Giants in History: Shipra Guha-Mukherjee

Paving the way to better crops  

Shipra Guha-Mukherjee (13 July 1938 - 15 September 2007)


Indian botanist Shipra Guha-Mukherjee (13 July 1938 – 15 September 2007) made a breakthrough discovery that enabled the genetic study of plants and, by extension, the development of improved varieties of rice, wheat, potatoes, and other crops. Those advances hinged on Guha-Mukherjee’s  discovery of a technique to produce haploid plants (containing one set of chromosomes) through the culturing of anthers, the male reproductive part of a plant that produces pollen. This paved the way, in turn, for techniques to culture ovules and ovaries – the female reproductive parts of plants. These advances were crucial to the development of more nutritious foods through biotechnology. As a student, Guha-Mukherjee was fascinated by Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose’s work that showed that plants had a metabolism similar to that of animals, demonstrating that plants were not inert objects as previously thought. Inspired by Bose, and determined to understand how plants functioned, Guha-Mukherjee became an expert in plant tissue culture and plant biotechnology. She held academic positions at universities in the United States and at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, India, and collaborated with M.S. Swaminathan, a key figure in India’s Green Revolution. Guha-Mukherjee received the Senior National Bio-scientist Award and the Om Prakash Bhasin Foundation Award in Biotechnology, and was elected a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore, and the National Academy of Science, Allahabad. 


Academic discipline: 
Senior National Bio-scientist Award
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