Guest AuthorNeha Bagaria

Kamala Sohonie: First Indian Woman to get a Doctorate in Science

By | Sandhya |

Yes, she is the first woman in India to get  PhD in Science in Biochemistry!  Born in Indore in 1912, she was raised in an academic environment right from her childhood since her father and uncle were both chemists and alumni of Tata Institute of Science (later renamed as Indian Institute of Science) in Bangalore. 

She followed the ‘family tradition’ and graduated in 1933 with a BSc degree in Chemistry and Physics from Bombay University. When Kamala decided to continue her studies and applied for Indian Institute of Science(IISc) for a research fellowship, it was turned down by the then Director of IISc and renowned Nobel laureate Prof. C.V. Raman on the grounds that women were not competent enough to pursue research! 

Kamala, though initially taken aback, stuck to her stand and countered his rejection by holding a ‘satyagraha’ outside Prof. C V Raman’s office and finally succeeded in persuading him to grant her admission. He finally relented but with some stipulations. After this, the doors of the hallowed institution were thrown open to women who were hitherto disallowed. 

She later went to Cambridge University and obtained a doctorate degree in biochemistry researching plant tissues and enzymes in 1939. Later on she came back to India and on a call from Mahatma Gandhi, joined the nationalist struggle. 

Her research explored into the effects of vitamins and into the nutritive values of pulses, paddy, and groups of food items consumed by some of the poorest sections of the Indian population. Her work won her Rashtrapati Award.

Kamala Sohonie passed away in 1998 during a felicitation ceremony organized by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in New Delhi. 

Her resilience is an inspiration to many women to dare to dream and forge ahead crossing any hurdles that may approach. 

Republished with permission and originally published at

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