A Profile contributed by ISE member, Arvind Saklani1 (edited by the Newsletter editor)

Dr. Sudhanshu Kumar Jain

Dr. Sudhanshu Kumar Jain was born on June 30, 1926 in Amroha, a place of mango and sugarcane growers in Uttar Pradesh, India. Unlike today, India was devoid of good schooling in small towns and villages. The early education of this son of an agriculturist was entrusted to full-time tutors at home. His first formal education was class 5 in 1933 in his hometown, Seohara.

Despite political upheavals and concurrent waves of freedom movements, he passed High School from Baraut, Meerut in 1941 and then graduated in 1943 and earned an M.Sc. degree from Allahabad University in 1946. In 1947, the year India gained independence, he started his career at Meerut College as an Assistant Professor teaching botany classes to graduate and master students.

On May 5, 1948 he married Satya. Mrs. Satya Jain, M. A., Sahityaratna is a Hindi scholar, writer and translator. She hails from a family of lawyers and judges in Punjab. Mrs. Satya Jain is Dr. Jain’s co-author of two Hindi books as well as some scientific papers.

After a brief teaching stint, Dr. Jain opted to work with various organizations engaged in botanical research. From1949-51, he was Stipendiary Trainee (Govt. of India) in Plant Taxonomy at the Indian Botanic Gardens in Calcutta and later at the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun. In 1951, he moved to New Delhi and worked on the editorial staff of the Publications Division, CSIR (1951-53). From 1953-1956 Dr. Jain had the opportunity to engage in fieldwork in the forests of India as a Senior Scientific Assistant with National Botanical Research Institute, based in Lucknow.

His nascent botanical career was groomed mainly with the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), working as a Systematic Botanist at Pune (1956-60) and then as an Economic Botanist at Allahabad and Calcutta (1960-71). He published extensively on vegetation and floristics during this period. Even at this early time in his career he had a dream to do things differently. In 1965, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pune for his commendable work on ‘Studies on the vegetation of arid, semi-arid and some adjacent regions of western India’ under the guidance of Dr. H. Santapau, then Director of BSI. Jain continued with BSI as Deputy Director at Calcutta and Shillong (1971-77), Joint Director (1977), and then served as a Director at Calcutta until his retirement (1978-84). His research work was mainly concentrated on grasses, orchids, floristic studies, endangered species, medicinal plants, ethnobotany and economic botany.

His long-standing association with BSI and as Botanical Adviser to the Government of India influenced the expansion of technical programs and Regional Stations at BSI and also the publication of the new Flora of India. The influence and impact of his work is evident in government policies, on research in taxonomy, in monographic studies, explorations, and the network of botanic gardens, protected areas, and conservation of wild life. His influence is also seen in modified syllabi in universities and all-India competitive examinations, international trade in plant products, policies related to botanizing in India by foreigners, all-India training programs in taxonomy and ethnobotany, broad based publication of regional floras, work on endangered species, and role of indigenous knowledge (IK) in sustainable development.

He has been Chief Editor of Flora of India series (1978-84) and Ethnobotany (an international journal of the Society of Ethnobotanists), and a member of several distinguished committees. After retirement from BSI in 1984, Dr. Jain joined the National Botanical Research Institute, CSIR, Lucknow with the Pitambar Pant National Environment Fellowship (1984-86). In 1986, he was awarded ‘Emeritus Scientist’ of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research for his project on Comparative and Deductive Studies in Ethnobotany. This work resulted in his famous book Dictionary of Indian Folk Medicine and Ethnobotany’, which was presented as evidence in US courts to win India the Turmeric patent.

His drive to disseminate knowledge and exchange novel ideas on how to face new challenges in ethnobotany lead him to organize several national, regional and international symposia, seminars and training courses on taxonomy, flora, threatened plants and ethnobotany in India and many other countries. Of note, in 1994 he organized the 4thISE International Congress of Ethnobiology at NBRI, Lucknow. This was one of the most successful Congresses and was well attended by over 300 delegates including 82 foreign ethnobotanists from various parts of the world. As a key co-worker with Dr. Jain, I remember how the Congress was hugely praised by Dr. Swaminathan, Dr. Darrell Posey, Dr. Anthony Cunningham and many renowned ethnobotanists. On November 21, 1994, the day of completion of the 4thISE Congress, Dr. Timothy John wrote:

“Dr. S.K. Jain, My longstanding respect for you and your contributions to ethnobotany have been enhanced by the exciting and enriching Congress which you have organized in such a generous and thorough manner. This is a small appreciation of my personal gratitude”.

This Congress was perhaps one of the milestones in Indian ethnobotany as it brought many botanists closer to Ethnobotany and the subject found due recognition and acceptability among the masses as a core scientific discipline.

Until 50 years ago, folk medicines in India survived in two main forms – (a) as grandma’s recipe in towns and (b) as unrecorded Traditional Knowledge among the village medicine men. The

Dr. Sudhanshu Kumar Jain and Dr. Arvind Saklani

only records covered some household remedies practiced occasionally, but were rarely taken seriously by the scientific community. The efforts of Dr. Jain have brought about a sea-change in this direction over the last five decades. He has motivated and guided scientists from varied backgrounds (botanists, foresters, Ayurveda and Unani doctors, anthropologists, sociologists, linguists, etc.) to do intensive field work and document the traditional knowledge in an organized manner.

Now, ethnobotany is an important focus area of research for major funding agencies in India. The discipline has been instrumental to understand the scientific basis of our cultural heritage and has acted as a bridge between many social and physical sciences, and between classical botany and medical sciences. Many R & D organizations consider ethnomedicines as a database for plant-based drug discovery programs and herbal drug development.

Until the 1960s, journals in India were unwilling to publish works on traditional knowledge. Now we have several journals that publish 75 – 100 papers on ethnobotany every year. The efforts of Dr. Jain led universities to include Ethnobotany in graduate, post-graduate, M.Phil. and Ph.D. programs and Ethnobotany has now even been recognized as a D.Sc. degree. The subject has advanced in India so quickly that Dr. Jain himself was astonished and it compelled him to write about ‘Divine Botany’ and ‘Dynamism in Ethnobotany’.

On August 14, 1995 (the eve of Independence Day of India), he laid the foundation for the ‘Institute of Ethnobiology’, which started functioning initially in NBRI, Lucknow. He is the founder of four other scientific societies, viz. International Society of Tropical Ecology, International Commission on Ethnobotany, Society of Ethnobotanists (1980) and Association for Plant Taxonomy (1998). Better known as the ‘Father of Indian Ethnobotany’, the ethnobotanical research led by Jain has made a world-wide impact and many authors in Europe and America have written in no ambiguous terms about India’s leadership in this subject.

Jain has explored in all parts of India, including Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and consulted all major herbaria in India, USSR, UK, USA, Singapore, Thailand, France, Indonesia, China, and Australia. He did not restrict himself to Indian boundaries and extended his studies to Latin America and Africa to study the active principles of medicinal plants common to these continents and India. He has described 24 new taxa (Appendix 1). His research students and colleagues named 20 plant taxa in his honor (Appendix 2). He has guided 12 Ph.D. students on floristics, orchids, endemism, revisionary work and ethnobotanical studies. One of the students, Dr. Prabhat Kumar Hajra, became Director of BSI.

Dr. Jain has received many prestigious Awards and Fellowships, both inside and beyond India. Most notably, he is the first Asian to receive the Distinguished Economic Botanist Award by the Society for Economic Botany (U.S.A.) in1999 for ‘Meritorious contributions to study of useful plants’. He has published 43 books (Appendix 3) and over 325 research papers on taxonomy, ethnobotany, economic botany, conservation and medicinal plants. Dr. Jain, an ‘Institution’, is a ‘busy young researcher, highly engrossed in his studies and innovations at the age of 85’. Let me quote Rabindranath Tagore for my mentor – he said:

“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark (tough) the present”.

Arvind Saklani

July 18, 2011


Dr. Jain’s influence on my career

Dr. Arvind Saklani

I hail from a small town in the foothills of Himalayas. In 1986, when I completed M.Sc., it was difficult for me to find an opportunity to excel in the subject of my interest. At this juncture, Dr. P.K. Hajra, then scientist with Botanical Survey of India suggested that I apply for a fellowship with Dr. S. K. Jain at National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow; fortunately, I was selected. I was put to work on his Emeritus Scientist project on ‘Comparative and deductive studies in ethnobotany’. Later Dr. Jain told me that I was the first person in India who chose the subject Ethnobotany for M.Sc. dissertation.

Dr. Jain, always wanting to face new challenges, advised me to break new ground with research on ‘Cross-cultural ethnobotany’ and that too in a most difficult area – the northeastern part of India. This was an area of challenging hilly terrain but was also a very interesting region with over 80 ethnic groups and well preserved cultural heritage. There were a lot of ethnic disturbances in those days, so it took me 5 years to complete my doctoral work. Later, in 1994 we published this work in the form of a book, which was released on the opening day of the 4th ISE Congress at Lucknow by Prof. Pei Shengji.

This time in my life was the best learning period. Dr. Jain is an excellent teacher. Every evening he would call his students for 15 – 20 minutes to discuss science and some general topics other than evaluating day-to-day progress. He is very particular about botanical nomenclature. Being a renowned figure in the country, many scientists would come to meet him every day. Dr. Jain would ensure that every student was introduced to the guest. This helped me build a good network with the renowned scientists of that period as well.

In 1996, when I was working on biodiversity of Saussurea in the alpine Himalayas, Dr. Jain received funding for a collaborative project from UNDP to compare ethnomedicinal knowledge of plant species common to India and Latin America. Instead of accepting this opportunity for himself, he sent me to Brazil and Amazon forests to work with the communities and gain experience. This was great experience and motivation for a budding ethnobotanist like me.

Dr. Jain taught me not only about medicinal plants, ethnobotany, taxonomy and conservation, but also about punctuality, proper planning and a focused approach to research. With this background, I was able to move forward with plant-based drug discovery and herbal drug development programs. Having a fair idea of the vegetation and vast ethnomedicinal wealth available within the country, I was able to build a unique plant extract library of over 7000 plant extracts and various databases on Indian medicinal plants for in-house research purposes at Piramal Life Sciences. My mentor, Dr. Jain, has always been a source of inspiration for every botanist. Realizing the dwindling population of field botanists he inculcated fieldwork oriented botanical studies in India. He urged me to act as a bridge between the classical botanists and the phytochemists/ biologists. In 2004 when I had opted to serve academia to teach and guide pharmacy students, his lessons on writing good project proposals helped me attract two good projects on ethnobotany and medicinal plants ($ 0.4m) at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Punjab, India.

Dr. Jain is a source of novel thoughts and has a sharp memory. He remembers who is doing what, and – importantly – where help can be sought, to enable excellence in botanical research. He is a living encyclopedia even today for every botanist in India.

1Arvind Saklani, Senior Group Leader Natural Products Botany Piramal Life Sciences Limited. 1-Nirlon Complex, Off Western Express Highway Goregaon (E) Mumbai 400 063 India. Direct +91-22 30818709, Mobile +91-9930004905, Board +91-22 30818000, Fax +91-22 30818036. Email:[email protected]


Appendix 1: List of New taxa described by S. K. Jain

# Botanical Name Journal Volume Page Year
1 Agrostis tungnathii Bhattacharya & Jain BOBSI 25 204-210 1983
2 A. munroana ssp. indica Bhattacharya & Jain BOBSI 25 204-210 1983
3 Deyeuxia borii Bhattacharya & Jain BOBSI 25 204-210 1983
4 Anthoxanthum borii Jain & Pal JBNHS 72(1) 90-96 1975
5 Arthraxon deccanensis Jain JBNHS 68(1) 297-299 1971
6 A. inermis var. tzvelevii Jain Sci& Cult 37 55-56 1971
7 A. junnarensis Jain & Hemadri JBNHS 68 (1) 300-301 1971
8 A. lancifolius var. hindustanicus Jain & Desh. JIBS 51 176 1972
9 A. raizadae Jain, Hemad. & Desh. JIBS 51 103-109 1972
10 Coelachneperpusilla (Arn. ex Steud.) Thw. var. nilagirica Ved Prakash & Jain BOBSI 24 187-188 1982
11 Coelogyne hitendrae Das & Jain Orchid Rev. 195-199 1978
12 C. raizadae Jain & Das PIAS 87B 119-124 1978
13 C. schultesii Jain & Das PIAS 87B 119-124 1978
14 C. glandulosa var. sathyanarayane Das & Jain BOBSI 18 241-244 1976
15 C. glandulosa var. bournei Das & Jain BOBSI 18 241-244 1976
16 Cynodonbarberi f. longifolium Jain Indian For. 92 699-700 1966
17 Enteropogon coimbatorensis Nair, Jain & Nair PIAS 86B 81-85 1977
18 Filipedium Raizada & Jain JBNHS 49 682-684 1951
19 Garnotianormanii Ved Prakesh & Jain PIAS 88B 327-330 1979
20 Hedychium pynursulaeanum Jain & Sriv. JIBS 65 535-536 1986
21 IsachneswaminathaniiVed Prakash& Jain PIAS 92 19-22 1983
22 Isachne R. Br. Section- Albentes V. Pr. & Jain Fasc. Fl India 14 8 1984
23 Manisuris mysorensis Jain & Hemadri BOBSI 10 280-282 1968
24 M. santapaui Jain & Desh. BOBSI 10 277-279 1968


Appendix 2: New plants named after Dr. Sudhanshu Kumar Jain

# Botanical Name Journal Volume Page Year
1 Aglaia jainiiVishw. & Ramach. BOBSI 24 212 1982
2 Aspidopterys jainii Sriv. Jour. Jap. Bot. 59 329-331 1984
3 Biermannia jainiana Hegde. &Rao BOBSI 26 97-99 1984
4 Bothriochloa jainii Desh. & Hem. Ind. For. 97 593-596 1971
5 Ceropegia jainii Ansari & Kulkarni BOBSI 22 221-222 1980
6 Chinomobambusa jainiana Das & Pal JETB 4 1023-24 1983
7 Dichanthium jainii (Desh. & Hem.) Desh. BOBSI 21 198 1979
8 Dimeria jainii Sreek., Nair & Nair Curr. Sci. 52 259-260 1983
9 Homalium jainii Henry & Swam. JBNHS 78 570-572 1981
10 Jainia Balak. JBNHS 77 116-120 1980
11 Jainia nicobarica Balak. JBNHS 77 116-120 1980
12 Miliusa jainii Goel& Sharma Nord. J. Bot. 10 629-631 1991
13 Panicum jainii Ragh. & Kartik. BOBSI 24 145-147 1982
14 Saussurea sudhanshui Hajra Ind. For. 109 77-79 1983
15 Schizachyrium sudhanshui Singh JIBS 60 359-360 1981
16 Selaginella jainii Dixit BOBSI 25 223-227 1983
17 Sonchus jainii Chandrb., Chandr. & Nair JBNHS 81 149-151 1984
18 Spodiopogon jainii Nair, Singh & Nair Curr. Sci. 50 730-732 1981
19 Sunipiajainii Hynn. & Malh. JIBS 57 31-33 1978
20 Zenkeria jainii Nair, Sreek. & Nair JBNHS 78 352-354 1981


BOBSI : Bull. Bot. Surv. India JIBS  : J. Indian bot. Soc.
JBNHS : J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc. PIAS  : Proc. Indian Acad. Sci.
JETB  : J. econ. taxon. Bot.


Appendix 3: List of books published by Dr. S. K. Jain

  1. Jain S.K. 1952. Index to the Flora of Upper Gangetic Plains. J.F. Duthie I-III. C.S.I.R. New Delhi 1-150.
  2. Raizada M.B., Bharadwaja R.C., Jain S.K. 1961. Grasses of the Upper Gangetic Plains-Panicoideae, Part I. Ind. For. Rec. Bot. 4:171-277.
  3. Raizada M.B., Jain S. K. 1964. Grasses of the Upper Gangetic Plains-Panicoideae,Part II. Ind. For. Rec. Bot. 5:151-226.
  4. Puri G.S., Jain S.K., Mukerjee S., Sarup S., Kotwal N.N. 1964. Flora of Rajasthan. Bot. Surv. Ind. 19: 1-159.
  5. Jain S.K. 1968. Medicinal Plants. National Book Trust, Delhi 1-180.
  6. Jain S.K., Rao R.R. 1976. A Handbook of Field and Herbarium Methods. Today & Tomorrow’s Printers & Publ. New Delhi 1-157.
  7. VedPradkash, Jain S.K. 1979. Garnotieae. Flora of India. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta, Fasc. 3:1-16.
  8. Jain S.K., Sastry A.R.K. 1980. Threatened Plants of India. State of the Art Report. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-48.
  9. Das S., Jain S.K. 1980. Orchidaceae-Genus Coelogyne. Flora of India Fasc. 5. 1-33.
  10. Jain S.K. (ed.) 1981. Glimpses of Indian Ethnobotany. Oxford & I.B.H. New Delhi 1-365.
  11. Jain S.K., Mehra K.L. (ed) 1983. Conservation of Tropical Plant Resources. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-253.
  12. Jain S.K, Rao R.R. 1983 An Assesment of Threatened Plants of India. Bot.Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-334
  13. Jain S.K., Sastry A.R.K. (ed) 1983. Botany of Some Tiger Habitats in India. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-69.
  14. Jain S.K., Sastry A.R.K. (ed) 1983. Materials for a Catalogue of Threatened Plants of India. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-69.
  15. Jain S.K., Mehrotra A. 1984. An Inventory of Orchidaceae in India. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-133.
  16. Jain S.K., Mudgal V., Banerjee D.K., Guha A., Pal D.C., Das D. 1984. Bibliography of Ethnobotany. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-157.
  17. Jain S.K., Sastry A.R.K. (ed) 1984. The Indian Plant Red Data Book I. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-162.
  18. Chakraverty R.K., Jain S.K.1984. Beautiful Trees and Shrub of Calcutta. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-198.
  19. Kataki S.K., Jain S.K., Sastry A.R.K. 1984. Threatened &Endemic Orchids of Sikkim and North-Eastern India. Bot. Surv. Ind. Calcutta 1-94.
  20. VedPrakash, Jain S.K. 1984. Poaceae. Tribe Isachneae. Flora of India Fasc. 14:1-42.
  21. Jain S.K.(ed) 1989. Methods and Approaches in Ethnobotany. Soc. Ethnobot. Lucknow 1-192.
  22. Karthikeyan S, Jain S.K., Nayar M.P., Sanjappa M. 1989. Florae Indicae Enumeratio : Monocotyledonae. Bot. Surv. Ind. 1-435.
  23. Jain S.K. (ed) 1990. Contributions to Ethnobotany of India. Sci. Publ. Jodhpur 1-341.
  24. Jain S.K. 1991. Dictionary of Indian Folk Medicine and Ethnobotany. Deep Publ. Delhi 1-311.
  25. Jain S.K., Sinha B.K., Gupta R.C. 1991. Notable Plants in Ethnomedicine of India. Deep Publ. Delhi 1-219.
  26. Jain S.K., Philipps R.D. 1991. Medicinal Plants of India. Ref. Publ. Algonac, U.S.A. 2 Vols 1-849.
  27. Saklani A., Jain S.K.1994. Cross Cultural Ethnobotany of Northeast India. Deep Publ. Delhi 1-453.
  28. Jain S.K. (ed) 1996. Ethnobiology in Human Welfare. Deep Publ., New Delhi. 1-542.
  29. Hajra P.K. Jain S.K. 1996. Botany of Kaziranga and Manas. Surya Publ. 1- 301.
  30. Pal D.C. Jain S.K. 1998.Tribal Medicine.  NayaProkash, Calcutta. 1-317.
  31. Jain S.K. 1999. Dictionary of Ethnoveterinary Plants. Deep Publ., New Delhi. 1-212.
  32. Jain S.K. Mudgal V. 1999. A Handbook of Ethnobotany. BSMPS, Dehradun. 1- 309.
  33. Jain S.K. 2001. Ethnobiology in Human Welfare: Index to Plant and Animal names. Deep Publ., New Delhi.
  34. Jain S.K. 2002. Bibliography of Indian Ethnobotany. Scientific Publishers. Jodhpur 1-144.
  35. Jain S.K. 2004. Manual of Ethnobotany. Scientific Publishers. 1-193.
  36. Jain S.K. 2009. Plants Affecting Human Mind (Psychoactive Plants). Deep Publ., New Delhi.
  37. Jain S.K. 1967. Vanaspati Kosh. Rajkamal. Delhi
  38. Jain S.K. 1968. Aushayadiya Paudhe. National Book Trust. Delhi
  39. Jain S.K., Jain S. 1979. Anavruttabiji Ki Akariki. Rajasthan Hindi Grantha Acadamy. Jaipur.
  40. Jain S.K., Mudgal V. 1984. Bharat Ki Vanaspati. Bot. Surv. India. Calcutta.
  41. Jain S. K. Kuch Parachit Ped (Anuvad). NBT. Delhi
  42. Jain S.K., Ved Prakash, TripathiS. & Srivastava S. 2002. Vanaspati Kosh- A Hindi-Latin Dictionary of Useful plants. Scientific Publishers. Jodhpur. 1-207.
  43. Jain S.K.  Sikarwar R.L.S.  2004. Bharat Ke Durlabh Paudhe. NBT. New Delhi. 1-195.