The Department of Botany was established in the year 1937 when the Madras Christian College left its urban location in George Town, Madras, and moved to the sylvan surroundings in the Selaiyur Reserve Forest, Tambaram. The B.Sc Degree course in Botany was started with just a couple of rooms in the south - east corner of the main building and about a dozen students. Professor M. S. Sabesan was the first head of the department with one lecturer and a tutor. The museum and library were shared between the Botany and Zoology Departments. During the 1950s the student strength increased to 25 and a majority of them were from Sri Lanka and Malaysia. In the long course of 70 years (1937 - 2007) of journey, the Department of Botany has provided education and training in plant sciences for about 2400 undergraduates and more than 600 post graduate students. In the recent years more than 100 scholars have received M. Phil degrees and as many as 21 Ph. D degrees have been awarded. Affiliated to the University of Madras, the Department has been recognized as a Centre of Higher Learning in plant sciences particularly in relation to Plant Biotechnology with a current strength of 140 UG students and 50 PG students besides 10 M. Phil and as many as 5 Ph. D scholars. Since July 2006, B. Sc course with an emphasis on Plant Biotechnology and related papers has been started as an integral part of the Evening Self Financed Programme of the College.
The department flourished as a centre of learning and education in plant science under the guidance and tutelage of Dr. K. R. Venkatasubban, whose tenure lasted for 24 years (1944 - 1968). He is remembered by his students and colleagues for his scholarly lectures, and for his deep sense of commitment and dedication. Dr KRV initiated novel academic programmes such as starting the PG (M. Sc) course in the year 1959 with as many as 11 students (Dr. D.E.P. Jeyasingh former Professor and Head and Dr. Kesava Bhat - an eminent Botanist were members of the first batch of M. Sc students). Succeeded in the later years by equally eminent and dedicated teachers, namely, Dr. Crispin Devadoss (1972 - 1991), Dr. D. E. P. Jeyasingh (1991 -1996), Dr. P. Dayanandan (1996 - 2003) and followed by Dr. C. Livingstone (2003 -2007), the department witnessed significant innovative changes in the curriculum with the introduction of new papers and special projects (optionals) at UG and PG levels besides high quality research projects carried out by the senior professors and their research scholars leading to several accomplishments. This has been possible ever since the College was granted autonomy in the year 1978. Prof K. Damodaran Thampan, Prof Giles Lal, Dr. D.S. Rajasekaran, Prof B. Augustine, Dr. S. Madhavan, Dr. K. Selvaraj and Prof. Durairaj Rajiah have contributed immensely in providing best education and training to the students in their chosen areas of specialization. These academicians with commitment and dedication guided, promoted and nurtured the love for plants and a spirit of enquiry among the students. This continues to be the highlight of this department even at present. Dr. PonSamuel Jeyakumar served actively as a faculty member of this department during 1979 - 1992 during which he introduced novel experiments in Plant Physiology & Biochemistry besides introducing a course paper in Plant Tissue Culture and Experimental Embryogenesis in late 1980s. He has been responsible for establishing the plant tissue culture laboratory facility for the immense benefit of M. Sc. students. Subsequently student projects in the field of tissue culture received a shot in the arm and culminated in the presentation of quality papers in seminars / symposia.
It is indeed a matter of pride and coincidence that many of the students of this department are now shaping teaching of biology in schools, colleges and universities. Many of the alumni are holding positions as the leading researchers and scientists in the universities in India and abroad.
The shifting of the department in the year 1987 from the main building to a spacious 2 floor Department Building designed and constructed with the monetary assistance from Central Agency, Bonn, West Germany marked the beginning of an era of research in several disciplines of plant sciences. This has been feasible with the help of German grant providing not only spacious laboratories, but also necessary infrastructure to support and supplement research activity. An advanced spectrophotometer, Refrigerator centrifuges, Sartorius balance and Nikon microscopes for use by the faculty and above all a binocular Labophot NIKON MICROSCOPE fitted with a camera for photomicrography are the special equipment received by the department that helped various research projects carried out by the research scholars as well as the faculty members.