Prof. V.V. Sivarajan (20.03.1944 – 18.12.1995)

VV Sivarajan

Born on 20th March 1944, in a picturesque village called Cherukunnu located in the Kannur district of Kerala, Prof. Sivarajan himself must have been unaware of what a great man he was destined to be in the field of systematic botany. Beginning with his primary and secondary schooling at Kannur between 1951 and 1961, he went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Botany from Sree Narayana College, Kannur in 1966 and his master’s from St. Albert’s College, Ernakulam in 1968. The very next year he entered the University of Calicut for his doctoral degree, where he was guided by Prof. K.S. Manilal to study on the “Flora of Calicut”.

He soon became acquainted with the flora of this region and all the work he performed was well-considered, meticulous unto detail, and complete due to the exemplary devotion and care in all he did. He had immense field knowledge and also published many reports on local flora. He was awarded a doctorate by the University of Calicut in 1975.

Dr. Sivarajan began his professional career as a Junior Scientific Assistant at National Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Lucknow from 1974-1975, and then moved to Kirori Mal College, Delhi as a lecturer. During these years' stay at Lucknow and Delhi, he pursued taxonomic studies and it was at this time that the idea of writing a book on the principles of plant taxonomy germinated in his mind. He joined the Department of Botany, the University of Calicut on 4th May 1977 as a lecturer and became a professor in 1986.  He taught flowering plant taxonomy at the post-graduate level till his death in 1995. He carried out extensive research in systematic botany, often in collaboration with others, and described 30 new species and recorded 25 species new to Indian flora. He was either the author or co-author of over a hundred research papers covering diverse families such as Rubiaceae, Menyanthaceae, Molluginaceae, and Malvaceae, which include revisions, nomenclatural notes, and description of new taxa. He earned international fame with his book, Introduction to Principles of Plant taxonomy (2nd Edition edited by Dr. NKB Robson, RBG, Kew was published by Cambridge University Press, 1991).  Prof. Sivarajan also developed a wide interest in medicinal plants and made an important contribution to the knowledge about them. This interest in medicinal plants could have arisen from his father who is a well-known local Vaidyan.

Widely travelled in India and abroad, he had visited many centres of taxonomic research in Europe and Southeast Asia, participated in conferences, and had given courses in evolutionary biology at the Plant Taxonomy Training Programme for Southeast Asian students held in Bogor in 1990 and1992.

He was a keen, tenacious and dedicated taxonomist, who also took a great personal interest in people. He stimulated others to develop their personality and their line of inquiry and also created an atmosphere of quality in taxonomic research. He guided seven students to their Ph.D. and co-authored Flora of Calicut (1982), Ayurvedic drugs and their Plant Sources (1994), Malvaceae of Southern Peninsular India: A taxonomic monograph (1996), Flora of Nilambur (1996), and Flora of Thrissur Forest Division (1996). Anyone working on the flora of this region will be aware of Prof. Sivarajan’s contribution to an understanding of Indian plants, his works show how valuable local floristic studies can be, and how relevant it becomes outside its area.

Prof. Sivarajan was the founder secretary of the Indian Association for Angiosperm Taxonomy (IAAT) and the editor of its official Journal, Rheedea, until he died, and was responsible for Rheedea’s excellent reputation as a journal full of interest to all involved in taxonomic and floristic studies. An authoritative teacher, a wise counselor, and an eminent taxonomist – all these qualities combine in the slim, slight, pleasant, unaging figure of Prof. Sivarajan, who was very conscientious in his work and duties and always prepared to share information. A self-made man, cautious and outspoken at the same time, with enormous enthusiasm and tenacity, he radiated strength and contributed so much to the advancement of taxonomic botany in this part of the country.

Dr. V.V. Sivarajan Endowment

The Dr. V.V. Sivarajan Endowment was instituted by the University of Calicut in honour of late Dr. V.V. Sivarajan, Professor of Botany who joined the University on 04 May 1997 and passed away while in service on 18 December 1995. Every year the Department Council of the Botany department constitutes a five-member “Dr. V.V. Sivarajan Endowment Committee” with the Head of the Department as Chairman and the senior-most teacher of the Taxonomy division as the organizing secretary. The endowment committee is responsible for organizing seminars and endowment lectures in December every year, normally on 18th December, the death anniversary of Dr. V.V. Sivarajan. The seminar will be on interdisciplinary areas covering plant taxonomy, ecology, molecular phylogeny, ethnobotany, systems of Indian medicine, or medicinal folklore.

A medal was instituted in the name of V.V. Sivarajan for the P.G. student of the University of Calicut who scores the highest marks in Angiosperm taxonomy paper/paper or the papers including Angiosperm Taxonomy of MSc (Botany/MSC Plant Science/Applied Plant Science) degree examinations conducted by the University of Calicut in the preceding year.

To see the lists of Endowment lectures and the students who won V.V. Sivarajan Medal so far, please click here

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