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Nature Study

Dr. Siromoney was fascinated with plant and animal life everywhere, especially in Tambaram and Vedanthangal. He shared all his observations with young and old, year after year, enthusing students and faculty to take up research. He kept meticulous record of his observations and documented them by publishing frequently in the College Magazine and the Newsletter for Birdwatchers. "From a Campus Resident's Diary" that appeared in the 1982 MCC Magazine conveys Dr. Siromoney's approach, interest, and capacity to communicate significant information in simple and captivating language. His short account of the Egyptian vultures of Thirukkalukundram reveals his choice of subjects, methods of observation and documentation of valuable information.

Dr. Siromoney considered the more than 360 acres of MCC campus a self-declared sanctuary. He was very familiar with the contributions made by the Barnes, who more than anyone else, were responsible for the wealth of vegetation of the campus and early recording of plant and bird life. Dr. Siromoney chose to build on this foundation both by his own observations and by collaboration with others interested in natural history. A 1939 checklist of Barnes recorded 83 species of birds on the campus. Dr. Siromoney made careful recording over many years and presented a checklist of birds of Tambaram and Vedanthangal in 1971. This list had nearly doubled the birds of Tambaram to 149, and has become a valuable source for all further studies and comparisons. His interests in birds included feeding and nesting behaviour, bird migration, and the unusual behaviour witnessed at Vedanthangal during the 1981 total solar eclipse.

It was at the beginning of the year 1960 that butterflies and birds invited Dr. Siromoney's attention. His 1978 checklist has become the standard reference for others who have continued research on butterflies of Tambaram, be it for M.Phil. or school projects. Some 80 species of butterflies and their larval host plants are now well documented in the Tambaram area.

Cultural heritage and history was an essential component of Dr. Siromoney's outlook on life. He was fond of relating life around him to their references in ancient Tamil literature. In a 1976 article in the MCC Magazine he drew attention to Tambaram plants mentioned in Sangam literature. Thus the kandal (Gloriosa superba), thondai (Capparis zeylanica) and other common but culturally important plants began to be well-known to students and teachers through his efforts. Long before ethnobotany became an important field of botanical studies, Dr. Siromoney collaborated with colleagues and undertook studies on the medicinal plants of the Narikorava tribe. His publications on fossils of Thiruvakkarai, and close to home at Sriperumbudur, represent his strong interest in educating the college community about the geological past of the land they lived in.

It was this interest in locating one's own place in space and time that made Dr. Siromoney get deeply involved in epigraphy. From 1973 till his last days he was studying inscriptions and revealing the stories they told. His contributions in epigraphy ranged from teaching students to make estampages to deciphering previously unrecorded inscriptions and developing an expert system for Indian epigraphy. He had many collaborators in this area both in Tambaram and elsewhere. He experimented with the use of computers to enhance images of poor-quality inscriptions. He revealed several new Tamil Brahmi inscriptions from Madurai region and drew attention to the presence of pulli and other features unique to Tamil Brahmi. Interest in the origin of the Brahmi script resulted in a novel proposal published in 1977 that the script was invented at a specific time, perhaps by one individual, from two basic designs. Other publications dealt with the origin, evolution and reform of the Tamil script. Among his outstanding original contributions is the collaborative publication in Tamil of the entire Thirukkural with various sections written in ancient to modern scripts. Dr. Siromoney hoped that one could learn to read inscriptions of every age with the help of this book.

- Dayanandan P. (Student in Botany, Colleague and Friend: 1964-88)
Currently: Head, Department of Botany, Madras Christian College.


I Birds
II Butterflies
III Plants And trees
IV Others


  1. Some uncommon bird visitors observed in and around Tambaram
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, iii, pp. 9-10, 1963  READ
  2. Bulbuls eating flowers
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, iii, p.12, 1963  READ
  3. Birds of Vedanthangal
    MCC Magazine, xxxvi, pp. 42-43, 1965  READ
  4. Mushroom and the bulbul
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, vi, No. 2, p. 12, 1966  READ
  5. Regular and uncommon visitors to Tambaram
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, vi, No. 8, pp. 1-3, 1966 (with Shaw, E.O.)  READ
  6. The Melluishian Cuckoo
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, viii, p. 9, 1968  READ
  7. Birds of Tambaram area and water birds of Vedanthangal
    STAT 02/ 71 (mimeo), 1971  
  8. Migratory birds of Tambaram area
    Nature Lover's Newsletter, i, No.2, pp. 3-4, 1975.  
  9. New bird-visitors on the campus
    Nature Lover's Newsletter, ii, Nos. 1-2, pp. 3-5, December 1975 / March 1976  READ
  10. The Neophron vultures of Thirukkalukundram
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers,  xvii, No. 6, pp. 2-4, 1977  READ
  11. Repeated use of a single nest by the Indian maroon-breasted sunbird
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, xvii, No. 8, pp. 8-9, 1977  READ
  12. Occurrence of the Glossy Ibis at Vedanthangal                                                       Newsletter for Birdwatchers, xxiv, pp. 12-13, 1984  READ
  13. Study of bird behavior at Vedanthangal  
    Bird sanctuary near Madras, on February 16, 1980  
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  1. Butterflies of Tambaram
    MCC Magazine, xxxii, pp. 101-103, 1963  READ
  2. A plea for the study of migration of butterflies
    Newsletter for Birdwatchers, iv, pp. 6-7, March 1964  READ
  3. Butterflies of Tambaram
    MCC Magazine, xlvii, pp. 48-55, 1978 (with Dayanandan, P. and Gladstone, M.)  READ
  4. Butterflies of Tambaram: a checklist
    STAT 35/78,   march 1978  READ
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Plants And Trees

  1. Introducing the trees of Selaiyur
    Senator I, Bulletin of the Selaiyur Hall, Vol.1, No. 4, Hall day January 1967  READ
  2. Medicinal plants used by the people of the Narikorava tribe (Tamil)
    Aaraaichi, 3, pp. 354-357, 1973 (with Giles Lal and Livingstone, C.)  
  3. Herbal medicines of the Narikoravas
    Folklore, (Calcutta) xiv, pp. 363-366, 1973 (with Giles Lal, D. and Livingstone, C.)  READ
  4. Tambaram flora and early Tamil Literature
    MCC Magazine, xlv, pp. 21-26, 1976  READ
  5. Comfrey in the college farm
    MCC Magazine, xlvi, pp. 64-66, 1977  READ
  6. A plant sung by poets The Indian Express, February 21, 1976 
  7. Fossil trees of Thirvakkarai
    Manuscript with drawings  READ
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  1. The alate invasion
    Motivator, No.6, p. 27, 1967  READ
  2. From a campus resident's diary
    MCC Magazine,  Vol. 51, pp. 26-33, 1982  READ
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