Today’s Google Doodle is dedicated to the Organic Chemist, Asima Chatterjee. It is a tribute to the path breaker on her 100th birth anniversary. Let us look into the life of the inspirational woman scientist.

  • Born on September 23nd, 1917, Asima lived in Calcutta. Her family encouraged her education, however, they didn’t think she was going to go this far.
  • She became the first woman in India to get a PhD in chemistry in 1944.  Also, she was the second Indian woman after Janaki Ammal to be conferred with Doctorate of Science. Also, she is the first woman elected to the position of the General President of the Indian Science Congress.
  • She succeeded in finding several anti- malaria and anti- epilepsy (Ayush-56) drugs. Furthermore, her work on vinca alkaloids, contributed to the development of drugs used in chemotherapy. They have the ability to slow the growth of some types of cancer by preventing cell division. Asima’s husband, Prof. Baradananda Chatterjee, had a great impact on his wife. He was very supportive of her work. Professor Baradananda Chatterjee, was also a renowned Physical Chemist himself.

    Asima Chatterjee
    Asima Chowdhry, Pic Credit: indian-scientists.padakshep.org/
  • One of early PhD students Dr SC Prakashi, recalls, “Being one of her early PhD students I have closely witnessed her initial struggles to establish herself. Those were trying days for research, particularly in the most ill-equipped university laboratories with inadequate chemicals and meagre financial assistance. Institutions such as the Department of Science and Technology or Department of Biotechnology under the Government were yet to come and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) was in the formative stage. Research guides had often to pay not only for chemicals, apparatus, etc. but also the charges of even elementary and almost all spectral analysis to be had from abroad. Scholarships were few and barely enough; hence, most of the students had to work part-time or without any scholarship just for the love of work and pay all the necessary cost of thesis submission, including printing, examination fee and even the postal charges for dispatching the thesis to the foreign examiner(s) which was compulsory, with hardly any job prospect for research as a profession.

    She received encouragement from Profs. Satyen Bose, Meghnath Saha, S. K. Mitra, B. C. Guha and Sir J. C. Ghosh and other Vice-Chancellors of Calcutta University.

  • She was a firm believer in collaboration and teaching, hence Dr Chatterjee founded department of chemistry at Lady Brabourne College.
  • Dr Chatterjee’s contributions to medicine were recognized by universities world over. Moreover, her work was acknowledged by the Indian government too.  As a result she was honoured with a Padma Bhushan and was appointed to the upper house of Parliament!
  • In 1967 she had a terrible heart attack, after losing her father and her husband in the same week. Later, Chatterjee died on November 22, 2006.

Navina Singh is an Intern with SheThePeople.TV 

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