Leela Mulherkar and the teaching of developmental biology
Published: 23 June 2020
Developmental Biology Group, MACS-Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, India
The formal teaching of developmental biology in India began in the late nineteen-fifties at the Department of Zoology of the University of Poona. This was due to the efforts of Leela Mulherkar, who on her return from C.H. Waddington’s laboratory in Edinburgh, took up the teaching of embryology at the Master’s level. Mulherkar began using locally available material to teach how animals develop. They included the embryos of chicken, frog, garden lizard and molluscs, as well as organisms such as hydra and sponges. Her teaching was supported by an active research laboratory that used all these systems to address a variety of questions in embryology and teratology. She used chick embryo explants cultured in vitro extensively in her work. Teaching and research in embryology at the master’s and doctoral levels at Poona University subsequently led, in 1977, to the establishment of the Indian Society of Developmental Biologists (InSDB), which is among the most active scientific societies in India.