VM Meher-Homji obtained his BSc (Hons), MSc and PhD degrees from the Institute of Science, Bombay University. He was influenced by his botany teachers Professor FR Bharucha, TS Mahabale and Rev Fr H Santapau. After his MSc (1955), the newly established Indo-French Institute of Research in Pondicherry provided him an opportunity as the first Indian candidate to execute a project on 'maps of vegetation and environmental conditions of peninsular India' with the French forestry expert Dr P Legris. He obtained his Docteur-es-Sciences (Doctorat d'Etat) from the University of Toulose, France, working on biodimates and vegetation of the Indian sub-continent under the supervision H Gaussen. In the interest of his research he has extensively toured Europe, Asia and North Africa. When the University of Pondicherry came up, he was invited to organize the School of Ecology and served as its Honorary Dean.
Academic and Research Achievements: Beginning with anthology of weeds and syneclogy (plant associations), Meher-Homji widened the scope to survey the vegetation of the entire Indian Peninsula. To strengthen the conservation effort, he identified the areas requiring protection on priority basis. He worked out the potential area under each vegetation type and the percentage of this area, still retaining forest physiognomy in the form of degraded vegetation like thicket, shrub-saranna, etc. He contributed towards the classification of forest types, the only alternative to that of Champion's (1936). He stressed the importance of a bio-climatic classification to explain the distribution of species and vegetation and worked on factors like the length of dry season, occurrence of rains (regime) and rainfall amount that led to the formulation of an index of aridity-humidity and the concept of a probable year, giving large variability. He showed that the transition from winter-spring rains in Afghanistan to summer rains tropical regime in India is through several degrees of mediterraneity in the Indo-Pak arid zone. He resolved the 'Tropical dry evergreen forest' climax status of the Shola and Montane Savanna of the Niligiri-Palni hills in terms of eco-climate. He established the link between the forest cover and the rainfall pattern. Meher Homji investigated the vegetational history with reference to fossil records, palaco-palynological data and geological-anthropological events. His current focus is on climate change and sea-erosion. He published Bibliography on Ecology of Asian Countries in Excerpta Botanica-Sociologica long before the appearance of Ecological Abstracts.
Other Contributions: Meher-Homji has contributed in laying a strong foundation of the Indo-Franch Scientific Co-operation. He is the Founder Fellow of the Paleobotanical Society and invited twice to deliver Sir Albert Charles Seward Memorial Lecture (1978, 1993). Meher-Homji served INSA Council during 1991-92.
Awards and Honours: Meher-Homji is the recipient of Pitambar Pant National Environment Fellowship and Swami Pravanand Saraswati Award of L Emberger-Ch Sauvage Ecology Foundation, France. In 2002, he was promoted to the rank of Officer in the order of PALMS ACADEMIQUE by the Prime Minister of France. He is a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.