Man Mohan Johri received education in Plant Sciences (Botany) at Delhi University and earned BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees, respectively, in 1959 and 1961. He did his PhD (1965) under Professor SC Maheshwari and had investigated the Physiology and Biochemistry of seed development in plants. He was a Research Associate (1965-68) with Professor Joseph E Varner at the famous Plant Research Laboratory at East Lansing, Mich, USA and demonstrated the role of the plant hormone gibberellic acid in the control of transcription. Later he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) at Mumbai where he developed a group on the Developmental Biology of Plants and continued until retirement. He was awarded Visiting Professorships at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Mis, USA (1979) and at the University of Heidelberg (1987).
Academic and Research Achievements: At TIFR, his group made original contributions to the molecular biology of plants using the moss Funaria hygrometrica and the corn plant as paradigms. His work, demonstrating the differentiation of caulonema cell type by the phytohormones auxin, is a major discovery in the field of bryology. His work showed that both auxin transport and hormonal sensitivity were involved in maintaining the caulonema state. The phytohormone abscisic acid regulates the acclimation to abiotic stress by activating within minutes a MAP kinase cascade. Johri's group demonstrated several novel features of the moss nitrate reductase, which unlike the higher plants, was shown to be tetrameric and NADPH-specific. His studies on the analysis of cell lineages in corn have led to a far more dynamic picture of the functional organization of the shoot meristems. The corn plant was shown to have a modular construction, the repeating unit being a phytomer or a lineage unit. He has published over seventy five research articles, reviews and written chapters in books and guided eight MSc and PhD students.
Other Contributions: Besides research, Dr Johri was actively involved in the teaching programmes of the University of Mumbai and the Department of Biological Sciences at TIFR. He had been associated in organizing the Mahabaleshwar Seminars in Modern Biology. These seminars have played a major role in reshaping modern biology research and teaching in the country. In recognition to his research contributions, he was elected as a Member of the Advisory Council of International Plant Growth Substances Association (1976-1988). Johri also served as an INSA Council Member (2003-05).
Awards and Honours: Professor Johri was awarded twice the Fulbright-Hays Award by US Educational Foundation in India, New Delhi. He was conferred with SERC National Lectureship (1992) by DST, New Delhi and Bashambar Nath Chopra Memorial Lecture Award of INSA (1995). He received Birbal Sahni Gold Medal from Indian Botanical Society (2002) and is a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore.