Asima Chatterjee- First Indian Woman to Earn a Doctorate in Science

India has always put a feather on the cap when it comes to its contribution to the field of science and development. Throughout history, it is evident that along with men, Indian women too have been prominent contributors to science. One such great personality in the field of science was Ms. Asima Chatterjee

Prof. Asima Chatterjee was born in 1917 in Calcutta, British India. In spite of the regressive ideologies people possessed for women back then, Chatterjee’s family was extremely supportive of her education and encouraged her to be an academic. Her father was very interested in botany and Chatterjee shared in his interest. She graduated with honors in chemistry from the Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta in 1936.

Asima Chatterjee received a master’s degree (1938) and a doctorate (1944) in organic chemistry from the University of Calcutta’s Raja bazar Science College campus, making her the first Indian woman to earn a doctoral degree in the field of science. She was acknowledged as the Doyenne of Chemistry. She specialized in synthetic organic chemistry and plant products as part of her doctoral research. Her research was directed by Professor Prafulla Kumar Bose, one of the pioneers in natural product chemistry in India. she was also inspired by the doyens of Indian science, like Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Professor Prafulla Chandra Mitra, and Professor Janendra Nath Mukherjee, who influenced her career as a natural product scientist. In addition, she had research experience from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Caltech with László Zechmeister. Chatterjee’s research focused on natural products chemistry and led to the development of anti-convulsive, anti-malarial, and chemotherapy drugs. She made significant contributions in the field of medicinal chemistry with special reference to alkaloids, coumarins and terpenoids, analytical chemistry, and mechanistic organic chemistry over a period of 40 years. Her work led to the development of an epilepsy drug called Ayush-56 and several anti-malarial drugs.

She published around 400 papers in national and international journals and more than a score of review articles in reputed serial volumes. In addition to many citations in her work, much of it has been included in several textbooks.

She has won several prestigious awards such as the S S Bhatnagar award, the C V Raman award, and the P C Ray award; and is the recipient of the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award, in recognition of her contributions to the field of science. In addition to these accolades, she was also the first woman to be elected as the General President of the Indian Science Congress, a premier institution that oversees research in science. She was also nominated by the President of India as a Member of the Rajya Sabha from February 1982 to May 1990.

On the request of the late Professor Satyendra Nath Bose, FRS, she wrote Sarai Madhyamic Rasayan, a book in Bengali on chemistry for secondary school students, published by Bangiya Bijnan Parishad, an Institute for the Popularisation of Science founded by SN Bose himself.

In an era where people saw women as mere “property” that belonged to her husband, she rose to earn a name for herself. Due to her impeccable contribution to the field of science, she is truly an inspiration to many young girls. Being one of a kind, her achievements will be lauded for many more years to come.

Women empowerment

Amongst covid-19 pandemic, 2021 budget has potential to increase women labor force participation up to 2 percent this year.

Nirmala Sitaraman, Minister of finance, the government of

India shared that budget 2021 has the potential to increase the employment of

women. COVID-19 pandemic had disproportionately impacted women

forcing them to drop out of the workforce. The women labor force participation according to the center comes down from 25 percent to 21 percent, due to job loss by women. In urban India only 12 out of every 100 still employed are women, a shocking

statistic, down from the already low 18. No doubt the covid 19 pandemics have resulted in many challenges such as pay disparities and expensive child care is an economic downturn that hit women workers measurably harder than men. Whenever the economy shrinks people lose jobs, then look for another job but women aren’t sitting it out so much as being pushed out by disproportionate job loss, 

lack of child care, pay disparities, and lack of public policy to support working women. women with children are much more likely to report that working from home has hurt their productivity and affected their careers  .there are three drivers of increased women labor force participation 1.Jobs that exist in locations where the woman has family support.2) Contemporary and new skilling (like digital marketing, for instance) that allows for marketability3) A government mandate that enables small businesses to be rewarded for hiring more women. The allowance of women to work in all shifts is a move towards reducing the gender divide brought in by COVID-19. This will help industries such as IT and BPO in Special Economic Zone’s, manufacturing companies in sectors such as Textiles, Pharma- as well as large organizations with a national presence. The textile industry, one of India’s ancient industries that employ the largest numbers of women has received a big stimulus with the announcement of seven Textile Parks. The third aspect which would allow small businesses to be rewarded for hiring women has not seen any pull in any of the budgets presented in the few last years. Large organizations in metropolitan cities have already bought the business case for both genders that led to women’s employment being enhanced. It is the 2 and 3 level metropolitan cities and towns that need the influence of involvement. And this is where there is a large population of women – educated, career-seeking, and yet unable to earn

reasonable money due to the non-availability of jobs matching their aspirations. As per data, young women in the age group of 20-24 across urban locales, are more interested in being employed than similar-aged women in rural India. As such, this is a very important talent pool, waiting to be engaged. The BPO and micro-enterprises in these locations will require a stimulus to engage women more proactively. Had the budget addressed this, by providing a bit small, yet encouraging a sum of money to employers of women, India would have seen a jump in women’s job creation to almost double-digit increases, which will have a multiplier effect on the economy.

Credit Where It Is Due

Who invented the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell. Who invented the computer? Charles Babbage. Who invented the automobile? Karl Benz. Who invented the airplane? The Wright Brothers. We all were taught in school about the great inventors and scientists who created history by creating something extraordinary, but as history has appreciated some of the remarkable people it has not been so kind to the women inventors and there were times when the credit of something remarkable was passed on to a man, stealing away not only the credit but also a chance to be recognized and be remembered always. Let us take a look at such incredible women who’s inventions were credited to their male counterparts.

Rosalind Franklin- In 1958, James D. Watson and Francis H.C Crick received a Nobel prize for their groundbreaking discovery o the double Helix, which changed our point of view of the human DNA, but little do we know that it was Rosalind Franklin who actually discovered the double Helix but died 4 years prior of cancer with no recognition whatsoever.

Lise Meitner- In 1944, Otto Hann won a prize in Chemistry from the Royal Swedish Academy for his discovery of nuclear fission. This discovery would later contribute to the making of the atomic bombs. The woman that he worked in this dangerous research was Lise Meitner, who never received credit for her work.

Hedy Lamarr- Hedy Lamarr was an American-Australian actress and a fashion icon, but she was also the brilliant mind who took part in the invention of the radio guidance system- the system that enables the WiFi and Bluetooth that we use every day. What’s tragic is that while she was presenting her invention to the Navy with her partner, George Antheil, the Navy just pretended to not be interested in it and then stole it later on. Unfortunately, she received her due to recognition in her 80s.

Margaret Knight- In 1868, a woman who was working at a paper bag factory, invented the machine that sealed and folded the paper bag on its own, saving millions of dollars in the workplace. It may sound nothing but back in 1868, it was a revolutionary idea. But there was a machinist who asked to see her machine and he went and tried to patent it in his name behind her back. Fortunately, she fought him and because there were several eyewitnesses, she managed to win the case and received her credit.