January 23, 2005

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Late Rev.Dr.K.M.Mathew, Ann Glade Institute of Natural History, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

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An internationally known biologist, Rev.Dr.K.M.Mathew had dedicated his life to the study and preservation of the flora of Tamil Nadu.  That he was a priest and a model teacher adds further feathers to his cap.

Born at Koyippallil House, Ramapuram in Kottayam District in 1930, he graduated in botany from St.Joseph’s College, Trichy.  “I did not find much inspiration in classes or practical.  But in the forests of Western Ghat, I understood my true calling,” he has written.  After joining the Jesuit order in 1950, he completed his post graduation in botany from Madras University.

He obtained his doctorate from St.Xaviers’ College, Bombay in 1962 for his study on the flora of Palani hills, his favourite location for research.  Following this he was a teacher at St.Joseph’s College, Trichy, before going abroad to London to obtain a Fellowship from the Royal Botanic Garden, Kiev.

After his return from Kiev in 1974, he dedicated his time for the scientific study and preservation of the Tamil Nadu flora.  He became the founder director of Ann Glade Institute of Natural History at Kodaikanal, and formulated an ambitious plan to study and index the vast variety of plants and trees in the region.  As part of the endeavour, 125000 saplings were planted there, and a botanical library was established.

His success was in taking his concern to the people and making them aware of the need and mode of preserving the flora.  Batch by batch, about 60000 rural folks were given free 3-day residential training at Ann Glade Institute, thus equipping them to recognize and preserve rare plants.

Among his academic writings are Flora of Tamil Nadu (1983) and Flora of Palani Hills (1999).  Many awards and honours came his way.  Among them were S.Radhakrishnan Memorial Best Teacher award, Tamil Nadu Government’s award for outstanding environmental efforts, award from the Roayl Botanical Garden, Kiev for environmental achievements, visiting professorship at 3 foreign universities etc.

This lover of flora merged with the dust on April 26 this year.  The nation honoured his posthumously with the Rs.5 lakh Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar.




Courtesy: Siby Sebastian, Malayala Manorama, August 22, 2004                     

Contributed by: Administrator 


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