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Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences

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DST- Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences
Other name
Former names
Institute of Palaeobotany, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany
TypeAn autonomous institute constituted under the Department of Science and Technology
Established10 September 1946
FounderProf. Birbal Sahni, FRS
Parent institution
Department of Science and Technology
AffiliationDepartment of Science and Technology
Academic affiliation
Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR)
Budget126 Crore (2022-23)
ChairmanProf. Nitin R. Karmalkar
DirectorProf. Mahesh G. Thakkar[1]
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Total staff
53, University Road
, , ,

26°52′03″N 80°56′20″E / 26.86750°N 80.93889°E / 26.86750; 80.93889
LanguageHindi, Engish
BSIP’s new Rs100 cr leaf-structured building

The Birbal Sahni institution of Palaeosciences (BSIP), formerly known as the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany,[2] is an autonomous institution established by the Government of India under the Department of Science and Technology. The Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences is situated in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.[3] Its primary aim is to integrate the disciplines of plant and earth sciences to carry out palaeobotanical research. The area of Fusion-Science is given actual relevance by the use of modern equipment, computing technology, and well-equipped laboratories staffed by skilled specialists. This enables research on a broad variety of general themes, both practical and fundamental. The targeted goals are being achieved via collaboration at both national and international levels, as well as involvement in numerous research programs.[4]


Brachiopods and bryozoans in an Ordovician limestone, southern Minnesota
A late Silurian sporangium bearing trilete spores. Such spores are the earliest evidence of life on land.

The Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany is named after its esteemed founder, Professor Birbal Sahni, a distinguished figure in contemporary India. In September 1939, a group of palaeobotanists in India established a committee, led by Professor Sahni, to oversee and publish regular reports on palaeobotanical research.[5] The first publication named 'Palaeobotany in India' was released in 1940, while the last one was published in 1953. On 19 May 1946, a group of eight individuals, namely K.N. Kaul, R.N. Lakhanpal, B. Sahni, S.D. Saxena, R.V. Sitholey, K.R. Surange, B.S. Trivedi, and S. Venkatachary, who were all working in Lucknow at the time, officially established a Palaeobotanical Society by signing a Memorandum of Association. A trust, named on 3 June, was established under the Societies Registration Act (XXI of 1860). It was formed with initial private funds and immovable property, as well as a reference library and fossil collections donated by Professor Birbal Sahni and Mrs. Savitri Sahni. The trust's main objective is to support and encourage original research in the field of Palaeobotany.[5]

This trust was entrusted with the responsibility of establishing a Research Institute. The Society's Governing Body founded the 'Institute of Palaeobotany' and named Professor Sahni as its first Director on 10 September 1946, by a decision. The Institute conducted its work at the Department of Botany at Lucknow University, Lucknow, until a permanent location was acquired. In September 1948, the Institute relocated to its current site, which was generously donated by the Government of the erstwhile United Provinces.[5] The campus consists of a spacious bungalow situated on 3.50 acres of ground. Plans were promptly devised to construct a structure for the Institute. The inauguration of the new structure took place on 3 April 1949, with the laying of the Foundation Stone by Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Regrettably, on 10 April 1949, Professor Sahni expired, therefore leaving the task of establishing the Institute to his wife, Mrs. Savitri Sahni. The unwavering dedication and enthusiasm of Mrs. Savitri Sahni resulted in the successful construction of the new structure at the conclusion of 1952. On 2 January 1953, Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the building, specifically for scientific purposes, in the presence of several scientists from India and other countries. Prof. T.M. Harris from the University of Reading, England, acted as an Advisor to the Institute during the period of December 1949 to January 1950. In May 1950, Dr. R.V. Sitholey, who was the Assistant Director at the time, was assigned the role of Officer-in-charge to carry out the ongoing responsibilities of the Director. This was done under the supervision of Mrs. Savitri Sahni, who was the President.[5]

In 1951, the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany was added to UNESCO's Technical Assistance Programme. Professor O.A. Høeg from the University of Oslo, Norway, served as its Director from October 1951 to early August 1953. Shortly after Prof. Høeg left, Dr. K.R. Surange was appointed as the Officer-in-charge, with the President of the Governing Body of the Palaeobotanical Society overseeing their work. In October 1959, Mrs. Savitri Sahni assumed the dual role of President of the Society and President of the Institute, overseeing administrative matters.[5] Concurrently, Dr. Surange was named as Director, responsible for academic and research operations. By the end of 1967, it was recognized that the Palaeobotanical Society should operate only as a scientific entity, while the Institute should act as an independent institution. Prof. K.N. Kaul became the presidency of the Society in January 1968. During this period, a new constitution was created, resulting in the registration of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany as an independent organization on 9 July 1969. In November 1969, the Palaeobotanical Society transferred the property of the Institute to a new entity, resulting in the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany being under the control of a new Governing entity. Since that time, the Institute operates as an independent research institution and receives funding from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.[5]


Drill for dendrochronology sampling and growth ring counting
A volcanic sand grain seen under the microscope, with plane-polarized light in the upper picture, and cross polarized light in the lower picture. Scale box is 0.25 mm.
Fossil nummulitid foraminiferans showing microspheric and megalospheric individuals; Eocene of the United Arab Emirates; scale in mm.[citation needed]

The main objectives of the institute are set as:[6]

  • Reconstruction showing final stages of assembly of Gondwana, 550 Mya
    To develop palaeobotany in all its botanical and geological aspects.
  • To constantly update data for interaction with allied disciplines.
  • To co-ordinate with other palaeobotanical and geological research centres in the areas of mutual interest, such as diversification of early life, exploration of fossil fuels, vegetational dynamics, climatic modelling, conservation of forests.
  • To disseminate palaeobotanical knowledge in universities, educational institutions and other organisations.

Thrust areas

The institute has identified the thrust areas of activities on:



BSIP nurses a museum,[8] originally housing the fossil collections of Professor Sahni, but now holds later collections made by the scientists over the years. The collection includes holotype specimens, slides and figured specimens.

  • Figured specimens : 6679
  • Figured slides : 12740
  • Slide negatives : 17504

The museum, with its foundation stone, laid by Birbal Sahni, composed of fossils of various geological ages embedded in a marble-cement block, displays the specimens based on their general and geological relevance. The museum also maintains a Geological Time Clock.

Knowledge Resource Centre

The Institute library is an automated one with database services such as GEOREF, Web of Science, JCCC@INSTIRC and access to CSIR-DST consortium. It operates on a fully integrated multi-user LIBSYS 4 software package with addition of Web OPAC. The journals are made available online to the users.


The Herbarium functions with four different sections:

  • General collection of dried plants mounted on herbarium sheets
  • Xylarium - collection of woods and their thin sections
  • Sporothek - collection of pollen and spore slides and polleniferous material
  • Carpothek - collection of fruits, seeds

The fossil specimens such as leaves, cuticle, pollen, spores, fruits, seed and wood, numbering 51,472, are preserved according to their variation, local names, uses, distribution and ecology and include contributions from J. F. Duthie, R. R. Stewart, K. N. Kaul, Birbal Sahni, O. A. Hoeg and A. L. Takhtajan.

Computer Centre

BSIP is well equipped with an advanced computer network with LAN, radio link facility from the Software Park of India, Lucknow and National Knowledge Network connection. The web site of the institute is also maintained by the Computer Centre.

Journal of Palaeosciences

Journal of Palaeosciences formally known as The Palaeobotanist is a widely acknowledged journal in the field of Palaeosciences and Palaeobotany, published by the institute. BSIP published the first volume in 1952 as an annual publication. However, the frequency has been increased over the time and, since 1962, is released three times a year.[9] The journal is now an online journal.


  1. ^ "Mahesh G Thakkar takes over as new Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow director". Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  2. ^ Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany - What does BSIP stand for? Acronyms and abbreviations by the Free Online Dictionary
  3. ^ Map from Lucknow Junction to Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany
  4. ^ "Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow | Department Of Science & Technology". Retrieved 18 May 2024.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "History | Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences". Retrieved 18 May 2024.
  6. ^ Welcome to Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India :: Archived 17 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany Museum | Museums
  9. ^ The palaeobotanist. (Journal, magazine, 1952) []

Further reading

  • Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany. The Palaeobotanist. Lucknow : Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany. ISSN 0031-0174. OCLC 1605086.
  • Vasishta, P C (2006). Botany For Degree Gymnosperm. Lucknow: S Chand. ISBN 9788121926188.
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Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences
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