Indian women have set their foothold in many sectors and are giving a tough competition to their male counterparts. However, scientific research is one field which has historically been associated with men. Even today, when asked about scientists, we immediately think of Einstein, Newton, Edison or in the case of India, names of CV Raman, Jagdish Chandra Bose or APJ Abdul Kalam come to our mind. Even as there have been many women scientists, we hardly remember any except the likes of Marie Curie. In India also, there are women scientists who have done exemplary work in their respective fields but their contribution has not been well-recognised.
Here is a list of seven women scientists who have made India proud with their pioneering work
1) Asima Chatterjee:
Chatterjee was a noted chemist renowned for her work in the field organic chemistry and phytomedicine. She has also contributed to the development of cancer medicine, anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs. She was the second woman after Janaki Ammal on whom Doctorate of Science was conferred by an Indian University. After her return to India in 1950, she vigorously pursued investigations on the chemistry of Indian medicinal plants. She published around 400 papers in national and international journals and they have been extensively cited. She was nominated by the president of India as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
2) Dr. Indira Hinduja:
Dr. Hinduja is credited with delivering India’s first test tube baby on August 6, 1986. Her pioneering work on Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) technique resulting in the birth of India’s first GIFT baby on January 4, 1988. She has also developed oocyte donation technique for menopausal and premature ovarian failure patients. She was awarded Padma Shree for her exemplary work in the field of medicine.
3) Dr. Aditi Pant:
Dr. Pant is the first Indian woman to set her foot on the icy terrain of the Antarctica along with Sudipta Sengupta. It was during her college days in Pune that Aditi came across the book – The Open Sea by Alister Hardy. It was then that she decided to become an oceanographer. She did her MS in Marine Sciences from the University of Hawaii and obtained a doctorate from the London University in the Physiology of Marine Algae. She was the first Indian lady to join the Third Expedition of the Antarctica region in the year 1983. She worked as a part of the Indian Antarctic Programme to research about oceanography and geology.
4) Dr. Charusita Chakravarty (1964-2016):
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 5 May 1964, Charu later came to India and did her B.Sc. Chemistry program from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. She went to Cambridge University to do her last two years of Natural Science Tripos. Charu later gave up her American citizenship. She joined IIT Delhi as an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department in 1994 where she rose to the rank of a Professor in 2006 and stayed on till the end. Her work on the development and application of quantum and classical computer simulation methods to understand properties of liquids, and their atom-level reorganisations, has won her accolades across the globe. She was awarded hanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Award in 2009 and B.M. Birla Science Award in Chemistry in 1999, for her pioneering work.
5) N Valarmathi:
Valamathi spearheaded the successful launch of India’s first indigenously-developed Radar Imaging Satellite RISAT-I. She joined ISRO back in 1984 and has been involved in many missions including Insat 2A, IRS IC, IRS ID, TES. She was awarded Abdul Kalam Award, instituted by Government of Tamil Nadu in the honour of former president Abdul Kalam in 2015. In her message to women, the scientist said: “I would say all women are equally capable and they all have very good potential; it should be properly utilized.” She is the second woman scientist of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to head a prestigious project after T K Anuradha, project director of the GSAT-12 mission in 2011.
6) Tessy Thomas:
Known as the ‘Missile Woman’ of India, Tessy is the project director for Agni-IV missile in the Defence Research and Development Organisation. She is the first Indian woman to head a missile project. She works for the DRDO and not ISRO. She has played key roles in many nuclear projects of India, particularly in the making of its long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, the Agni-V. Tessy Thomas, who was named after Mother Teresa, grew up looking at rockets being launched from Thumba, a former space launching station in Kerala.
7) Janaki Ammal:
At a time when women were restricted to the confines of their four walls and education was a distant dream for most of them, Janaki Ammal broke the glass ceiling and pursued her career in science and decided to become a scientist. Born in 1897, Ammal later grew into a pioneering botanist who studied cytogenetics and phytogeography. She is the person credited with putting sweetness in India’s sugarcane varieties. She worked extensively on genetic crosses, and lived and worked in London and Wisley. She lived in England for a few years, conducting chromosome studies on a wide range of garden plants, but soon returned to India and became the Director General of the Botanical Survey of India. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1957.
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