Not enough can be said about the amazing Women in Science who did and continue to do their part in moving the world forward.

We are excited to announce a new series Women in Science, as part of Sci-Illustrate Stories, in collaboration with our media partner The Science Times. Every month, through the artwork & words of the Sci-Illustrate team, we will bring to you profiles of women who touched our hearts (and brains) with their scientific works, and of many more who currently hold the flag high in their own fields!


Series Director: Dr. Radhika Patnala

Contributing Artists:

Arghya Manna (Drawing History of Science)

Miler Ximena Lopez (milo.graphics)

Dr. Eleonora Adami

Past members:

Content Editor: Dr. Ju Lin Tan

Content Editors:

Dr. Roopali Chaudhary

Dr. Sumbul Jawed Khan

Dr. Eleonora Adami

Media Partner



Contributing Artist: Eleonora Adami, Ph.D., Sci-Illustrate Stories


Contributing Artist: Miler Ximena Lopez , Sci-Illustrate Stories

Reach her at milo.graphics





These are stories I wish I knew when I was growing up.

There are the stories of persistence, ingenuity, calibre, scientific achievement against all odds.

 These are the stories of Indian women who were the pioneers of Science in India.

 These are stories of lives that must be remembered and cherished.

Sci-Illustrate stories is proud to add a new chapter in our ongoing series where through the words of the sci-illustrate team, complimented by the artwork of a very talented Indian artist Arghya Manna, we will be revisiting and highlighting the lives of some incredible Indian women in science.

- Dr. Radhika Patnala


IRAWATI KARVE (1905-1970)

The first woman anthropologist of India, Irawati established the Anthropology Department at Pune University when it was a fledgling field.

Born in Myanmar (then Burma), where her father worked as an engineer, she grew up in Pune, Maharashtra, belonging to a well-to-do family that prioritized good education. After her B.A. from Fergusson College, Pune, & M.A. in Sociology from Bombay University she married Dr. Dinkar D. Karve. She obtained her Ph. D. in 1930 from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology in Germany where she carried out comparative analysis of the human skull amongst supposedly diverse racial groups; and although this meant staying abroad for 2 years, her husband encouraged it & continued to be supportive throughout her career.

Between 1939-1970 she worked at the Deccan College, Pune as a professor. Despite being uncommon for women to do fieldwork back then, she undertook extensive travelling to different parts of India including remote tribal area as she considered it crucial to her research. Irawati combined both physical & social anthropology approaches by collecting anthropometric & linguistic data from populations. She used these tools to establish how kinship, family, caste & religion define the structure of Indian society. She published over 112 articles & books in English & 10 books in Marathi.

Iravati wore many scholarly hats. She was well versed in Sanskrit & Pali languages & used it to mine ancient texts for sociological features. Her surveys of dam-displaced people & tribal markets provide a socio-economic commentary on them. Her acclaimed literary work in Marathi earned her the Sahitya Academy Award. The Irawati Karve Museum of Anthropology in Pune was established to recognize her contributions.

Her illustrious career spanned from the time of colonial rule to the post-independent India. A scientist of international repute, she created a nuanced understanding of the diverse Indian society.

Post by Sumbul Jawed Khan, Illustration by Arghya Manna. Sci-Illustrate Stories. #sciillustratestories #womeininscience #sciencetimes#anthropology #sociology #kinship

ANNA MANI (1918-2001)

Anna Modayil Mani or ‘The Weather Woman of India’ was a renowned physicist & meteorologist. She worked at the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) for 30 years & retired as its Deputy Director General in 1976. She subsequently served as a visiting professor at the Raman Research Institute for three years. 

Anna was born in a large affluent family, & was the 7th of 8 children. She had interest in reading books since an early age & was as well educated as her brothers, something not very common for women of that time. After graduating in Physics Anna started working at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 1940 with Prof. C V Raman, where she studied the spectroscopy of diamonds & rubies. Unfortunately however, Madras University denied her a Ph.D. as she did not have a master's degree. Unfazed, she went to Imperial College, London in 1945 to pursue specialization in meteorological instrumentation. 

Anna returned to independent India in 1948 & joined the Instruments Division of IMD, Pune, where she worked to calibrate & manufacture meteorological instruments. Anna was a true Gandhian by philosophy & firmly believed in ‘Swadeshi’ (or ‘Make in India’). Anna used her newly acquired expertise & fulfilled her dreams to make India self-sufficient in weather instruments.

In 1963 Anna successfully set up a meteorological observatory & instrumentation tower at the Thumba Rocket Launching Facility. Her two books, ‘Handbook of Solar Radiation Data for India’ (1980) & ‘Solar Radiation Over India’ (1981), have become standard reference guides for engineers engaged in solar thermal systems. Her visionary goal was to make wind and solar energy more widely used in India.

Although she once said that “my being a woman had absolutely no bearing on what I chose to do with my life”, but her achievements are exemplary for women of her time. She serves as a great role model for today’s women & remains an inspiration for future generation of scientists.
Credit: Post & Illustration by Arghya Manna, Sci-Illustrate Stories
#womeninscience #sciillustratestories #womeninstem #sciart #meteorology#annamani #solarenergy #windenergy

The first female cosmic ray researcher in India



 1913 was a historical year for Indians. Among the social and political turmoil in colonial India,  , born in Kolkata (then Calcutta), was one of India’s first women physicists.

 When Bibha started her career, key fundamental particles were yet to be discovered. Together with Debendra Mohan Bose they made many significant findings on meson particle and published three consecutive papers in Nature. Due to lacking supply of cloud chambers and electron sensitive photographic plates, DM Bose sent his star student to England to continue her research.

 In 1945, Bibha joined Patrick Blackette who was studying air showers in cosmic rays, hailed to be one of the most important investigations in Particle Physics. In 1948 Blackette won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to Nuclear Physics.

 Upon her return to India, she joined Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) as a scientist and their first woman appointment. In 1960, Bibha helped the Indian government set up the Kolar Gold Field (KGF) neutrino research laboratory, which helped India become a global partner in international particle physics research collaborations at CERN and Fermi Labs.

 Despite dedicating her entire life to the particle physics research and putting India on the map in her field, Bibha’s life and accomplishments are but a silent fleeting memory.  Almost nothing is known about her family, she breathed her last in her Broad Street residence at Kolkata on 2nd June 1991.

 In 2018, publication of a book titled: A Jewel Unearthed: Bibha Chowdhuri, The Story Of An Indian Woman Scientist,  by Dr. Rajinder Singh from Germany and Prof. Suprakash Chandra Roy from Bose Institute breathe new life into her story, her scientific journey so that we all have the privilege of remembering her and what she dedicated her life to.

 Post and Illustration by Arghya Manna, Sci-Illustrate Stories

 Reference: BIBHACHOWDHURY: A JEWEL UNEARTHED by Rajinder Singh and Suprakash C. RoyVerleg, Aachen, 2018.

Sudeepti sengupta-Sci-Illustrate WIS.jpg

The first Indian woman to set foot on Antarctica. hashtag#womeninscience


27th December 1983 was a historical day for Indian Science. The Indian govt started thinking about an expedition to Antartica in the 70s, from which ‘Mission Gangotri’ was born. In 1983, plans were made to establish a permanent Indian research station in Antartica, called “Dakshin Gangotri” , which materialised under the leadership of Dr. Harsh Gupta. The team had for the very first time on an Indian Antarctic expedition two female scientists on board, one of which was Sudipta Sengupta, other being Dr. Aditi Pant. Dr. Sengupta is a structural geologist, who had done extensive research on the Schirmacher Hill of East Antarctica and captured her life experiences in her book "Antartica". On her return from Antarctica, Sudipta joined Jadavpur University as a teacher and scientist. In 1991, Dr Sengupta was awarded Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, the highest award to an Indian Scientist for her contribution in structural geology. She also received the National Mineral Award and the Antarctica Award from the Government of India.


We are remembering women in science who won our hearts and brains. Illustration and Post by Arghya Manna



World War II was at its peak. London was bombed several times. Many escaped to the countryside. John Inns Horticulture institute was almost empty. Among few, an Indian woman continued her research amid the bombing campaign and chaos of war. Janaki Ammal.

Janaki Ammal was one of the first women scientists to receive the Padma Shri way back in 1977. She lived a life only a handful of other women of her time lived.

The pioneering botanist and cytogeneticist are credited with putting sweetness in India’s sugarcane varieties. She was the first Indian scientist who meticulously studied chromosomes of thousands of species of flowering plants found in the subcontinent. There is even a flower named after her, a delicate bloom in pure white called Magnolia Kobus Janaki Ammal.

Janaki Ammal's life is an example of sheer courage and dignity. She escaped marriage to her first cousin to continue study and research. Born into a caste considered backward and being the single woman scientist working at Indian Academy of Science, she faced intolerable gender and caste discrimination from her fellow colleagues. Such barriers could not stop her to continue scientific research. She left for London.

Journalist and writer Geeta Doctor (and Ammal’s niece) once described Janaki Ammal as ‘commanding’, and like a ‘Buddhist lady monk’. Doctor also remembers her as having refused to talk about her personal life, saying, “My work is what will survive.”

Illustration and Post by Arghya Manna (Drawing History of Science), Sci-Illustrate Stories

#womeninscience #thesciencetimes #womeninstem #sciillustratestories#India #Indianscientists #science #chemotherapy #illustration #polaroid#sciart #scicomm #sciencecomics #bestheroine #medicinal #natural#prestigious #womeninhistory



Last year was her 100th birth anniversary. Born on September 23, 1917, Asima Chatterjee was one of the first women in India to earn a doctorate in Science under the British Raj, receiving her Ph.D. in 1944 from the University of Calcutta.

During 30s-40s, higher education for the girls was rare in India. But, as a young girl, her parents never restricted Asima from pursuing education. "Dr. SC Prakashi, one of her Ph.D. students, reminiscences: "Being one of her early Ph.D. students I have closely witnessed her initial struggles to establish herself."

Through her scientific work, she reminded the world about the glorious days of traditional Indian medicine using plants. She researched medicinal chemistry and developed leading anti-convulsive, anti-malarial, and chemotherapy drugs from natural products.

Asima Chatterjee spent long 40 years to find out structure and function of various natural products, isolated from plants. She was the first Indian who had initiated the scientific investigation on alkaloids in Rauwolfia canescens. Two times Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling was a great admirer of her science.

In 1961, she became the first woman to be awarded the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize-the most prestigious award for Indian scientists.

Illustration and Post by Arghya Manna (Drawing History of Science), Sci-Illustrate Stories

#womeninscience #thesciencetimes #womeninstem #sciillustratestories #India #Indianscientists #science #Asima #chemotherapy #illustration #polaroid #sciart #scicomm #sciencecomics #bestheroine #medicinal #natural #prestigious #womeninhistory