Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was free Indias first Minister of Education. He invited a
reputed scientist to become a secretary to the Government in the Ministry of Education.
The scientist was an able officer and expert educationist. But he declined the offer. He
wrote to theminister: I have decicated my life to the work of a scientific
institution. Please do not ask me to undertake any other responsibility. A high
place in government had no attraction for him.
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
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.