Field: Organic chemistry & phytomedicine
Dr. Asima Chatterjee is an accomplished organic chemist and is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of medicinal chemistry. She has a major role in developing anti-epileptic, anti-convulsive, and chemotherapy drugs.
She was the first woman to receive a doctorate of science from an Indian University. At a time when it was difficult for girls to get an education, she went on to achieve great feats. She had great zeal power but having said that she had a family, especially her father who supported her to pursue her education. Her father Indra Narayan Mookerjee was a doctor and believed in her daughter and her potential.
She graduated with Chemistry with honors from the Scottish Church College, the University of Calcutta in 1936. After completing her master’s in Organic Chemistry from the University of Calcutta in 1938 she went on to complete her D.Sc. from the same university. She became the first woman to receive a doctorate from an Indian University in the year 1944. She worked on the chemistry of plant products and synthetic organic chemistry with the renowned chemist, Prafulla Chandra Ray (known as the father of chemical science in India) and Satyendra Nath Bose, the famous physicist. Additionally, she had research experience from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Caltech.
Her Doctoral Research focused on the Chemistry of Plant Products and Synthetic Organic Chemistry. Chatterjee, like her father, exhibited an early interest in medicinal plants. According to the Indian Academy of Science, Chatterjee “successfully developed the antiepileptic drug, Ayush-56 from Marsilia minuta and the antimalarial drug from Alstonia scholaris, Swrtia chirata, Picrorphiza kurroa and Ceasalpinna crista.” She also discovered anti-epileptic activity in Marsilea minuta and antimalarial activity in the plants.
Apart from this her contribution was immense in the field of developing drugs that helped in chemotherapy. Her work on vinca alkaloids which belong to Madagascar periwinkle plants helped in this direction a lot. She published around 400 papers in national and international journals and most of which are cited in many textbooks even today.
Professor Asima Chatterjee was elected a fellow of the National Institute of Sciences of India in 1960. She received Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Award for Chemistry in 1961 from CSIR for her valuable contributions in the field of Chemistry of Natural Products. She is the first woman scientist to be elected as the General President of the Indian Science Congress in 1975.
She was nominated by the President of India as a member of the Rajya Sabha from February 1982 to May 1990. In 1975, she was honored by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce as the Woman of the Year for her contributions in science.
Achieving all this was never easy when not only because she was a woman but also because the research funding from the government was insufficient, the research labs were ill-equipped and there was a lack of many resources. But her fierce spirit never gave up and she had once said,“I wish to work as long as I live”.
She was awarded the Padma Bhusan by the Government of India in the year 1975 for her exemplary contribution in the field of science.
I hope, we get to hear, read and learn about such great personalities which generally does not happen.
PS: I have planned to take up non-fiction this year as my theme for the A2Z challenge, where every day in the month of April ( except Sundays) I will be writing about women in the stream of science and their contributions. Disclaimer -The information collected is from different sources available online.
The main objective is to draw inspiration and share information about such great lives who did it, despite all difficulties in their life.
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z .