine and intertidal species of India have received scanty attention, though the maritime cover of India is quite substantial. Indeed, the country-wide survey and study of wild life in India was initiated a little over hundred years ago, the period coinciding with the establishment of the Zoological Survey of India, the premier institute of the country to undertake systematic faunastic survey. It is a pity that Indians known to be nature lovers areoblivious to the richness of their natural wealth and did not keep a record of it over ages. It will be never known how many species of animals have become extinct even in the recent past. At present 81 species of mammals, 47 of birds, 15 of reptiles, 3 of amphibians and large number of butterflies, moths and beetles are listed as endangered (Jairajpuri, 1991), the actual figures are likely to be much more. Extinction of Cheetah in the last century symbolizes the sorry state of conservation of rare or endangered species!
Speciation and extinction are both natural phenomenon and product of evolutionary process; both progress at an extremely slow pace. Rate of speciation had always superseded background or natural extinction, even mass extinction of species. By and large presently only extinction of species is taking place and that too at an accelerated rate. According to an estimate, normally one species becomes extinct in a thousand year. But during 1600 CE to 1950 this number has increased to 10 animal species, and now possibly it has reached to one species or more per year (Jairajpuri, 1991). Another estimate claims the rate of premature extinction of species to be 0.1% to 1% a year (Miller, 2005). While pollution and certain other factors might promote extinction, no doubt it is the human activities that have caused maximum damage to biodiversity. According to an assessment made in 1986, about 80% of the original wildlife habitat has been highly degraded or lost in tropical Asia (Jairajpuri, 1991). With growing humanity reaching almost to the point of population explosion the conservation of wild life in developing countries, especially in India has become acute. In 1952, the Indian population was nearly 400 million. In 2004 (with 52 years of population control efforts) India was the world's second most populous country with population of 1.1 billion. With 17% of the world's people, having just 2.3% of world's forests, every individual competes, in fact struggles, for basic necessities of life like food and shelter and this directly or indirectly puts huge pressure on natural resources and the ecosystems. The domestic animals (the number of cattle's being astronomically high) requiring pasture and fodder and the pests they harbour together put extra pressure on fragile ecosystems and natural habitats of the wild animals. Indeed habitat loss due to human activities is the prime cause for extinction of animals. Much needed conservation of wild life in India is a multidimensional socio-economic problem and needs well thought out long term strategies to address the situation properly and meaningfully. Unfortunately, India did not have an Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) or Pliny (23 - 79 CE). The former wrote ten volumes on the natural history of animals, while Pliny's 'Natural History' provides some insight into the anthropomorphism that characterized Roman perception of animal behavior (Dricakamer et al. 2002). Needless to say that most of their perceptions about wild life is no more tenable today. Still for many years their treatises served as the basis for human understanding of the natural world and initiated interest in animal study. Surprisingly no ancient text in India has dealt exhaustively with animals alone. Even in Panchatantra and Hitopodesh whose characters are mostly animals, political, social and moral percepts for humans were thrust upon animals. In the process animals lost their natural characteristics and became human puppets! Animals also have been branded wrongly: fox is a sly animal, crocodile is an idiot, wolf is cunning, crow is a spoiler, snake is devilish, etc. These human perceptions about the animals put a lasting impression on the minds of young readers. Two ancient texts, however, stand out against such inappropriate thinking, both the texts dealing with a common subject, i.e. elephant lore. Written about two thousand years ago, these are Matangalila by Nilkanta and Gajasastra by Palakapya (Brahmachary, 2012). The former came from south India while the latter originated in north-eastern India. Both these treatises contain among others, close observations about breeding behavior of specially the cow elephants, the relevance of which still holds for present day. However, these texts were about domestic elephants in stables of royalty and not of elephants in wild.
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