DR. Birbal Shani
Birbal was born on 14th November 1891. He was the second son of Lala Ruchi Ram Sahni and Shrimati Ishwar Devi. Then the family was living in Bhera, a small town in Shahapur district (now a part of West Punjab in Pakistan).
Ruchi Ram lost his father in his childhood and suffered much. But he was a brilliant student and won scholarships. He was able to educate himself. He became Professor of Chemistry in the Lahore Government College.
The scientist was Birbal Sahni, a world- famous palaeobotanist. Even as a young man, he had no love for an administrative career. He dedicated himself to the cause of science. His interest in the secrets of the nature persisted throughout his life. He was as much interested in spreading scientific knowledge as in research. He was a professor in Lucknow University and adored by thousands of students. He pioneered the studies of palaeobotany in India.
Palaeobotany is the study of fossil plants. These fossil plants are found in the layers of the earth and in certain types of rocks. The study of fossil plants is closely connected with geological and botanical research. Palaeobotanical research is helpful in solving the problems connected with the formation of the earth andevolution (gradual development) of plants. It also throws light upon questions of changes of climate in the past. It is said that long, long ago continents moved. Palaeobotany helps in the study of this problem. The knowledge of palaeobotany also useful in solving certain problems connected with the search for petroleum connected with the search for petroleum and coal. Birbal was master of both geology and botany. He was considered foremost among the authorities on palaeobotany in the world.
Even as a child Birbal was interested in nature. Excursions to mountains and collection of different types of leaves, shells and stones fascinated him.