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Women of Science from India who showed the world what women can do

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, let us take a look at the women who deserve equal recognition as their male peers in the field but have hardly been acknowledged by the general public. Here are few such women in the field of Science whose contributions to the cause of human progress have been mammoth. What’s even more special, we have chosen all such women who are of Indian origin:

Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi

Joshi was the first Indian woman physician and the first woman to have graduated with a two-year degree in Western Medicine in the United States. Her personal life led her to take up medicine. She was married at the age of nine to a widower who was 20 years older to her. At the age of 14, she gave birth to a son who died soon after, due to lack of enough medical facilities. The death of her new-born inspired her to become a physician. Her husband encouraged her to study medicine abroad. She studied at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1886; this was the first women’s medical program worldwide.

Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi

Kamala Sohonie

Sohonie was the first Indian woman to have bagged a PhD degree in the scientific discipline. She applied to the IISc for a research fellowship and met with rejection merely because she was a woman. She was the first female student of Prof. CV Raman, who was the then IISc director. Due to her excellent performance, Raman gave her permission to pursue further research. She discovered that every cell of a plant tissue contained the enzyme ‘cytochrome C’ which was involved in the oxidation of all plant cells.

Kamala Sohonie

Janaki Ammal

Ammal was the first Indian scientist to have received the Padma Shri Award in 1977, who went on to occupy the reputed post of the director-general of the Botanical Survey of India. In the 1900s, Ammal took up botany, which was an unusual choice for women. She obtained an honours degree in botany from the Presidency College in 1921. She pursued scientific research in cytogenetics — a branch of genetics that is concerned with how the chromosomes can relate to the cell behaviour and phytogeography — concerned with the geographic distribution of the plant species. Ammal’s most renowned work is on sugarcane and Brinjal.

Janaki Ammal

Asima Chatterjee 

An Indian chemist, she is regarded highly for her works in the fields of organic chemistry and phytochemistry (chemicals derived from plants). She graduated in chemistry from the Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta in 1936 and then pursued research.  Her most notable work includes research on vinca alkaloids (derived from the periwinkle that is known for its anti-cancer properties), and the development of anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs.

Asima Chatterjee 

Rajeshwari Chatterjee 

First woman engineer from the state of Karnataka, Rajeshwari received a government scholarship to study abroad in 1946. She studied at the University of Michigan where she obtained her Masters degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering. After obtaining a doctorate degree, she returned to India and joined the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering at IISc as a faculty member where she along with her husband set up a microwave research laboratory where they did pioneering work on microwave engineering

Rajeshwari Chatterjee 
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