Janaki Ammal

Indian botanist (1897-1984)

Janaki Ammal was the first Indian female botanist. [1][2] She was the first to receive her masters in science.[1] She was the first-known woman to get a Ph.D. in Botany in the United States.[2] She was the first to receive the Padma Shri award.[2][3] Ammal was also known as the sugar cane queen.[1] She worked on developing sweeter sugar cane varieties.[1][2]

Janaki Ammal
Botanist Janaki Ammal.jpg


Janaki Ammal was born in 1897. [2][3][4] She was born in a state called Kerala in India.[2][4] She was the tenth person in her family. [2] She had 19 brothers and 19 sisters. [2] Her father was a judge. [2] He also took care of the garden. [2] This sparked Ammal’s love for botany. [2]

Early CareerEdit

Ammal taught for three years at a Women’s Christian College. [2] Then she was invited to the University of Michigan. [2][4] She joined the botany division. [2] She was an immigrant. [2] She was held at Ellis Island. [2] She earned her masters in science. [2] 6 years later she received her doctorate. [2] Ammal was the first woman to ever receive her doctorate degree in botany in the US. [2][3]


Ammal worked at the Sugar Cane Breeding Institute. [2][3] Ammal helped the institute to create and support sweeter sugar cane. [2][4] This was significant because they no longer had to rely on imports from other countries. [2] Ammal moved to Norfolk, England. [2] She worked at the John Innes Institute. [2] She and C.D. Darlington co-authored Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants. [2] Ammal was recommended to work at the Royal Horticulture Society. [2] She became a paid cytologist. [2] She worked on a medication that doubles a plant’s chromosomes. [2] This makes the plant grow quicker and larger. [2] One shrub was named after her. [2][3] The shrub was called Mongolia Kobus Janaki Ammal. [2][3]

Return to IndiaEdit

Ammal returned to India. [2][1]She did so at the request of the prime minister. [2][1] She worked on improving India’s agriculture and preserving indigenous plants. [2]

Late CareerEdit

She focused on helping Save Silent Valley.[2] Ammal’s efforts were successful.[2][1] The forest was no longer going to be flooded.[2] Ammal died months earlier.[2] She died at the age of 87.[2]  


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Shiv, S. S. (2016, Oct 17). Kolkata celebrates botany legend janaki ammal with exhibition. The Hindu Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/docview/1829413154
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 McNeill, Leila. "The Pioneering Female Botanist Who Sweetened a Nation and Saved a Valley". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2021-12-16. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/pioneering-female-botanist-who-sweetened-nation-and-saved-valley-180972765/
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Do You Know the Botanist Janaki Ammal, She of the Magnolia Kobus Fame?". The Wire. Retrieved 2021-12-19.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Weston, Madalyn (2018-04-25). "Celebrating Women in STEM: Dr. Janaki Ammal | UMKC Roo News" Archived 2018-11-25 at the Wayback Machine. info.umkc.edu. Retrieved 2021-12-19.