Govindjee (1932-) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Govindjee (1932-)

Historical Note:

Govindjee (1933- ) was a graduate fellow, Fulbright scholar, and research assistant at the University of Illinois from 1956-1960, became an assistant professor of botany in 1961, associate professor of botany and biophysics in 1965, professor of plant biology and biophysics in 1969, and retired as professor emeritus of biophysics, biochemistry, and plant biology in 1999. Govindjee is internationally recognized for his work on photosynthesis. While at the University of Illinois, he also served as Associate Head of Botany (1973-1974), Acting Head of Botany (1974-1975), and Chairman of Biophysics (1977-1978).

Govindjee was born October 24, 1933, in Allahabad, India. He uses only the name "Govindjee," as his father, being an Arya Samajist, did not believe in the Indian Caste system, and did not use the family's last name, which would have signified their caste. Though Govindjee historically used only one name and was naturalized as a United States citizen with one name (1972), he legally changed his name to "Govindjee Govindjee" in 2018.

Rajni Govindjee (1935-) ­­was not hired at the University of Illinois due to nepotism rules that would not allow spouses of usually male faculty to obtain faculty positions. Her publications and research are all that remain of her work on photobiology. More on Rajni Govindjee can be found in the article "Brighter than the Sun" by Thomas G. Ebrey, which can be read on Govindjee's website:

Govindjee received his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology (1952) and his Master of Science (1954) in botany/plant physiology from the University of Allahabad, where he met Rajni Varma. Govindjee worked as a lecturer (1954-1956) at the University of Allahabad, and both Govindjee and Rajni Varma came to the United States separately during the 1950's and married on October 24th, 1957; they have two children: Anita and Sanjay. Govindjee and Rajni Govindjee received their PhDs from the University of Illinois (1960 and 1961), where they studied under Robert Emerson and Eugene Rabinowitch – both important photosynthesis researchers. Govindjee was a member of the University of Illinois faculty from 1956 through 1999, and still works as a professor emeritus. He also has been a visiting scientist at the Research Institute of Advanced Studies, Martin Marietta Labs (1962), the Carnegie Institute of Washington, Stanford (1963-1979), Laboratoire de Photosynthese, Gif-Sur-Yvette (1968-1976), Technical University, West Berlin (1968; 1976), Bhabha Atomic Energy Research Center, Bombay (1968; 1976), NRC, Greek Atomic Energy Commission, Athens (1968; 1976), Department of Biophysics, State University, Leiden (1976), Solar Energy Research Group, RIKEN, Japan (1984), Agricultural University, Wageningen (1984), and Department of Phototrophic Microorganisms, Institute of Microbiology, Czech Republic (2009; 2011). Govindjee has been a visiting professor at Washington University, St. Louis, MO (2000), Institute of Physical Biology, University of S. Bohemia, Czech Republic (2002), Jawaharlal Nehru, India University (2003-2008; 2012; 2015-2019), and Ravenshaw University, India (2014).

Govindjee has done immense work in the field of photosynthesis – specifically in regard to the function of Photosystem II. In 1960, Govindjee showed the role of chlorophyll a in Photosystem II. Govindjee pioneered the first picosecond measurements of Photosystem I (1978) and Photosystem II (1989). He also established the unique role of bicarbonate in electron and proton transport in Photosystem II, created the first comprehensive theory of thermoluminescence in algae and plants, and has shown how prompt and delayed fluorescence of chlorophyll a can be used as a signature of various reactions in photosynthesis.  A list of Govindjee's early research discoveries can be found in Box 1/folder 1: curriculum vitas.

Govindjee's many awards and honors include: University of Illinois Fellow and Fulbright Scholar from India (1953), elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (1976), University of Illinois School of Life Sciences Distinguished Lecture Award (1978), elected as a Fellow and Life Member of the National Academy of Sciences, India (1979), elected President of the American Society for Photobiology (1981), the Arnold O. Beckman Research Award from the University of Illinois (1989), the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award from the Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research (2006), the Communication Award of the International Society of Photosynthesis Research (2007), the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois (2008), the Dr. B.M. Johri Memorial Award of the Society for Plant Research, India (2016), and elected as the Pravasi Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India (2018).

Govindjee's curriculum vitae can be found on his website:

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