Also known as the “Birdman of India” Salim Ali was a versatile ornithologist, explorer, and ecologist who conduct systematic bird surveys across India.
Born on 12 November 1896, in a Sulaimani Bohra family in Bombay, Ali was the youngest child of Moizuddin and Zeenat-un-Nissa. He attended the primary school Zenana Bible and Medical Mission Girls High School. Later he joined the St. Xavier’s College, Bombay.
W.S. Millard, the then secretary of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), introduced the young Ali to the serious study of birds after which Salim Ali made it a serious pursuit. W.S. Millard also showed him the BNHS's collection of stuffed birds and provided other valuable help and encouragement.
Salim Ali’s research work is considered highly influential in the development of ornithology. In 1941 he published ‘The Book of Indian Birds’. In 1926, he was hired as guide lecturer at the natural history section of Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay. After two years he went to Germany where he worked under Professor Erwin Stresemann at the Berlin Zoological Museum.
His contribution, research and discovery have transformed ornithology in India. For his extraordinary efforts, Salim honoured with various prestigious awards such as Padma Bhushan in 1958, Padma Vibhushan in 1976. India post has issued a postal stamp of 800 Paisa (8 Rupee) to commemorate him in 1996.
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