Shya Chitaley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Shyamala (Dixit) Dinkar Chitaley
Born (1918-02-15)15 February 1918
Maharashtra, India
Died 31 March 2013(2013-03-31) (aged 95)[1]
Ashland, Massachusetts, USA
Residence Parma, Ohio
Citizenship United States of America
Alma mater University of Nagpur (BSc; MSc), University of Reading (PhD)
Spouse(s) Dinkar Vaman Chitaley (Died January, 2000)
Scientific career
Fields Paleobotany
Institutions Institute of Science, Nagpur, Institute of Science, Bombay, Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Shyamala "Shya" Chitaley (15 February 1918 – 31 March 2013) was an Indian American Paleobotanist who had a nearly 60-year career of teaching and research in both the United States and India. She was the founder and first curator of the paleobotany department at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, winner of the 2010 Botanical Society of America Award for Contributions to Paleobotany, and author of approximately 150 publications.

Early life[edit]

Chitaley was born Shyamala Dixit in 1918 in Maharashtra, India.[2] Raised mostly by her father (her mother died when she was 9 years old), she also educated at home.[3] As was traditional at the time, she married Dinkar Vaman Chitaley, a corporate lawyer,[2] at a fairly young age.[3] While she faced discouragement and even physical threats about her higher education from some,[2] she continued to pursue her studies with her husband Dinkar's encouragement.[3]

Career in India[edit]

Chitaley received a BSc and MSc from the University of Nagpur and a PhD from the University of Reading,[2] having received an International Federation of University Women scholarship in the process.[3] Following completion of her PhD, Chitaley taught at the Institute of Science, Nagpur, The Institute of Science, Bombay,[2] and was named a fellow of the Geological Society of London.[4] She held the chairs in botany at each institution until a mandatory retirement at age 60.[2] Her research in India focused on the flora of the Upper Cretaceous.[5]

Career in USA[edit]

Following her retirement from the Institute of Science, Bombay in 1978, Chitaley and her husband traveled to the United States to visit one of their sons who lived near Cleveland, Ohio.[3] While searching for a teaching job in the United States, Chitaley became an American citizen and sold Avon Products door-to-door.[2]

In 1980, Chitaley was hired by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History as the museum's first paleobotanist. Chitaley built the museum's paleobotany collection from approximately 500 pieces to over 30,000 by acquiring a disused collection from the University of Cincinnati worth millions of dollars.[2][3] Chitaley's research in Cleveland focused on Lycopodiophyta from the Devonian Period Cleveland Shales.[5] In 1996 she discovered a new Devonian lycopsid, which she named Clevelandodendron ohioensis in honor of Cleveland's 1996 bicentennial.[6] Chitaley also developed a technique of preserving fossilized material in coal balls using wax, which came to be known as the "Chitaley technique".[3]

In 2006, a newly discovered species of conifer from the Permian Period, Prototaxoxylom chitaleyii was named in Chitaley's honor.[7][8] In 2010 she won the Botanical Society of America award for her lifetime of contributions to paleobotany,[9] which included nearly 150 publications.[2]


  • 2004: Cardinal Award, Ohio Department of Natural Resources[10]
  • 2006: Medal for excellence in paleobotanical research and lifetime achievement award, Birbal-Savitri Sahni Foundation[5]
  • 2010: Award for Contributions to Paleobotany, The Paleobotanical Section of the Botanical Society of America[9]
  • 2011: Distinguished career award, Association of Midwestern Museums[11]


  1. ^ "Shyamala Chitaley Obituary". Obits for Life. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Segall, Grant (10 May 2013). "Researcher Shyamala Chitaely worked until nearly age 93 at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History: News obituary". Plain Dealer. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Chopra, Sonia (26 June 2000). "Retirement benefits". Rediff news. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Proceedings, Issues 1479-1529. Geological Society of London. 1952. p. cxiii. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Dr. Shya Chitaley 1918-2013". North Coast Fossil Club. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Chitaley, Shya; Pigg, Kathleen B. (1996). "Clevelandodendron ohioensis, gen. Et sp. Nov., A slender upright lycopsid from the Late Devonian Cleveland Shale of Ohio". American Journal of Botany. Botanical Society of America. 83 (6): 781–789. doi:10.2307/2445855. JSTOR 2445855. 
  7. ^ Chougule, Padmaja M. (November 2006). "Occurrence of Prototaxoxylon chitaleyii, a new species of coniferous wood from Dhanoli, Chandrapur District, Maharashtra" (PDF). Proceedings of the Diamond Jubilee International Conference at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany. Lucknow, India: Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany. 
  8. ^ "In The Field: Research News". Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "The Paleobotanical Section of the Botanical Society of America Award for Contributions to Paleobotany". The Botanical Society of America. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Beathard, Jane (28 October 2004). "Ohioans honores for commitment to the state's natural resources" (Press release). Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  11. ^ "AMM 2011 Awards" (PDF). Association of Midwestern Museums. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  12. ^ IPNI.  Chitaley.