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Govindjee (born 24 October 1932) is an Indian-American scientist and educator. He is Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he taught from 1961 until 1999. As Professor Emeritus since 1999, Govindjee has continued to be active in the field of photosynthesis through teaching and publishing. He is recognized internationally as a leading expert on photosynthesis.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Govindjee was born in Allahabad, India. He is known only by a single name, as his family by tradition did not use a surname.[1][2]

At University of Allahabad, he received his B.Sc. in 1952 and his M.Sc. in 1954. He studied at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning his Ph.D. in 1960. He began his PhD work with Robert Emerson who discovered the Emerson effect.[3] After Emerson died in a plane crash,[4] Govindjee completed his PhD work in biophysics with Eugene Rabinowitch.[1] He has written about both Emerson and Rabinowitch.[5]


Govindjee has made pioneering contributions to the field of photosynthesis—focusing on the function of Photosystem II. He showed, in 1960, the role of Chlorophyll a in Photosystem II;[6] pioneered the first picosecond measurements on Photosystem I in 1978 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then on Photosystem II in 1989 with Michael Wasielewski at Argonne National Laboratory. He is best known for establishing the unique role of bicarbonate in electron and proton transport in Photosystem II. Govindjee has not only provided the first comprehensive theory of thermoluminescence in algae and plants, but has shown how prompt and delayed fluorescence of Chlorophyll a can be used as a signature of various reactions in photosynthesis.

He is the founding Series Editor of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration as well as the Editor of Historical Corner of Photosynthesis Research. He has written extensively on the topic of Photosynthesis, including on the role of chlorophyll in Photosynthesis, light absorption, excitation energy transfer, and how plants make oxygen.

Honors and awards[edit]

Govindjee is the recipient of several awards and honors.

He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 1976. In 1979, he was elected a Fellow and Life Member of the National Academy of Sciences, India. In 1981, he was elected President of the American Society for Photobiology.[7]

He was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award from the Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research,[8] the 2007 Communication Award of the International Society of Photosynthesis Research,[9] and the 2008 Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[1]

In 2013, in honor of his 80th birthday, a tribute to Govindjee's life's work in photosynthesis appeared in Photosynthesis Research.[10]

In 2016, he received the Dr. B.M. Johri Memorial award of the Society for Plant Research, India.[11]

In 2018, Govindjee was elected as the Pravasi (Foreign) Fellow[12] of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India, and in honor of his 85th birthday, a special issue of Photosynthetica was released.[13]

In 2019, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published an article on his research in photosynthesis and his "Photosynthesis Museum".[14]

Personal life[edit]

Govindjee and his wife, Rajni, came to the US separately in the mid-1950s and earned Ph.D. degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying under the same mentors.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "An Absorbing Interest". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 2009.
  2. ^ "A Conversation with Govindjee". Annual Reviews Conversations. 2011. doi:10.1146/multimedia.2012.11.08.16 (inactive 9 March 2020). Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Emerson Enhancement Effect in Chloroplast Reactions" (PDF).
  4. ^ "American Airlines Flight 320 crashes into East River in 1959". NY Daily News. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  5. ^ Hoddeson, Lillian (2004). "12: Robert Emerson and Eugene Rabinowitch: Understanding Photosynthesis". No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. pp. 181–194.
  6. ^ Govindjee; Rabinowitch, Eugene (1960). "Two Forms of Chlorophyll a in vivo with Distinct Photochemical Functions". Science. 132 (3423): 355–356. Bibcode:1960Sci...132..355G. doi:10.1126/science.132.3423.355. JSTOR 1706087. PMID 13828631.
  7. ^ "Past Leadership – American Society for Photobiology". Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  8. ^ "RFFBR LifeTime Achievement Awards". Virtual Laboratory of Plant Biochemistry and Photobiology.
  9. ^ "14th International Congress of Photosynthesis Glasgow 22nd-27th July 2007". SEB Bulletin. Society for Experimental Biology. October 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  10. ^ Eaton-Rye, Julian J. (October 2013). "Govindjee at 80: more than 50 years of free energy for photosynthesis". Photosynthesis Research. 116 (2): 111–144. doi:10.1007/s11120-013-9921-3. PMID 24113923.
  11. ^ "VEGETOS:SOCIETY FOR PLANT RESEARCH". Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  12. ^ "National Academy of Agricultural Sciences".
  13. ^ Garab, Győző (December 2018). "Our gratitude and congratulations to our guest editor Julian Eaton-Rye and thanks to all the 167 contributors to the special issue honoring professor Govindjee". Photosynthetica. 56 (4): 1235–1236. doi:10.1007/s11099-018-0826-4. ISSN 0300-3604.
  14. ^ Yates, Diana (9 July 2019). "Govindjee's Photosynthesis Museum". Illinois News Bureau. Retrieved 28 September 2019.

External links[edit]