Edavalath Kakkat Janaki Ammal
1897 - 1984
Cytogenetics and Sugarcane
The Indian botanist, geneticist, and plant cytologist, Edavalath Kakkat Janaki Ammal, made significant contributions to plant genetics, phytogeography, and evolution.
She was responsible of the creation of a new very high yield sugarcane strain suitable for Indian conditions, by cross breeding of hybrid polyploid cells. This made her a pioneer in her field.
She also discovered that the sweetest sugarcane variety imported at that time from Papua New Guinea, had actually originated in India.
However, being the only woman among male colleagues, she faced caste- and gender-based discrimination. For these reasons, she moved to England, as an assistant cytologist, and studied the chromosomes of a wide range of plants helping in understanding the evolution of species.
These years of research gave birth to a compilation of findings that she wrote jointly with the English biologist C. D. Darlington, the ‘Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants’.
Many plants and animals are named after her to honour her work (5 species).
Written by: Fatma Abdi.