Skip to main content

Leslie Coleman Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-012

Content Description

This collection consists of the papers of Leslie Coleman, an entomologist, plant pathologist and virologist. He was the first Director of Agriculture in Mysore State. Coleman was instrumental in setting up agricultural research and agricultural education institutions in the state.

The Coleman papers are arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence

Series 2: Writings

Series 3: Media coverage

Series 4: Research reprints

Series 5: Photographs

Series 6: Material related to Coleman’s demise

Series 7: Other material from Coleman family

Series 8: Material collected by Ann Widdowson

The Correspondence series consists of letters to and from Leslie Coleman and the Coleman family. These have been divided into sub-series, letters to Leslie Coleman, letters from Leslie Coleman to family during visit to India, 1953-54 and tributes. The letters from India in 1953-54, document the people, places and events that were part of Coleman’s state sponsored tour of Mysore state. Tributes contain commemorative addresses given to Coleman during his visit to India in 1953-55.

Writings contain handwritten and typed work by Coleman reflecting on his work and travels in India. Coleman was thinking of writing a book about his time in India. His writings are based on his views and observations of agricultural practices and life in the villages and towns in the Mysore state.

The research reprints includes reports, papers and studies conducted by Coleman with his colleagues. Coleman’s research interests in plant pathology and experimental agriculture is part of this series, including his study of the Deccan grasshopper species he had conducted with K Kunhi Kannan.

Media coverage of Coleman’s retirement in 1933-34 contains newspaper clippings of an investiture ceremony and reports of Coleman’s retirement which detail his contributions to the Department of Agriculture in Mysore State.

The photographs series contains photographs taken by Coleman or his family members. The sub-series includes albums, group photos, greeting cards, loose photos, and photos related to Coleman’s visit to India in 1953-54. These document their everyday life in Mysore, travels around the state as well as in the rest of India. The photographs also document Coleman’s work with colleagues at the Department of Agriculture and other agriculturists and farmers across the Mysore state. Documented in the photographs are the Coleman and Morris family, their domestic staff, public buildings and landscapes of Mysore state such as Carlton house and Billigirirangan hills, and social and cultural events namely the Mysore Dasara celebrations. There are a few official albums and photographs that document certain agricultural activity in the Mysore State such as the sericulture factory in Channapatna or areca nut processing. Some of the photographs are sensitive ethnographic portraits of people categorised on basis on religion, caste or occupation through cultural practises, costumes or objects.

Material related to Coleman’s demise includes letters offering condolences sent to Coleman’s family, and media coverage which contains obituaries and newspaper reports of Coleman’s demise.

Correspondence sent to Coleman’s family from friends in India or any work that contains references to Coleman have been kept under other material from Coleman family. This includes notes on family history and a part of a picture book on the family.

Material collected by Ann Widdowson, Coleman’s daughter, are mostly related to a Coleman Lecture series and events at GKVK, Bangalore held in 2014. Also included are ephemera and documents related to Leslie Coleman such as biographical notes, a booklet etc.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1913 - 2014

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for public access unless mentioned otherwise. In its capacity as an academic and educational centre, the Archives at NCBS is making digital objects available online for open viewing and research purposes. The Archives at NCBS makes no representation that it is the copyright owner in all of its collections. While there is open access, the user must obtain all necessary rights and clearances before any use, reproduction or distribution of material. For details, please see Section 3 of our Access Policy:

Conditions Governing Use

The Archives at NCBS makes no representation that it is the copyright owner in all of its collections. The user must obtain all necessary rights and clearances before use of the material. People interested in using the collections are requested to refer to the researcher guide for publication of material:

Biographical / Historical

Leslie Charles Coleman was an entomologist and plant pathologist, who was appointed as the first Director of Agriculture in Mysore State. He is renowned for setting up local agricultural and experimental unions and research institutions across the state which lead to the growth of agricultural schools and educational institutions in the region. He was born on 16th June, 1878 in Ontario, Canada. After his schooling, following in the footsteps of his brothers, Coleman became a primary school teacher. In 1900, he graduated in science from the University of Toronto. He spent the summer of 1904 studying oyster cultivation at a marine research station in Malpeque and at Georgian Bay. After which he moved to Germany to obtain a doctorate from University of Göttingen. He trained under Heinrich Klebahn in mycology. Adolf Lehmann, a German-Canadian chemist who worked as agricultural chemist in Mysore state, recruited Coleman, who then moved to India in 1908, after he accepted the post of mycologist and entomologist in the State of Mysore.

After Lehmann’s unexpected departure, Coleman only after 10 months in India, found himself heading the Department of Agricultural Chemistry and a smaller Department of Mycology and Entomology. He worked primarily on plant protection, studying specific plant diseases and pests affecting cash crops in Mysore state such as Pellicularia koleroga in areca plantations and a pest Colemania sphenarioides which affected sorghum. He was known for implementing inexpensive solutions such as the Bordeaux mixture that cultivators could easily adapt. Coleman mentored a group of agricultural scientists in his department; K Kunhikannan, M J Narasimhan and Venkatrao K. Badami all worked with Coleman and studied plants and insects, researching areas such as low-cost pest management and experimental agricultural projects.

Coleman believed that the role of agricultural sciences was to create solutions and practices that could easily be adapted by cultivators. His collaborative and practical approach led to the creation of Agricultural and Experimental Unions. The Mysore Agricultural and Experimental Union was set up in 1918. Its success led to the creation of many more across the state. These unions consisted of land-owning cultivators who were interested in carrying out experimental trails with crops. He also influenced government policies in the state in relation to agriculture and education. He was the founding principal of the Hebbal Agricultural School in 1913 which was integrated into the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore in 1964. Similar schools were set up in Hassan and Chikkanhalli. His research and study on diseases affecting coffee influenced him to work towards implementing a Diseases and Pest Act (1917) which made it compulsory for planters to compact the coffee stem-borer disease. He was responsible for the sericulture department in the 1920s and developed civil veterinary units in districts. Coleman returned to Canada in 1925 due to ill health, but returned to India in 1927. He worked with plantation owners across Mysore state, acting as advisor and helping in setting up various projects such as the Coffee Research Station(1925) in Balehonnur and the Mysore Sugar Company (1933) in Mandya. Coleman left India to teach at the Toronto University in 1934. He returned to India in 1953 to visit his friends, and travelled across Mysore state as a ‘State Guest’. He reviewed the agricultural practices and compiled it into a report for the government in 1954. Shortly after returning to Canada, Coleman died in a car accident while travelling to his lab in Saanichton. Coleman was married twice. His first wife Mary Urquhart died while in India in 1918 and is buried in the Ralph Morris’ estate in Biligirirangan Hills. They had a son named John Coleman. He married Phebe Ropes in 1923 and had two daughters Louisa and Ann and one son, Leslie Coleman Jr. After his return from India, Coleman was writing about his experiences working in the Mysore state and was compiling his memoirs.


2.5 Linear Feet (5 Hollinger style archive-boxes and 1 oversize container)

Language of Materials



The intellectual arrangement strives to preserve provenance and original order of the papers. Where an original order could not be found, the Archives has applied an order, and folders within sub-series are arranged usually in chronological or alphabetical order. See Scope and Content section for details.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection draws from material related to Leslie Coleman donated by Dr. B. Mallik, Retired dean, GKVK. Coleman was appointed by the Maharaja of Mysore as Entomologist and Mycologist. He worked in Mysore from 1908 to 1933. When the Agriculture Department was established in 1913, he was appointed as its Director, a charge he held till 1933. Mallik received Coleman’s archival documents from Coleman’s family residing in Canada. Mallick wrote to Tom Widdowson informing him about the transfer of the Coleman material to NCBS Archives. Tom Widdowson consented to the transfer via email. Physical material was received on Feb 28, 2022 by Venkat Srinivasan, Archives at NCBS.


Cultural context




Uniform Title

MS-012 Leslie Coleman Papers
Venkat Srinivasan
March 30, 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives at NCBS Repository

National Centre for Biological Sciences - Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Bangalore Karnataka 560065 India
+9180 6717 6010
+9180 6717 6011