Prof. A. Abraham (1979-1983) – Founder Director
Prof. A. Abraham (1914-1994), an internationally known cyto-geneticist and well- respected teacher, was the founding Director, whose long cherished dream of establishment of a botanic garden became a reality in 1979. His extraordinary charisma and skill in management, both of which evoked respect in policy makers and scientists alike and his caliber, far sightedness and vision together enabled him to spearhead a team of young people to lay the foundation. He served JNTBGRI as its Director during 1979-1983. He relinquished the post at his own will handing over the baton to his one time colleague, friend and student- Prof. A. N. Namboodiri. Even after retirement, Prof. Abraham continued to show great interest in activities of JNTBGRI and used to attend important meetings as long as his health permitted.
Orchids had a special place of pride in his heart. Along with his student Vatsala, he published a detailed treatise on South Indian orchids (Abraham & Vatsala, 1981) wherein 150 species were described and illustrated. The major orchid collection, which he established in JNTBGRI is fondly named ‘Prof. A. Abraham Orchid House’. He is commemorated by Ischaemum abrahamii Mohanan et al., Luisia abrahamii Vatsala and Thottea abrahamii Mathew et al.
Prof. A.N. Namboodiri (1983-1990)
Prof. A.N. Namboodiri (b. 1930), who succeeded Prof. Abraham as JNTBGRI’s next Director in December 1983, was also a famous cyto-geneticist of eminence with special interest on reproductive biology. He had his Ph. D. from University of Michigan, U. S. A. and joined Kerala University as its faculty in 1966. With his expertise and exposure Prof. Namboodiri took initiatives to prepare and master plan and over all design for the Garden with the assistance of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.During his tenure (1983-1990) construction of the main building and laboratory complex and Guest House was completed.
Major conservatories for trees and woody lianas (Arboretum), orchids (Orchidarium), bamboos (Bambusetum) and medicinal plants were also established during his time. When retired in July 1990, Prof. Namboodiri had laid a strong foundation for JNTBGRI to stand on its feet and flourish. He is respectfully commemorated by Dimeria namboodiriana Ravi & Mohanan and Symplocos macrophylla Wall. ex DC. subsp. namboodirianus Sivadasan & Mohanan.
Dr. P. Pushpangadan (1990 – 1999)
Dr. P. Pushpangadan (b. 1944) joined JNTBGRI as its third Director in November 1990. Earlier he worked in Regional Research Laboratory at Jammu and Ministry of Environment & Forests, New Delhi as the Chief Coordinator of an all India programme on ethnobiology. He reorganized the R & D structure into two systems: Garden System and R & D System. The Garden System incorporated the prior Horticulture and Garden Development, whereas R & D system was conveniently divided into 7 divisions: Plant Biotechnology, Microbiology, Phytochemistry, Ethnomedicine, Ethnopharmacology, Conservation Biology and Plant Systematics and Evolutionary Sciences.Creation of new divisions demanded new positions and the whole R & D set up started with full steam by 1992.Conservatories for many special groups of plants, rare and threatened plants etc. were constructed.
A green house and a mist house were constructed for wild edible fruit plants. Rockery and woodland gardens were established. An ethnobotanical garden and a museum were also established. Conservation education received much attention and thus college and school students were frequently given training and awareness classes. Team spirit and good work, which were the hallmark of this period started giving rich dividends in the form of recognitions: NAM S & T recognized JNTBGRI as a potential Center of Excellence in Conservation Biology and Research in Plant Science in 1991. The Institute got accredited to UNCED in 1992. Government of India recognized JNTBGRI as a National Database Center in Ethnobiology in 1992. Became a member of IUCN and BGCI. UNESCO recognized JNTBGRI as a Training Center in taxonomy under Botany 2000 programme. With the support of DBT, Government of India, a National Gene Bank for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants was also established here. Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India recognized JNTBGRI as a Center of Excellence in plant conservation. JNTBGRI received its due recognition and accolades during Dr Pushpangadan’s time and national and international agencies supported various projects substantially. Dr Pushpangadan left JNTBGRI in early 1999 to take up an assignment in NBRI, Lucknow. He is remembered by Ischaemum pushpangadanii Ravi et al.
Prof. G. Sreekandan Nair (1999-2001)
Prof. G. Sreekandan Nair (b. 1945), Professor of Horticulture and Plantation Crops, Kerala Agricultural University joined JNTBGRI as its fourth Director in late 1999. He took a lot of interest in medicinal plants, particularly the development of Itty Achyutan Vaidyan’s Garden. He also initiated a project on conservation of Musa varieties in South India. He left JNTBGRI on 8th June 2001 to return to his parental Department.
Prof. G. M. Nair (2001 – 2005)
Prof. G. M. Nair (b. 1951), a distinguished tissue culturist and plant biotechnologist joined JNTBGRI as its fifth director on December, 2001. He was responsible for giving a new face-lift to the garden of JNTBGRI and was instrumental in getting the third phase of National Gene Bank Programme sanctioned from Department of Biotechnology with substantial grant-in-aid and took keen interest in enriching the field gene bank. A much awaited Herbarium complex and a Visitors’ centre under construction. Garden Development and Horticulture Division was reorganised and conservation of specialised groups of plants was brought under Units as a measure for meaningful ex situ conservation.
JNTBGRI also got its place in the BGCI’s Asia net-work under the “Invest in Nature” Programme. He has given much impetus to the development of Arboretum and Medicinal Plants Garden and is active in research in the field of medicinal plant biotechnology. He left JNTBGRI in mid 2005 to his parental department after completion of his deputation.
Dr. S. Ganeshan (2005-2008)
Dr. Ganeshan was working as a Principal Scientist in the Division of Plant Genetic Resources at the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore under the ICAR System, for over two and a half decades. He has made significant contributions to the area of ex situ conservation of Horticultural Plant Genetic Resources. His major contributions include the development of a functional Pollen Cryobank for horticultural species and an In Vitro Active Gene Bank for fruit and medicinal species. He was also involved as a Co-Operating Centre Principal Investigator in Plant Biodiversity management for the Karnataka & Northern Kerala states under the world bank funded National Agricultural Technology Project.
Dr. S. Seeni (2008)
Dr.S.Seeni, Scientist G and Head, Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Division, Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute was the director in-charge for several times for short periods of one to ten months. He was retired from his service as the director in-charge of JNTBGRI on 31 December, 2008
Dr. A. Subramoniam (2009-2011)
Dr. A. Subramoniam took charge as the seventh Director of JNTBGRI with effect from 14 January, 2009. He did his masters degree from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India and Doctoral degree from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat in 1979. He did his post doctoral studies at Howard University, USA and Temple University, Philadelpha, USA. He joined at Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute in 1994 as a Senior Scientist. At TBGRI, he has established advanced phytopharmacological research and novel pharmacological properties were identified in some medicinal plants for the first time. The awards / honours / recognitions of his credit includes Hari Ohm Ashram Award for Research in Indian Medicinal Plants in 1980, Dr. V.V. Swaminathan Research Endowment award – for outstanding contribution in the scientific evaluation of medicinal properties of plants for their therapeutic use in 2005 by Indian Association of Biomedical Scientists, Dr. B. Mukerjee Prize of Indian Pharmacological Society (IPS) in 2007 – for the best contributions published in Indian Journal of Pharmacology, in the area of Indigenous Medicine for a period of three years, 2004 – 2006, Jaipur prize awarded by Indian Pharmacological Society – for the best paper published in Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2005. He has published more than 95 research publications in peer reviewed journals and some of his publications are top cited.
Dr. P. G. Latha (2011-2016)
Dr.P.G.Latha was the the 8th director of JNTBGRI. She had been with JNTBGRI since 1982. She obtained Ph.D in Botany (Ethnopharmacology) from the University of Kerala. She had published over 120 research papers in National and International journals and presented an equal number of research papers at several conferences both in India and abroad. She had operated several research projects, funded by National and State agencies and won the Millennium Award for the best poster at the International Conference of Ethnopharmacology held in Zurich, Switzerland in 2000. She is a fellow of National Society for Ethnopharmacology, India and the Kerala Academy of Sciences. She had initiated several development programmes like Compost Manufacturing Facility in association with NABARD and successfully helped to organize the JNTBGRI Open House during December 2011, which attracted over 35,000 visitors after a long span of 17 years. TBGRI was renamed as JNTBGRI during this period.