Mahadeva Subramania Mani was an Indian entomologist especially famous for his studies on high altitude entomology.
Mahadeva Subramania Mani was born on March 2, 1908 in Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India. He had his early education at K. S. High School, Tanjore and in 1926, passed his SSLC Examination. He attended the Government College, Coimbatore and in 1928 passed the Intermediate Examination.
He got admission in Madras Medical College, but after just one year, in 1929, he had to suspend further medical education due to financial constraints. In 1937, he got an M.A. degree, awarded by the University of Madras, on the basis of the Research Papers in Entomology.
In 1933, he went to Calcutta to seek employment and build his career. He joined Bangabasi College, Sealdah, Calcutta as a part-time demonstrator and tutor for Physics. During this period, he collaborated with Sir C. V. Raman on insect coloration. He worked at the Indian Museum and also worked as an honorary Research student at the Zoological Survey of India, Calcutta.
Later in 1937, he joined as a Research Assistant to Imperial Entomologist, in Imperial Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, Delhi. Here, he worked with Dr. Hem Singh Pruthi at Pusa, and Dr. Birbal Sahni. In recognition of his pioneering work in scientific research, they proposed M. S. Mani’s Membership to the Royal Society, England.
He was denied promotion while his junior was promoted and hence he chose to seek his future elsewhere and resigned in 1944. He remained unemployed for some time. He earned a living working as an interpreter and German Language translator, during World War II, in the Censor Section of the Army H.Q., New Delhi.
His work was to translate the ‘official’ documents captured from the Germans for the British Indian Army. He would monitor radio broadcasts from Berlin and provide English transcripts. He also translated German technical journals and scientific reports.
In 1945, he left Delhi and joined as a lecturer in the Department of Zoology, St. John’s College, Agra. He pioneered fundamental research in entomology and received support from the highest levels and the University Grants Commission, eminent persons like Dr. Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussein etc.
From here he made many scientific expeditions to the Himalayas, and made pioneering contributions to High Altitude Entomology. He later made studies in the Pamir and Caucasus ranges leading to his work on Biogeography in India.
In 1947, the University of Agra awarded him a DSc or a Doctor of science degree for his thesis submitted in 12 volumes. The Chancellor was the then Governor of United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh, the late Ms. Sarojini Naidu.
He pioneered and established the School of Entomology in 1950; became the Professor of Zoology and Entomology and was appointed as the Head of the Department for Zoology.
In 1956, he joined the Zoological Survey of India as Deputy Director and retired as officiating Director in 1968.
In 1968, after retirement, he became Emeritus Professor at the School of Entomology, St. John’s College, Agra and continued with his research work till 1984.
He then shifted to Madras, and briefly worked with ZSI. In 1990, he became the Emeritus Professor, Botany Department at Presidency College, Madras and continued as a guide for PhD. research students.
In 2002 when he moved to Hyderabad, with his late sister Janaki’s grandson, Jyotirmay Sharma, who was the Editor, Times of India, Hyderabad.
In September 2002, he moved to Bangalore to live with his only daughter, Mrs. Prema Subramanian and her husband V. S. Subramanian.
On 8 January 2003, he passed away at the age of 94.
Scientific Works and Contributions
He was fluent in written and spoken German, as well as Sanskrit; and had a keen interest in Dutch, French and Russian languages. His has published over 250 original research papers, and over 34 text books including his pioneering magnum opus, Ecology of Plant Galls, and Introduction to High Altitude Entomology.
He is remembered most for his pioneering work in high altitude entomology. He led the first three Entomological Expeditions to the North West Himalaya in 1954, 1955 and 1956 and brought back a large collection of insects.
He published several books like High Altitude Entomology, Ecology and Biogeography of India etc. He led a team of Indian scientists to the Soviet Union for conducting jointly a research project in 1963 and represented India in the UNESCO programme on Man and Biosphere (MAB) at Oslo, Norway.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah
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