Modern South Asian Studies seminar HT21 Wk 6: Hidden histories of science; Ammal, Darlington, Haldane, and India, 1930-1960

Conveners: Nayanika Mathur, Imre Bangha, Kira Huju, Thiruni Kelegama and Anwesha Roy

Speaker: Vinita Damodaran (Sussex)

The twentieth century was a period which saw debates on ecology, cytology, genetics and eugenics in the West develop in new and interesting ways both positive and negative to understand the position of humans within the natural world and ultimately leading to a non-racist science. This paper explores the history of these debates in the context of Britain and India, the scientific networks that emerged and  the contribution of neglected colonial scientists  an important new field in the history of science, one which has gone unexplored in the context of these discussions. By recording the unrecognised contribution of  a remarkable Indian woman to these critical global debates of the mid-twentieth century we hope to enhance our understanding of the practices of science in this period by examining race, gender and science  the role of indigenous knowledge and the cross fertilisation of ideas.

Professor Vinita Damodaran is a historian of modern India, interested in sustainable development dialogues in the global South. Vinita’s work ranges from the social and political history of Bihar to the environmental history of South Asia, global environmental history including using historical records to understand climate change in the Indian Ocean World and the history of science. She is particularly interested in questions of environmental change, identity and resistance in Eastern India and indigenous ideas of resilience. The Centre for World Environmental history which Vinita directs actively collaborates with Kew Gardens, the British Library, the U.K. Met office and several international institutions both in India and elsewhere such as JNU, the Botanical Survey of India, Kolkata, the Indian Museum, Kolkata, the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun McGill University, Canada and IDS, Sussex. She is engaged in building up the profile of South Asian studies and environmental history at the University of Sussex and internationally.

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