Panchanan Maheshwari did his DSc (1931) from University of Allahabad specializing in plant embryology, anatomy, and economic botany. He served as Lecture, Allahabad University (1937-39); Reader in Botany, Dacca University (1939-49); Professor and Head, Department of Botany, University of Delhi (1949-66).
Academic and Research Achievements: Maheshwari’s early work include the development of gametophytes and embryo of Boerhaavia diffusa and causes of sterility in Albizzia lebbek. He reported a new type of tetrasporic, 16-nucleate embryosac in Acalypha indica. He made a systematic and thorough study of the parastitic angiospermous families such as Loranthaceae and Santalaceae, which changed our understanding of their morphology, embryology and phylogeny. Besides, about 100 families of angiosperms were studied for their embryological data, which led to their correct systematic position. In addition to ongiosperms, Mahaeshwari and his students studied other groups of plants such as mosses (Physcometrium coorgens) and gymnosperms (Pinus, Cedrus, Cupressus, Biota, Gnetum, etc). He laid emphasis on methodology. Many botanists, recognizing his role in Indian botany, have paid their tributes by naming several taxa after him: Ascarina maheshwarii Swamy (Chloranthaceae), Isoetes panchananii Pant and Shrivastava (quillwort), Zatropha maheshwarii Subramanyam and Nayar (Euphorbiaceae), Maheshwariella bicornuta Pant and Nautiyal (a compressed seed from the lower Gondwanans of India), Oldenlandia maheshwarii Santapau and Merchant (Rubiaceae), Panchanania jaipurensis Subramanian (a hyphomycetous fungus), Eutryblidiella panchanani Mukerji and Dhawan (an ascomycetous fungus) and Sepedonium maheshwarianum Mukherji (an imperfect fungus).
Other Contributions: Maheshwari founded the University of Delhi Botanical Society; and its magazine Botanica. He was the driving force behind founding of International Society of Plant Morphologists and its official organ Phytomorphology. He was the Editor, Phytomorphology; Maheshwari’s Book Dictionary of Economic Plants in India is a valuable reference work. At Harvard (1954-47), he completed his magnum opus, An Introduction to Embryology of Angiosperms (published 1950, translated into Russian 1959); Editor of INSA Publications (1963-66). He prepared a detailed report on Botany in Indian Universities in 1963 for University Grants Commission.
Awards and Honours: Maheshwari was the recipient of DSc (hc) from Mc Gill University, Canada. He received the Birbal Sahni Medal, (Indian Botanical Society) (1959); General President, Indian Science Congress Association (1963) and Sunder Lal Hora Memorial Medal of INSA (1964). Maheshwari was the Fellow, Royal Society of London, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (President, 1964-65); Corresponding Member, American Botanical Society; Hony Foreign Fellow, American Academy of Art and Sciences; Foreign Member, Kaiserliche Deutsche Akademic des Naturforscher Leopoldina. Deutsche Botanishcer Gesselschaft and Royal Dutch Botanical Society; Member, Indian Botanical Society; Member; Council (1956, 1961-62), Secretary (1957-60) INSA.
The Indian National Science Academy has instituted the ‘Professor Panchanan Maheswari Memorial Lecture’ in his honour.