BORN in November 1904 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Panchanan Maheshwari is a famous biologist. During his college days, he was inspired by Dr W Dudgeon, an American missionary teacher.
Maheshwari invented the technique of test-tube fertilisation of angiosperms. Till then no one had thought that flowering plants could be fertilised in test-tubes. Maheshwari’s technique immediately opened up new avenues in plant embryology and has applications in economic and applied botany. Cross-breeding of many flowering plants which cannot crossbreed naturally can be done now. The technique has proved to be of immense help to plant breeders. His teacher once expressed that if his student progresses ahead of him, it will give him a great satisfaction. These words encouraged Panchanan to enquire what he could do for his teacher in return. Dudgeon replied that “ do for your students what I have done for you.” Meticulously following his teacher’s advice, he did train a host of talented students. He pursued his post graduate university education in Botany at Allahabad University.
He went on to establish the Department of botany at University of Delhi as an important centre of research in embryology and tissue culture. The Department was recognised by the University Grants Commission as the Centre of Advanced Studies in Botany.
Maheshwari was assisted by his wife in preparation of slides in addition to her household duties. Way back in 1950 he described the connections between embryology, physiology and genetics. He also emphasised the need of initiation of work on artificial culture of immature embryos. These days tissue culture has become a landmark in science. His work on test tube fertilisation and intra-ovarian pollination won worldwide acclaim. He also founded an international research journal Phytomor-phology and a popular magazine the Botanica in 1950. He was honoured with fellowship of Royal Society of London (FRS), Indian National Science Academy and by several other institutions of excellence. He also wrote books for schools to improve the standard of teaching life sciences. In 1951, he founded the International Society of Plant Morphologists. Till his death in My 1966, he was editing his journal Phytomorphology.