Every year, we celebrate 11th February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science, declared by the United Nations General Assembly in order to encourage females to step into the field. As we’re prepping up to celebrate the occasion in its full glory this year, let’s take a look at some of India’s trailblazing women in science who have made a mark in history with their technological prowess.
No list dealing with women in science is ever complete without this inspiring astronaut. Hailing from the small town of Karnal, her journey from Punjab Engineering College to NASA is beyond impressive. She became an astronaut candidate in 1994 and got the opportunity to fly into space for the first time in 1997. Struck by a mishap on her second voyage to space in 2003, Kalpana Chawla lived and died doing what she became known for all over the world.
Married and widowed at the age of 15, the hurdles in A. Lalitha’s way to success were notable. But none of them could stop her from applying to CEG, an essentially male-dominated institution back in 1939, and enrolling herself as CEG’s first-ever female student. Her passion for electrical engineering gave her premier roles in major projects like the Bhakra Nangal Dam and associated her with the work on its electrical generators. Her contributions in the electrical engineering domain remain remarkable till this day.
Celebrated as the ‘Missile Woman of India’, Tessy Thomas was the first woman to spearhead an Indian missile project. A pivotal part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), she played a key role in the making of Agni-V, a long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Including the DRDO Scientist of the Year in 2008, Tessy Thomas has received multiple prestigious awards for her groundbreaking role in India’s missile development programme.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Named among Time magazine’s ‘100 most influential people in the world’, Forbes magazine’s ‘100 Most Powerful Women’, and the recipient of several other accolades, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw continues to inspire us with her thought leadership. A prominent global figure in the field of research, innovation & healthcare, she is a leading self-made woman who has broken the glass ceiling and acts as the role model for millions of men and women alike.
Dr. Kamala Sohonie
The first Indian woman to secure a PhD in a scientific discipline, it wasn’t exactly a path of roses for Kamala Sohonie to pursue her calling in the conservative colonial India. Although she received premium mentorship from the Nobel laureate CV Raman at IISc, her time there was not free from sexual bias & discrimination. Nevertheless, she fought against all odds, completed her MSc degree with distinction and bagged a research scholarship at Cambridge University. A recipient of the Rashtrapati Award, Dr. Kamala Sohonie is still commemorated for her contributions in biochemistry.
A PhD-holder in Genetics from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Suman Sahai is known for advocating for the rights of the farming community. Through her research & advocacy organisation, the Gene Campaign, Dr. Sahai is rigorously involved in empowering the rural and tribal communities in India. Awarded with the Padma Shri Award, she continues to lead a distinguished career on issues pertaining to food, nutrition and livelihood.