She is a personification of zest & determination to make things happen. Kamal Ranadive devoted her entire life to Cancer Research and the advancement of science education. Addressed as ‘Bai‘ by her colleagues & juniors, she was a nationalist and a Karmayogi who believed in hard work and pursued excellence. She herself believed that anyone able to achieve doctoral research abroad should come back to India and contribute to the nation. Something which she followed herself, motivated others to do so and that is how she became a pioneer of cancer research in India.
Her early life was spent in Pune, where she was born to parents who gave major emphasis on the education of their children. Of all their children, Kamal was the brightest. She started her college education at Fergusson College with Botany and Zoology as her main subjects. She earned her Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree with distinction in 1934. She then moved to the Agriculture College at Pune where she did her master’s degree (M.Sc.) in 1943.
She moved to Bombay after her marriage to J. T. Ranadive, a mathematician who became her biggest supporter. She went on to do her postgraduate studies in Cytology. Simultaneously, she also worked for her doctoral degree (Doctor of Philosophy) at Bombay University. Her guide was V. R. Khanolkar, a pathologist of repute and the founder of the Indian Cancer Research Centre. She obtained a postdoctoral research fellowship to work on tissue culture techniques and work with George Gey (famous for his laboratory innovation, the HeLa cell line) in his laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.
She returned to India and established the first tissue culture laboratory at the Indian Cancer Research Centre. She was instrumental in establishing the Experimental Biology Laboratory. She was also responsible for establishing new research units in Carcinogenesis, Cell biology, and Immunology. In 1973, Dr. Ranadive and her 11 other colleagues founded the Indian Women Scientists’ Association (IWSA) to support women in scientific fields.
Her research on Breast Cancer proved to be a milestone where through her studies she attempted to correlate the course of the disease with heredity, child-bearing, histological structure, and other factors.
A major study that Ranadive and her team of the Satya Niketan (a voluntary organization) of Ahmednagar undertook in 1989 was a collection of data related to the nutritional condition of tribal children in the Akola taluk of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. This project was a huge
success, providing awareness about nutrition and medical care to tribals, and training women health workers as primary health caregivers.
She was awarded the Padma Bhushan (India’s third highest civilian award) for Medicine, in 1982. She was awarded the first Silver Jubilee Research Award in 1964, by the Medical Council of India.
On 8 November 2021, her 104th birthday, Ranadive was honored with a Google Doodle! And yet many of us do not know about this great personality who never gave up on giving back to this country! I salute this great lady with all my heart.
My one-line takeaway: Excellence needs talent & perseverance and is not dependent on gender.
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.