Field: Microwave & antennae engineering
Rajeswari Chatterjee was born in pre-independent India and was inspired by her fierce grandmother, Smt Kamalamma Dasappa to move ahead in life by pursuing higher education.
Rajeswari Chatterjee made headlines when the Department of Communication Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, welcomed its new member Rajeshwari Chatterjee in the year 1953, at a time when a large scale disparity prevailed wrt education imparted to men & women. At that time, she was the only woman faculty and is believed to be the first female scientist from Karnataka.
“I was born in January 1922 in a progressive, open-minded family, not perhaps with a silver spoon in my mouth, but surely with a book in hand,” Rajeshwari Chatterjee writes in the opening line of her article, “Lucky to Be Where I Am,” published by the Indian Academy of Sciences.
She had the privilege of receiving primary education under a ‘special English school’ founded by her grandmother. She was the University topper in both her graduate & undergraduate studies. After completing her MSc. in Mathematics from Central College in Bangalore in 1943, Rajeswari joined the IISC as a research student in the Electrical Technology Department in the area of Communication. After being chosen for her exemplary performance, she bagged a scholarship and decided to head to the United States. She secured admission for graduate studies in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan, the USA at a time, a woman deciding to go abroad was something that society never allowed. But Rajeswari never buckled under the process. In early 1953, she obtained her Ph.D. degree for which she received the guidance of Professor William G. Dow. After her Ph.D. and receiving the degree, Rajeshwari returned to the homeland and joined the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering at IISc in 1953 – this time as a faculty member. She married Sisir Kumar Chatterjee who was also the faculty at the same college.
Their love was mature and was based on principles to bring in some change in society. The husband-wife started research in the field of Microwave Engineering, which at the time was pioneering research in India. They soon built a microwave research laboratory.
For her contribution and works in the field of microwave engineering, the great engineer was bestowed with many awards and recognition, including the Mountbatten prize from the Institute of Electrical and Radio Engineering in the UK, J.C Bose Memorial prize from the Institution of Engineers, and Ramlal Wadhwa Award for the best research and teaching work from the Institute of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers.
Chatterjee’s research was focused mostly on passive microwave devices – specifically guided and radiated wave devices. Her work is still relevant, especially in the field of defense technology. Her authoritative book on the theory of antenna is still widely read.
Despite being the first female engineer from Karnataka, Chatterjee was never recognized by the state or Indian government for her contributions to the field of engineering during her lifetime. Posthumously, she was honored as “one of the country’s first women achievers” by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India.
And it makes me really sad that, not enough is done to recognize such struggles because these names still remain aloof in the corners. We have many who want to go abroad for a better life and it is not wrong, but I somewhere feel that despite having the best talent, our generation does not feel proud enough to serve the motherland. And maybe our lack of knowledge about knowing such legends is one of the cause!
My one-line takeaway- The road to success is not easy and it demands continuous input of energy, dedication & passion.
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