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The Department of Botany, University of Calcutta, was established in the year 1914, with Prof. P. Brühl at the helm. Prof. P. Brühl, an eminent German scientist, served as the Registrar of the University as well for a certain period. His contribution of “Census of Indian Mosses” is still a classic in Bryology.

The first batch of four students who passed   M.Sc. Botany in the year 1918 :

1.Dr.Krishna Das Bagchee

2. Sri Kanti Gopal Banerjee

3.Dr.Haraprasad Chaudhuri

4.Smt.Sarojini Dutta

Prof. P. Brühl was succeeded by Prof. S. P. Agharkar, Maharastrian Scientist, trained in Taxonomy at the Engler’s school in Germany, who joined the Department as Sir Rash Behary Ghose Professor in 1914. Prof. Agharkar later became the founder of the Maharastra Association for the Cultivation of Science in Pune.

Prof. Agharkar’s vision was to promote teaching and research in Plant Sciences in its totality, unlike that of other Universities where sporadic excellence was prevalent. His efforts led to establishment of the schools of Embryology, Mycology and Plant Pathology, Plant Physiology, Cytogenetics, Taxonomy and even Palaeobotany, the latter being the only one in the country at that period excepting at Lucknow.

Prof. Agharkar was succeeded in 1946 by Prof. P. C. Sarbadhikary, a well known expert of Pteridophytes, whose basic contributions were on Apomixis in ferns specially in Osmunda .The contributions of apomixis in recent years have opened a new avenue for stabilization of Transgenics and improved hybrids in crops. In later years, other active schools came up, both in teaching and research in Pharmacognosy, Microbiology and Plant Pathology.

After Prof. Agharkar’s retirement in 1946, Prof. P. C. Sarbadhikary succeeded him as Sir Rashbehary Ghose Professor of Botany. He published some outstanding papers on apogamy and apospory in Pteridophytes. Dr. Sarbadhikary died untimely in 1954. Dr. I. Banerjee, who joined the Department in 1929 as a lecturer and was a Reader at that time, became the Head of the Department in 1954. Dr. Banerjee and his Research Scholars made significant contributions to the field of embryology of Angiosperms.

Dr. I. Banerjee retired in 1960 and Prof. S. M. Sircar took charge of the Department. Prof. Sircar had earlier worked with Prof. F. G. Gregory at the Imperial College, London, and joined this Department in 1937 as lectiurer in Botany and soon adorned the chair of Sir Rash Behari Ghose Professor in Botany.He and his research students worked extensively on the physiology of rice plants, on various problems of fundamental to agronomic interest. Prof.Sircar as Head of the Department of Botany of the University of Calcutta organized an International symposium on Plant Growth substances in the year 1967.Prof. S.M.Sircar was one of the pioneers of Plant Physiological research in India.Double cropping of rice was his important contribution which has found practical applications.He was able to establish a school of Plant Physiology, which has made significant contributions to plant science research and teaching in India

Apart from the above-mentioned teachers, several other distinguished teachers also have served the Department at various times. Among them are Sri S.N. Bal, Asst. Professor (1918-1922); Dr. P.N. Ghatak, Lecturer (1935-1939); Prof. P.N. Bhaduri, a well known cytogeneticist (served this Department as Lecturer from 1935-1946); Sri A. K. Ghosh, an eminent palynologist and palaeobotanist (served as Lecturer from 1937-1947 and as a Reader from 1961-1970); Dr. J. Sen (Lecturer from 1947-1961 and Reader from 1961-1962), who left the Department to take over the charge as Superintendent of the Indian Botanical Garden, Sibpur.

Prof. S. M. Sircar left this Department in 1967 to join the Bose Institute as the Director. Dr. S. N. Banerjee, who was then a Reader in Mycology and Plant Pathology, then headed the Department. He joined this Department in 1939 and retired in 1970. He and his students contributed substantially to our knowledge of higher fungi, especially timber rotting Basidiomycetes. Prof. A. K. Sharma succeeded him. Prof. Sharma joined this Department in 1948 and was appointed as a UGC Professor in 1969 and later as Sir Rash Behary Ghose Professor.

Since he assumed the charge as Head of the Department, a spurt of activities could be noted in the development of this Department including University Leadership Project by the University Grants Commission. The Department started with effect from 1972 the term system of examination; entire M.Sc. course being divided in 5 semesters in 2 years which continued till 1996. The Semester system has been reintroduced in the Department since 2007. Professor Sharma’s contribution to the field of cytogenetics is internationally well recognized.  Prof. Sharma was elected as a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow in 1973-75, President of Indian National Science Academy (1983-84) and INSA Golden Jubilee Professor (1985-90). During this period, Prof. H. C. Gangulee, an eminent Bryologist, took over the charge of the Department. Prof. H. C. Gangulee retired in 1979 as UGC professor. Prof. A. K. Sharma gave up the Headship in 1981, when rotational Headship was introduced in the University. He was succeeded by Prof. (Mrs.) Archana Sharma (81-83), Prof. P. C. Dutta (83-85), Prof. S. C. Datta (85-87), Prof. A. K. Chandra (87-89), Prof. S. Mukherjee (89-91), Prof. (Ms) Sumitra Sen (91-93), Prof. R.P.Purkaystha (93-95), Prof. S. Ghosh (95-97), Prof. N. Samajpati (97-99), Prof. P. K. Sircar (99-01), Prof. S. C. Roy (01), Prof. P. K. Mukherjee (01-03), Prof. A. K. Paul (03-05), Prof. N. D. Paria (05-07), Prof. (Mrs.) Sumita Jha (07-).

In 1972 the University Grants Commission selected the section Cytogenetics of the Department as a Special Assistance Centre for Chromosome Research. The Centre undertook collaboration programmes with many national and international institutions. In 1979, in due recognition to its achievements, the Centre of special assistance was accorded by UGC the status of “Centre of Advanced Study in Cell and Chromosome Research”, initially headed by Prof. A. K. Sharma as Programme Coordinator followed successively by Prof. Sumitra Sen, Prof.S. Ghosh, Prof.S. C.Roy and Prof. Sumita Jha.