Thursday, September 22, 2016

Janaki Ammal Correspondence with Cobb Blanchard - Part 1

Have managed to photograph all the correspondence involving Janaki Ammal from the Bentley archives. So i have around 150 pages worth of material to read through and discuss. So, this is going to be spread over numerous blog posts with my own comments and observations. Finally, i hope to put all this information together to paint a picture of Janaki Ammal as seen through these letters.

The first letter i am going to talk about is dated December 24th, 1931 from the Department of Botany, the Presidency college Madras. It is addressed to Frieda Cobb Blanchard, who along with Harley Harris Bartlett worked on evening primrose research. Cobb, earned her doctorate in 1920 while studying Mendelian inheritance in certain strains of Oenothera. This letter is written by Janaki Ammal, after she has returned to India and has taken up a position as a Research Fellow at the Presidency college.

The letter begins by thanking Cobb Blanchard for the data about her Egg plant cultures sent along with the letter. Then she inquires about the little girls (Cobb's daughters). As a Indian, i can appreciate the similarity of life back in 1930's to what we have now when she writes "I led a very gypsy life in Malabar visiting all the members of the E.K clan and being introduced to all the new arrivals". Its hard for me to decipher if this sentence reflects some amusement on her part at having to visit so many members of her Clan.

She writes "I have just fitted up a small cytological lab." Her teachers in Botany, Prof. Tyson and Dr Ekambaram are keen that they perform cytological studies. She is also supposed to guide 3 boys working for their Msc and give a few lectures in Cytology.

Apart from this position, she is also in contact with a Sugar cane expert at the agricultural station in Coimbatore who wants her help in studying the cytology of Indian sugar canes. In November she visited this cane station and fixed (for cytological examination) some material. She also talks about how life in Madras is very interesting and that they are having the "All India Women's Educational Conference". Most of the delegates are being house at the Queen Marry college where she is at that time. Its probably worth noting that the All India Women's Conference was formally registered in 1930. However, i did not find mention of this event in Madras in their history.

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