B. G. L. Swamy : biography
Bengaluru Gundappa Lakshminarayana Swamy (1918–1980, Kannada: ಬಿ.ಜಿ.ಎಲ್. ಸ್ವಾಮಿ), also known as B. G. L. Swamy, was an Indian botanist and Kannada writer who served as professor and head of the department of Botany and as Principal of Presidency College, Chennai. He was the son of D. V. Gundappa (), an Indian writer and philosopher.
Swamy’s literary works encompass a large range of topics. A large number of them are related to botany, and introduce botanical concepts to the layperson. A few of his books cover common plants used in everyday life in a scientific manner – an example is Namma hotteyalli Dakshina amerika (South America in our stomach).
Other works by Swamy pertain to literature, and some are partially autobiographical, dealing with his experiences as professor and principal. Apart from being an acclaimed botanist, BGL Swamy was also widely respected in the history and literary circles.
He extensively studied and researched the histories and literatures of both Kannada and Tamil languages. His book Tamilu Talegala Naduve (Among Tamil heads), is devoted to examining theories pertaining to languages’ origins (especially the claims that were being made in those days by the Dravidian parties) and mostly debunking them.
In his book he has also debunked some of the theories of Tamil historians like Iravatham Mahadevan, Nilkanta Shastri, to name a few. He has raised several questions regarding gaping holes and contradictions in their theories.
His book Hasiru honnu (Green is Gold) won the Kendra Sahitya Academy award given by Government of India. With that, Gundappa and Swamy, became the first father and son to win the prestigious award.
His works include:
- Hasiru Honnu – the Green Gold
- Colleju Ranga
- Colleju Taranga
- Pradhyapakana Peethadalli
- Tamilu Talegala Naduve
- Diary of a Botanist
- Namma hotteyalli Dakshina amerika
- Panchakalasha Gopura
- Americadalli naanu
- Maisooru dairy
- Brihadaranyaka (published in 2006)
- Chidambaram and Nataraja
Swamy’s primary research area was Plant anatomy, particularly the structure of connections between plants’ roots and stem. He also discovered a few plant species that were unknown until then – examples are Ascarina maheshwarii and Sarcandra irvingbaileyi, named for two of his teachers. In 1976, he was awarded the Birbal Sahni gold medal by the Government of India for his work in botany.
Education and career
Swamy studied in Central College, Bangalore, and obtained his bachelor’s degree in botany. He obtained his PhD from the University of Mysore in 1947, and had a brief post-doctoral period at Harvard University, under Irving Bailey. From 1953, he served as professor of botany (and later Principal) at Presidency College, Chennai.