Great scientists of India-Triloki Nath Khoshoo

Great scientists of India

A pioneer in environmental research
 Awarded the highest public service award ‘Padma Bhushan’

Dr. Triloki Nath Khoshoo

*Awtar Krishan Ganju

As a young graduate student, I had heard about Dr. Triloki Nath Khoshoo in the Botany Department of the Panjab University. In 1959, I was in Amritsar and decided to visit him and pay my respects. He was very kind, listened carefully, offered advice and till the end I did not tell him that I was from Srinagar and distantly related to him. Dr. Khoshoo asked me about my PhD research project and I told him about the antique but standard methods I was using to study bird chromosomes. He suggested that I use a new squash method and gave me the procedure and a small supply of the special stain. I followed his advice and the excellent results launched my career as a cytogeneticist of some repute.

In the following years, I met him many times at the Panjab University Campus in Chandigarh. My last conversation with Dr. Khoshoo was in 2002 just a few months before he left for his heavenly abode. To this great teacher and a true Karma Yogi, I am paying my respects by writing this brief article about him. He was one of the first Kashmiri Pundits (KP) who made me proud of being a KP. He had all the attributes of a gentleman and an intellectual scholar.

Dr. Khoshoo was born in 1927 in Srinagar, did his Ph.D in Botany from Lahore and rose to the position of Reader in the Botany Department of the Panjab University first at Amritsar and then at Chandigarh. He left Panjab to become the first Chairman of the Botany Department at J & K University in Srinagar. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, father of the Indian green revolution, was one of his early admirers and induced him to join the National Botanical Gardens in Lucknow which under his directorship became the National Botanical Research Institute in 1978. In 1982, he became the first secretary of the newly established Department of Environment in the Central Government. He was a pioneer in environmental research and under his leadership several projects of major environmental impact were initiated. In 1992, he was awarded the highest public service award ‘Padma Bhushan’ by the Government of India. After his retirement from the government service, he joined the Tata Energy Research Institute and continued to direct policy related to energy use and environmental concerns. The United Nations Environmental Program. honored him in 1996 with the award of the Sasakawa Environmental Prize.

Besides being a great scientist and administrator, Dr. Khoshoo was a gentle and humble man. I remember visiting him in Chandigarh when Mrs. Khoshoo told me about the offer of Botany Department Chairmanship from J& K University. Without any deep thought, I blurted out that he won’t like it as he is a gentleman and in spite of a keen desire to return to the state of their birth, he would be no match to the dirty sectarian politics of J & K. Ironically, I was correct and in 1962, when I visited them on the eve of my departure for Canada, he told me he was fed up and was leaving J &K.

Dr, Khoshoo was a prolific writer, published more than 250 research article and several books in cytogenetics and environmental science. His book “Mahatma Gandhi: An apostle of Applied Human Ecology” is a masterpiece and shows the depth of his understanding and wisdom. Dr. Khoshoo is eulogized and remembered every year at the awarding of Dr. T.N. Khoshoo Memorial award ceremony which honours outstanding environmental scientists in India. It is people like him for whom the sloka “Guru Brahma, Guru Vishu, Guru Sakhshat Maheshwara” was written.


*Dr. Awtar Krishan is a brilliant scientist himself. He obtained his PhD's from Panjab University (1962) and the Univ. of Western Ontario, Canada (1963) in Cytogenetics and Anatomy. From 1965 to 1977, he was at the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School as Head of the Tissue Ultrastructure and Experimental Pathology Labs.

He has developed flow cytometric techniques for rapid analysis of DNA content by hypotonic propidium iodide, monitoring of drug retention and resistance, and more recently for monitoring hormone receptor expression in archival tumors. He is currently Director, Analytical Cytometry Laboratory , at University of Miami, Florida.

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