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Home > Books > 10 Indian Women in Science!

10 Indian Women in Science!

Indian women science

It is heartening to know that there is an increasing number of women receiving an education in the sciences in India. Working in science has not been easy for women, with its long hours, societal biases, and the need to get married and have children in between. Let’s look at some of these women, often forgotten heroes, who have made great contributions to science and paved the way for others.

Janaki Ammal
At a time when women were regarded as ornaments of society and were confined to the four walls of their houses, Janaki Ammal certainly broke the stereotype when she pursued a career in scientific research. She was a botanist who studied cytogenetics and phytogeography. 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.

Anandibai Joshee
Anandibai Joshee was one of the first Indian women doctors qualified to practice western medicine).
Dr. Joshee’s short life was full of hardships; her family used to be rich landlords in Kalyan, Mahasrashtra, but they lost all their riches, and she was married at age 9 to a widower 20 years her senior. She gave birth at age 14 to a son who died shortly afterwards, and she herself suffered from poor health with an undiagnosed condition that often left her exhausted with shortness of breath and constant headaches. The death of her newborn son due to inadequate medical care is what inspired her to become a physician. She was also encouraged by her husband to study medicine abroad. Dr. Joshee, MD was in the class of 1886 at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (which was the first women’s medical program in the world). On her return to India, she was appointed as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local Albert Edward Hospital in the princely state of Kolhapur.

Kalpana Chawla
was the first Indian American astronaut and first Indian woman in space. She first flew on Space Shuttlee Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. She completed her earlier schooling at Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School, Karnal and completed her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Punjab Engineering College at Chandigarh in 1982. She moved to the United States in 1982 where she obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. Determined to become an astronaut even in the face of the Challenger disaster, Chawla went on to earn a second Masters in 1986 and a Ph.D in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Rajeshwari Chatterjee
Rajeshwari Chatterjee was the first woman engineer from Karnataka. In 1946, she was given a scholarship by the (then) Govt of Delhi to study abroad, and studied at th University of Michigan where she obtained her Master’s degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering. After obtaining a Ph.D 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.

Dr. Aditi Pant
Dr. Aditi Pant is a well known oceanographer who was the first Indian woman to have visited the icy terrain of Antarctica in 1983. She was a part of the third Indian expenditure to Antarctica and received the Antarctica award along with three of her colleagues for their contributions to the project. She worked in the National Institute of Oceanography and the National Chemical Laboratory.

Charusita Chakravarty
Charusita Chakravarty has been a professor of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi since 1999. Born in the USA, she relinquished her U.S. citizenship and now works in India. She has won several awards for her work, most notably, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize. She is an Associate Member of the Centre for Computational Material Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore.

Asima Chatterjee
Asima Chatterjee was an Indian chemist noted for her work in the fields of organic chemistry and phytochemistry (chemicals derived from plants). 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. She also authored a considerable volume of work on medicinal plants of the Indian subcontinent.

Dr Indira Hinduja
Dr. Indira Hinduja M.D., Ph.D. is an Indian gynaecologist, obstetrician and infertility specialist based in Mumbai. She pioneered the Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) technique resulting in the birth of India’s first GIFT baby on 4 January 1988. Previously she delivered India’s s first test tube baby at KEM Hospital on August 6, 1986.  She is also credited for developing an oocyte donation technique for menopausal and premature ovarian failure patients, giving the country’s first baby out of this technique on 24 January 1991

Dr. Suman Sahai
Sahai obtained a Ph.D from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in 1975. She then successively worked at the University of Alberta, University of Chicago,  and the University of Heidelberg,  where she obtained her habilitation in human genetics.  According to the Web of Science, , Sahai has published over 40 articles, mostly on policy issues relating to genetically modified organisms, which have been cited over 150 times, giving her an h-index of 7. She is director of the NGO,  Gene Campaign

Dr Sunetra Gupta
is a  Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford with an interest in infectious disease agents that are responsible for malaria, HIV, influenza and bacterial meningitis.. Gupta is currently Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. She sits on the European Advisory Board of Princeton University Press. She has been awarded the Scientific Medal by the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award for her scientific research. Her novels have been awarded the Sahitya Academy Award, the Southern Arts Literature Prize, shortlisted for the Crossword Award, and longlisted for the Orange Prize. Gupta’s portrait was on display during the prestigious Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition along with leading female scientist such as Madame Curie in July 2013

(source: Wikipedia)

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  1. melissajane14
    August 7, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    This is a great compilation Sajeev – especially since most of what you hear in the media about Indian women is when they become victims of violence. Thanks for posting 🙂

  2. August 11, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Hi Melissa – Yes India has too many newspapers and media. So often, only the negative side is in the news!

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