Mrs. Savitri Sahni

Madam Savitri Sahni-wife of the eminent Indian palaeobotanist, late Prof. Birbal Sahni, F.R.S., died on the morning of April 26, 1985, in her 83rd year, and was cremated in the campus of her own house situated on the bank of river Gomti at Lucknow. Who could imagine that after the untimely death of her illustrious husband, Birbal, this graceful, fragile-looking woman would not only be able to nurture a research institution-the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (BSIP) at Lucknow but would also be instrumental in making this Institute a premier palaeobotanical research center in India. Although the Institute was founded by her husband, Prof. Birbal Sahni, on September 10, 1946, it actually came into existence only when the foundation stone of its present building was laid on April 3, 1949, by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru-the first Prime Minister of India-in the presence of a large gathering of Indian scientists and eminent personalities of the country.

Probably the destiny of Prof. Sahni's cherished dream of a Palaeobotanical Institute had a different course in the years to come, as within less than a week of its foundation ceremony, he was suddenly snatched away on the mid-night of April 9-10, 1949. The premature death of Prof. Sahni was a great misfortune. Mrs Sahni had been a constant companion of her husband, whether at home or abroad, visiting foreign universities, research institutions, and meeting the leading geologists, palaeobotanist and other scientists in the country they visited. Soon after her recovery from the shock of her husband's untimely death and a cruel blow to her happy married life, Mrs Sahni dedicated herself with an iron will and determination to complete the unfinished task her husband had left. She worked hard with a rare self-confidence and sanctity of its objectives to see the dream of her husband materialize in bringing up the present BSIP. Mrs Sahni served the Institute as its President and co-founder in its early 20 years of existence from 1949 to 1969 with a missionary zeal and dedication and with the spirit that BSIP was her own child. In 1969, the Institute was transferred under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and Mrs Sahni was nominated a Life Member of its Governing Body. In recognition of her distinguished services to the Institute, and the cause of science, the President of India honoured Mrs Sahni in 1969, with the coveted "Padma Shri", a great national honour. Mrs Sahni was an extremely graceful and cultured lady, always dressed meticulously in her white silk, and whosoever met her would not escape from the charisma of her sweet, soft-spoken, and courteous disposition. Mrs Sahni was a widely travelled lady, having personal contacts with many eminent scientists of her time, and was honoured by several societies and research organisations during her visits to USSR, China, Japan, the USA, and many other European and far-east countries. Mrs Sahni served BSIP for more than 36 years in one or the other capacity, bringing fame and lustre to the Institute. For us, the staff of the Institute, Mrs Sahni was an affectionate mother. She has willed her estate to the Nation for the promotion of research in palaeobotany at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany-her only child, her husband's living memorial.