We do not get to hear about the contributions to the field of science done by Indian women scientists often. Your mom may have inspired you with the success stories of Kalpana Chawla, Suneeta Williams, or Kiran Mazumdar, but she may not have told you about many other prominent scientists who have won both national and international recognition and awards. Unlike Kalpana Chawla, Suneeta Williams or Kiran Mazumdar, they were not in the limelight, but carried their work silently with dedication. Your mom may have not known them in the first place to tell you about them. Here are just few of the many such Indian female scientists who had a razor sharp brain, an uncanny ability to achieve goals, excellent execution of projects on hand and ability to convert thought into action, which they did without much fuss around them.
6. Darshan Ranganathan
Field of work: Organic Chemistry
Darshan Ranganathan is renowned for her research and study of protein folding, supramolecular assemblies, molecular design, and chemical simulation of key biological processes. She has also shed light on synthesis of functional hybrid peptides and synthesis of nanotubes. With her husband she edited Current Highlights in Organic Chemistry. Her life was cut short at 60 by breast cancer.
5. Janaki Ammal
Field of work: Botany, Cytology, phytobiology, evolution studies, ethnobotany and phytogeography
Edavaleth Kakkat Janaki Ammal was a revolutionary Indian botanist and geneticist who spearheaded the research on chromosome of a wide range of garden plants, vegetables and medicinal plants from the rainforests of Kerala. She later showed interest in the medicinal plants of Himalayas. Through her dedication and hard work she finally succeeded in throwing light on evolution of species and cross –breeding of plants in wild. She was a Founder Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1935 when the institution was set up by C.V. Raman.
4. Asima Chatterjee
Field of work: Organic chemistry, phytomedicine
Asima Chatterjee is noted for her contribution to the research on Vinca Alkaloids and for the development of anti-epileptic and anti-malarial medicine. Apart from this, she has written many articles and books on medicinal properties of plants found in the Indian sub-continent, in addition to carrying research on the chemistry of plant products and synthetic organic chemistry. Asima Chatterjee is the first woman recipient of Doctorate of Science by an Indian University.
3. Sulochana Gadgil
Field of work: Oceanography, Meteorology
Born in a country where economy and livelihood is highly affected by the Monsoon rains, Sulochana Gadgil dedicated her life to study the rainfall that decided the fate of many farmers in large part of India. Instead of depending totally on Monsoon, she came up with strategies in collaboration with the farmers that allowed them to deal with rainfall variability and modeling ecological and evolutionary phenomena. Her research included – Monsoon dynamics, Ocean dynamics, Ocean-atmosphere coupling and Rainfall variability and its impact on agriculture.
2. Sunetra Gupta
Field of work: Theoretical Epidemiology, Writer
Sunetra Gupta’s interests are a rare amalgamation of science and literature. Whereas on one hand she works as a Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford and sits on the European Advisory Board of Princeton University Press, on the other hand she wins Sahitya Akademi Award for her novel. Her research and study of the evolution of diversity in pathogens, with particular reference to the infectious disease agents that are responsible for malaria, influenza and bacterial meningitis are noteworthy. Widely popular as one of the greatest Indian female scientists of all time, she uses simple mathematical models to generate new hypotheses regarding the processes that determine the population structure of these pathogens. She manages her family of husband and two children along with her flourishing career both in literature and science with ease.
1. Maharani Chakravorty
Field of work: Genetic engineering, Molecular biology
Maharani Chakravorty is a pioneer in the field of science. She did her PhD on microbial protein synthesis from Bose Institute, Kolkata, her post-doctoral training in enzyme chemistry in the laboratory of B.L Horecker at the New York University School of medicine and ‘bacterial genetics and virology’ at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island in U.S.A. One of her most recognized contribution is establishment of the membrane complex of Salmonella typhimurium of having a sedimentation constant of 1000S, which is the site of not only DNA synthesis but also of RNA synthesis. After being recognized for her work in USA, she returned to India to continue her research and work in her motherland. She organized the first laboratory course on recombinant DNA techniques in Asia and Far East in 1981.