Birbal published his first two research
papers in 1915, on some plants belonging to South France and Malaysia. Hereceived the
B.Sc. Degree of London University the same year. Two years later the same University
awarded the Master of Science Degree. Meanwhile, one of his research papers brought him
the Sudbury Handyman Award. He attended the summer semesters at Munich (inGermany)
under Professor K .Goebel, the renowned German plant morphologist. By then, Birbals
knowledge of an experience in the study of plants were fully recognized. He was asked to
revise Lowsons textbook of Botany, adding information about Indian plants, so those
students in India could use the book. He did it efficiently and the book became very
useful to the students of schools and colleges in India.
R.H. Compton, a botanist of South Africa, had collected a number of rare species of
plants in some islands of the Pacific. Though they were fragmentary and poorly preserved
Birbal made a fairly exhaustive study of those plants. In 1919 London University awarded
him the Doctorate in Science for his research on fossil plants. Birbal returned to India.
Birbals father had retired from service while Birbal was still at Cambridge. He
went to England. He joined Professor Ernest Rutherford, a Noble-Prize winner, in his
research on radioactivity. Birbal helped his father in photographic and other connected
work though he had himself to take the Degree Examination the same year.
On Professor Sewards suggestion Birbal examined some specimens of fossil plants
brought from different parts of Australia and wrote papers about them. He collaborated
with Professor Seward in the study of Indian Gondwana Plants and together they published
the book, Indian Gondwana Plants: A Revision in 1920.
Gondwana or Gondaranya is the region where the Gondas lived. They were living in
Central India. Millions of years ago, the formation of continents and oceans was different
from what it is today. The Himalayan region was an ocean. South America, Africa, Australia
and India together formed a single continent is usually referred to as Gondwana land
because extensive evidence proving its existence is found in the Gondwana region of Madhya
Pradesh (in Central India). A hundred-fifty million years ago were formed.
Professor Seward had built up a vast collection of fossil plants belonging to Gondwana
land from the Geological Survey of India. For thirty years scientists had not taken much
interest in the study of Gondwana plants. Seward and Sahnis work on Indian Gondwana
plants became a landmark in Indian Geology and Plants continued all through his life. To
him, plant fossils had a deep significance; their geological background and implications
were always present in his mind. He often remarked, "Fossil plants represent the debt
that botany owes to geology."