Asima Chatterjee
Born(1917-09-23)23 September 1917
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died22 November 2006(2006-11-22) (aged 89)
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
EducationUniversity of Calcutta (DS)
Baradananda Chatterjee
(m. 1945)
Scientific career
FieldsOrganic chemistry, phytomedicine
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
18 February 1982 – 13 April 1984
In office
9 May 1984 – 8 May 1990

Asima Chatterjee (23 September 1917 – 22 November 2006)[1] was an Indian organic chemist noted for her work in the fields of organic chemistry and phytomedicine.[2] Her most notable work includes research on vinca alkaloids, the development of anti-epileptic drugs, and development of anti-malarial drugs. She also authored a considerable volume of work on medicinal plants of the Indian subcontinent. She was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Science from an Indian university.[2]


Early life

Asima Chatterjee was born on 23 September 1917 in Kolkata, India.[3] She was born into a middle-class family which, at the time, meant no education for females. She was also the eldest child with a younger brother which meant having more responsibilities in an Indian family as you become the face of the new generation.[4] Her father Indra Narayan Mookerjee was a doctor and was very supportive of Asima and her brother’s education, which was rare at the time. Her father loved Botany, this was where she developed her interest in medicine. But, her particular interest in the field of medicine began with her curiosity regarding the medicinal properties of plants. In 1936, she did her higher studies in chemistry, passing with honors distinction, from the Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta. There weren't many girls in her class as women were rarely pushed to study more.[5]

Education work

In an era when the women did not commonly pursue higher education, Asima chose to study Chemistry. She graduated, with honours, from the Scottish Church College, University of Calcutta in 1936. She further pursued Masters in Organic Chemistry from the University of Calcutta and obtained the degree in 1938. She did not stop at this and went on to do her D.Sc. at the University of Calcutta. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate at an Indian University in 1944.[6] As a doctoral student, 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. She went on to work with Lásló Zechmeister at University of Wisconsin and Caltech for her post-doctoral research on biologically active alkaloids.

She later joined the University College of Science at the University of Calcutta as a Reader in pure Chemistry. She continued her research on the nature of biologically active compounds found in medicinal plants. At that time, it was very difficult for scientists to work due to fewer funds from the government and Asima had to invest her own money to send samples for analysis outside India. She struggled to get the necessary chemicals and reagents for her research and was barely able to pay her students' salaries. In spite of a huge setback in 1967, when she lost her father and husband within a span of 4 months, Asima Chatterjee came back to science after a few months (she suffered a major health scare herself at the same time). Her co-workers at that time provided her unstinting support and she overcame this trying period and continued her work.[6] Through her research, she developed anti-epileptic, anti-convulsive, and chemotherapy drugs to treat patients. The anti-epileptic drug – 'Ayush-56'- which she developed from Marsilia minuta is her most successful work and till date, it is used commercially.[7] From different types of plants she developed anti-malarial drugs with her team. She also dedicated 40 years of her time to research on cancer and anti-cancer growth drugs. She studied alkaloids, which were used effectively in chemotherapy for cancer patients.[8]

She was the first female to receive a doctorate and even started a chemistry department in the Lady Brabourne College of the University of Calcutta.[6]

Personal life

She married Baradananda Chatterjee, a physical-chemist, in 1945 and had a daughter, Julie, with him.[5] She died on 22 November 2006 in a nursing home in Kolkata, at the age of 89.


Chatterjee's contributions to science include the following:[9]

Awards and recognition

See also


  1. ^ a b "Google honours Indian chemist Asima Chatterjee on 100th birthday". India Times. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Shaping of Indian Science. p. 1036. Indian Science Congress Association, Presidential Addresses By Indian Science Congress Association. Published by Orient Blackswan, 2003. ISBN 978-81-7371-433-7
  3. ^ Medal Lectures, 1950–1983: A Collection of Lectures Delivered by Eminent Men of Science who Have Been Recipients of Various Medals and Honours from the Academy. Vol. 3. Indian National Science Academy. 1984. p. 112.
  4. ^ Jovita Aranha (23 September 2017). "Asima Chatterjee: All You Need to Know About One of India's First Woman Doctorates of Science!".
  5. ^ a b Karthika S Nair (14 March 2020). "Women's History Month: Asima Chatterjee". Archived from the original on 8 December 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Asima Chatterjee". Sci-Illustrate. 6 December 2019.
  7. ^ S C Pakrashi. "Asima Chatterjee" (PDF).
  8. ^ Woollaston, Victoria (23 September 2017). "Asima Chatterjee's life-saving work into treating cancer is marked in today's Google Doodle". Alphr. Retrieved 21 November 2022.
  9. ^ "Women Scientists of India: Dr. Asima Chatterjee – Google Arts & Culture". Google Cultural Institute. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  10. ^ Chemistry alumni of Scottish Church College Archived 6 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Smith, K.N. (23 September 2017). "Today's Google Doodle Honors Chemist Asima Chatterjee". Forbes. Retrieved 23 September 2017.

Further reading