Known for her immense contribution to cancer research, Padma Bhushan recipient Kamal Ranadive was one of India’s first woman cell biologists and scientists.

1. Kamal Ranadive

She set up the first tissue culture lab in the country and shaped iconic institutions like the Indian Cancer Research Centre (ICRC) as well as the Experimental Biology Laboratory.

Kamal was also the founder of the Indian Women Scientists’ Association (IWSA), which aimed to bring more women into the field of science.

2. Asima Chatterjee

Born in a middle-class family in 1917, Asima Chatterjee was encouraged to pursue education in whichever field she liked — a privilege girls rarely received back then.

Asima’s study on the Madagascar periwinkle plant contributed to the development of drugs used in chemotherapy to slow the growth of cancer cells.

In 1975, she received the Padma Bhushan award and was elected the General President of the Indian Science Congress Association.

Bibha Chowdhury is arguably India’s first woman researcher who was handpicked by Homi J Bhabha to join the newly established Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

3. Bibha Chowdhuri

This is because she was the first in the world to discover a new subatomic particle, the pi-meson (pion).

Bibha was on a mission to discover the hitherto hypothetical cosmic ray particle but gave up only due to the lack of high-quality photo plates during World War II.

4. E K Janaki Ammal

Janaki Ammal is India’s first PhD (botany) holder and received the Padma Shri in 1977 for her immense contribution to the field of science.

Her studies on sugarcane and eggplant eventually contributed to improving sweetness in India’s sugarcane varieties.

She was also invited by then prime minister PM Jawaharlal Nehru to restructure the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

Kamala Sohonie was the first Indian woman to gain a PhD in science. But a fact that is lesser known is that she was once turned down by Nobel laureate C V Raman.

5. Kamala Sohonie

He felt there was no room for female students at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). But Kamala persisted until she was permitted entry.

This set the precedent for other female students to also be admitted into IISc.