There are hundreds of relatively-unknown women who have changed the world with their research throughout history. But these Indian women scientists have broken the stereotypes like anything.
In a male-dominated country and industry, these women scientists have risen above the rest and made a name for themselves. They are proof that when it comes to achieving great heights, gender is just a word. From being India’s first woman researcher to holding high positions at ISRO and NASA, these women have eternally etched their names in history. Today, we are celebrating just some of those many, many women scientists.
Indian women scientists who have made a difference
Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi
The first Indian woman physician who graduated with a two-year degree in Western Medicine in the United States, Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi’s interest in science developed from a personal tragedy. After being married off at the age of 14 to someone much older, she lost her newborn son due to the lack of medical infrastructure in the country at the time. This inspired her to study medicine so that nobody else had to face her tragedy. She went on to achieve a degree in 1886 at the first ever women’s medical programme in the world, at Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
An Indian physicist, she is one of India’s first woman researchers. The first in the world to discover a new subatomic particle called the pi-meson (pion), she was chosen by Homi J Bhabha to join the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). All through her career, she studied particle physics and cosmic rays. She even has a star named after her by the IAU, who re-christened the star HD 86081 as Bibha. Born in Kolkata, she studied physics at the prestigious Rajabazar Science College, and later worked on cosmic rays at the University of Manchester.
Another Indian women scientist who created history by being the first Indian scientist who received the Padma Shri Award in 1977. She was a botanist, who later on took on the prestigious position of Director-general of the Botanical Survey of India. After pursuing an honours degree in botany from the Presidency College in 1921, she studied and worked on plant breeding, cytogenetics and phytogeography. Her most notable work was on sugarcane and eggplant, or brinjal.
Known for her work in the fields of organic chemistry and phytomedicine, this was an Indian women scientist who is still highly regarded by organic chemists. Having studied chemistry at Scottish Church College in erstwhile Calcutta in 1936, she later on pursued research. She is highly regarded for her research on vinca alkaloids, the development of antimalarial drugs, and the development of anti-epileptic drugs. She is also the author of several books that focus on the work on Indian medicinal plants.
Probably one of the most famous names when it comes to women scientists of Indian origin, Kalpana Chawla’s work will be forever remembered. An astronaut and aerospace engineer, she was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She was one of the crew members who lost her life as the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it was trying to enter the earth’s atmosphere. She was awarded Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several other awards were presented in her honour.
An Indian woman scientist, Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for Agni-IV missile in Defence Research and Development Organisation, Thomas is known as the ‘Missile Woman’ of India. Why? She is the first ever woman scientist to have led a missile project in India. Having grown up near the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, her fascination with rockets and missiles began from there. With a doctorate in missile guidance, Thomas has worked in this field for decades and was even awarded the Agni Self-Reliance Award in 2001.
Dr. Aditi Pant
An Indian oceanographer, Dr. Pant was the first Indian woman to visit Antarctica in 1983, along with geologist Sudipta Sengupta, as a part of the Indian Antarctic Program to study Geology and Oceanography. Having studied BSc at the University of Pune, she did her masters in Marine Sciences in the University of Hawaii and PhD in Westfield College in London. She is known for having been in several notable positions in various prestigious institutions. The National Chemical Laboratory, National Institute of Oceanography, University of Pune, and Maharashtra Academy of Sciences are some of them.
Hero Image: Courtesy NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Featured Image: Courtesy NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons