Professor Sant Saran Bhojwani

Sant Saran Bhojwani was born to Mrs. Nam Adhari and Mr. Parmanand on 20th November, 1940 in the serene and tranquil environment of Dayalbagh, about 3 km from the hustle-bustle of the Agra city. He had his early education in Dayalbagh and graduated and postgraduated from Agra University. Soon after finishing M.Sc. (Botany), Dr Bhojwani served his alma-mater (R.E.I. Dayalbagh, Agra) as lecturer for one year before joining the University of Delhi as a doctoral student. His supervisor, late Professor B.M. Johri assigned him a challenging research problem, with the warning that his Ph.D. degree would depend on his demonstrating the cellular totipotency of endosperm, a completely unorganized, short-lived, triploid tissue. Earlier, many students of Professor Johri and scientists elsewhere in the world could establish tissue cultures of endosperm but failed to induce the organogenic differentiation. It was remarkable that within six months of his joining Delhi University, Dr Bhojwani achieved differentiation of normal shoot buds from the endosperm of Exocarpus cupressiformis; a parasitic flowering plant (Nature, 1965). At this stage a very renowned American plant physiologist, Prof. F.C. Steward, visited the University of Delhi who even after observing the cultures could not believe that the endosperm tissue could form shoots and remarked, "Young man, take a bet with me. All the shoots in the cultures are diploid. If that is the case remember me or else forget me". However, when the shoots of endosperm origin were cytologically analysed, all of them were found to be triploid, which is of considerable practical importance in plant genetics and improvement. Subsequently, Dr Bhojwani established the cellular totipotency of endosperm cells by reporting regeneration of triploid shoots and/or plants in Scurrula pulverulenta, Acacia nilotica (Garg et al., 1996), Morus alba

(Thoma et al., 2000) and Azadirachta indica (Chaturvedi et al., 2003). In the meantime, many other scientists confirmed the observations of Bhojwani.

Dr. Bhojwani and his students worked on a range of basic and applied aspects of in vitro plant morphogenesis. During 1971-1972 he worked with Dr Norman Sunderland at the John Innes Institute, Norwich, U.K. under the British Council Fellowship Programme and reported quantitative changes in nucleic acid and protein contents of microspores during the induction of androgenesis in tobacco using histochemistry and cytophotometry (J. Exp. Bot. 1973). In 1972, he spent three months in the laboratory of Professor Edward C. Cocking, FRS, at the University of Nottingham, U.K. and reported for the first time isolation of microspore protoplasts using helicase enzyme. The report appeared in Nature, New Biology (1972).

Dr Bhojwani had another opportunity to work in the U.K. for a year during 1975-1976 under the Royal Society Commonwealth Bursary. This time he spent the whole year with Professor Cocking and worked on wheat tissue culture (Z. Planzenphysiol., 1977) and protoplast isolation and culture in cotton (Plant Sci. Lett. 1977). At this point of time there was considerable interest in the application of biotechnological techniques to crop improvement. However, a major limitation in achieving this goal was the recalcitrance of legumes, cereals and other major crop plants for plant regeneration from cultured cells, an essential step in genetic engineering and somatic hybridization. This prompted Dr Bhojwani to critically review the literature on tissue culture of crop plants which was presented as an invited lecture in a meeting organised by the Agricultural Research Council, London and later published in Euphytica (1977). The review, discussing the progress and problems of tissue culture of major crop plants and emphasizing the need for extensive further research in the area, was a highly cited publication which paved the way for a fresh spurt of research to achieve high frequency regeneration in tissue cultures of these plants.

In 1978 Dr Bhojwani was awarded the prestigious Senior Fellowship of the National Research Advisory Council of New Zealand, and the family moved to Palmerston North to join the Plant Physiology Division of the D.S.I.R., New Zealand. Before the expiry of the term of the Fellowship, the D.S.I.R. offered Dr Bhojwani a position of Senior Scientist (Scientist 105) and the Government of New Zealand granted Permanent Residence to him and his family. In 1980 he was confirmed in the job.

The stay of Dr Bhojwani in New Zealand was very productive. He published numerous papers on the micropropagation of Willow (N.Z.J. Bot., 1980), Garlic (Sci. Hortic., 1980), Clover (Physiol. Plant. 1981), Japanese Pear (Sci. Hortic, 1984), and Feijoa (Acta Hortic. 1987). He also worked on Trifolium spp and reported, for the first time, regeneration of full plants from mesophyll protoplasts of white clover (Plant Sci. 1982, Euphytica, 1984). Virus-free garlic plants of a Japanese variety imported into New Zealand were produced by shoot tip culture to facilitate its release through quarantine (Sci. Hortic 1982/83). Impressed by the work and publications of Dr Bhojwani the D.S.I.R. decided to promote him to Scientist 106, an opportunity which was pre-empted by his decision to return to India in 1981. However, his post in the D.S.I.R. was not filled for at least two years expecting that Dr Bhojwani might decide to return to New Zealand. He did return to New Zealand in 1983 but only as a Visiting Scientist for three months to finish some experiments which remained incomplete in 1981 and process the data for publication.

After his sojourn in New Zealand, Dr Bhojwani made a modest beginning as a Research Associate at the University of Delhi and started guiding Ph.D. students in 1981. Fortunately, a major research project on "Micropropagation of Important Horticultural and Silvicultural species of India" was sanctioned to him by the UGC, under which he and his students developed an efficient protocol for clonal propagation of the leguminous tree species, Leucaena leucocephala, and in vitro nodulation of micropropagated plants by Rhizobium to enhance their field survival. He also demonstrated that sugar cubes, produced by Daurala Sugar Mills, was a fair substitute of 'Analar' Grade Sugar used in Plant tissue culture media. The sugar cubes were more than 10 times cheaper than the 'Analar' Grade sucrose. In 1985 the Department of Environment and Forests, Government of India, awarded another major research project to Dr Bhojwani to work on "In Vitro Conservation of Endangered Plants". It led to the development of protocols for micropropagation and cold storage of Himalayan Species of three medicinally important plants, viz., Picrorhiza kurroa, Podophyllum hexandrum and Saussurea lappa. In collaboration with the scientists at the Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology Department of IIT Delhi, Dr Bhojwani studied the kinetics of cell growth in suspension cultures of Podophyllum hexandrum and in vitro production of Podophyllotoxin, an anticancerous drug (Biotechnol. Lett. 2001, J. Biosci. Bioengg., 2002).

Dr Bhojwani guided six Ph.D.'s on plant regeneration alone from somatic and gametic cells of Brassica spp and published several papers (Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult. 1985, 1991; Biol. Plant., 1989; Plant Sci. 1990a,b; Euphytica 1993). A detailed investigation on direct shoot regeneration from excised cotyledons of B. juncea proved a viable system for genetic transformation of this important oleiferous crop of India. His group also achieved high frequency androgenesis and selection of agronomically useful androclones in B. juncea. This work was supported by funds from MOMBUSHO, Japan and European Commission, Brussels.

Dr Bhojwani undertook two major projects on mulberry biotechnology and investigated micropropagation of some elite clones and production of gynogenic haploids (Euphytica, 1999) and endosperm derived triploids (Pant Cell Rep. 2000) of this invaluable tree for silk industry, the sole source of feed for silkworms. Recently, he has reported the production of gynogenic haploids (Plant Cell Rep. 2003) and triploids (J. Plant Physiol., 2003) of Neem.

Dr Bhojwani has published 75 research papers in journals of international repute, 10 critical reviews and 19 invited chapters in books published from India and abroad. In addition, he has authored and edited several books. His first book "The Embryology of Angiosperms" (Vikas Publishers, New Delhi) has been a popular text book for graduate and post-graduate students in India and many other countries. Running into its 5th edition, the book has been translated into Japanese (1995) and Korean (2001). In 1983, Dr Bhojwani brought out another book titled "Plant Tissue Culture : Theory and Practice", published by Elsevier, The Netherlands. This has been regarded as the first standard text book on the subject and became so popular worldwide that the publishers brought out its paperback edition in 1986. It was translated into Korean in 1986. Under a project funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Dr Bhojwani completed a mammoth task of compiling 'A Classified Bibliography of Plant Tissue Culture', covering the entire literature on the subject up to 1984. He spent two weeks in the U.K. under the INSA-Royal Society Exchange Programme to complete the volume. It soon became a popular reference book. A supplement to this volume, covering the literature of the next five years, was brought out in 1989. Both the volumes were published by Elsevier, The Netherlands. Dr Bhojwani has edited four volumes, viz., "Plant Tissue Culture : Applications and Limitations" (1990; Elsevier), "Morphogenesis in Plant Tissue Cultures" (1999; Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands),

"Current Trends in the Embryology of Angiosperms" (2002; Kluwer Academic Publishers) and "Agrobiotechnology and Plant Tissue Culture" (2003; Science Publishers, U.S.A.).

Dr Bhojwani has been in great demand by the organisers of conferences, seminars, workshops, training courses and refresher courses because of his contributions and in-depth knowledge in the subject of Plant Tissue Culture. He is a voracious speaker and scientists and students look forward to his informative and thought-provoking lectures. in one of the meetings of the indian Association of Plant Tissue Culture held at NBRI, Lucknow, in 1976-77, the late Professor P.N. Mehra, Padamshri, who chaired the lecture of Dr Bhojwani, was so impressed by his lecture that he asked the audience to give standing ovation to the young scientist. Dr Bhojwani has participated in several National and International Conferences in India and overseas. He was invited to deliver a lecture at the conference on "Problems Related to Mass Propagation of Horticultural Species", Belgium (1985). The organisers of the Conference on Tissue Culture of Tropical Plants in Bagota, Colombia invited him to deliver a Plenary Lecture and Chair a session. Dr Bhojwani was a member of the International Advisory Committee of the VIII Conference of the International Association of Plant Tissue Culture held in Florence, Italy, where he organised a workshop. He was also a member of the International Advisory Committees of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Asia-Pacific Conferences in Taejon, South Korea (1993), Shanghai, China (1997) and Singapore (2000). He delivered plenary lectures in the Conferences held in South Korea and Singapore. In 1987 an International Symposium on Gene Manipulation for Plant Improvement was organised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Dr Bhojwani was invited to deliver a plenary lecture. Dr Bhojwani also attended the VI Conference of the International Association of Plant Tissue Culture held in Minnesota, U.S.A. (1986) and the International Botanical Congress in Yokohama, Japan (1993). He also delivered an invited talk in the latter. He was the only Indian invited as a Resource Person to a workshop on "Production and Utilization of Double-Haploid Lines in Rice Breeding" organised by the International Agency for Atomic Energy in Suwon, South Korea, in 1999. Dr Bhojwani delivered plenary lectures and chaired sessions in International Conferences in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Recently, he was invited to participate in the 15th Biennial Conference of the New Zealand Chapter of International Association of Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology" at Leigh, New Zealand and presented a paper on "Pollen Embryogenesis in Brassica ssp.

Dr Bhojwani has been a recipient of many honours. He was elected Full Member of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Sciences (1981). In 1990 he became Invited Member of the Technology Transfer Association of Japan. He was awarded the Nawashina Memorial Medal. Dr Bhojwani was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy, Allahabad in 1994 and has been awarded many National and International Fellowships to visit laboratories in other countries. Besides the British Council Fellowship and Royal Society Bursary to work in U.K., Dr Bhojwani was awarded the Senior Fellowship of the NRAC, New Zealand; Fellowship of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science; Biotechnology Overseas Associateship, Government of India; CIDA/NSERC Research Associateship, Canada; INSA-KOSEF Fellowship of South Korea, and Fellowship of the Kernforschungsanlage, Germany.

Dr Bhojwani has been on the Editorial Board of many journals. To mention a few, Scientia Horticulture, Holland; Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, New Delhi; Phytomorphology, Delhi, Plant Tissue Culture, Dhaka and Chromosome, Calcutta.

Dr Bhojwani has been a member of the Academic Council's of the TERI School of Advanced Study and C.C. Singh University, Meerut. He is the Chairman of the Research Advisory Committee of the Central Tassar Research & Training Institute, Ranchi. He was a Visiting Senior Fellow of the Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi and made a major contribution to the designing and production and planning of the DBT-Sponsored Plant Tissue Culture Pilot Plant. He was also a consultant to the Commercial Plant Tissue Culture Laboratories such as A.V. Thomas, Cochin and Aranaya Micropropagation, New Delhi.

After serving the University of Delhi for 35 years, Professor Bhojwani took voluntary retirement to serve the Dayalbagh Educational Institute (Deemed University), Agra as its Honorary Director. Married to Shaku, Dr Bhojwani discharged his family obligations well and timely with both the children married and settled happily with their families. His daughter, Anjli Sarup, married to Mr Gursewak Maneesh, is living in Allahabad whereas his son Nova, with his dentist wife, Kokila has recently moved to the U.S.A. as a Software Engineer. His wife Shaku in the true Indian tradition extended her full support to the husband and deserves appreciation for her forbearance and active interest throughout his career, especially during the long periods when Professor Bhojwani was away completing academic assignments.

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