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Women scientists around the world have been fighting gender bias for decades.

Women scientists around the world have been fighting gender bias for decades, despite being underrepresented, underpaid, and frequently not being recognized for their scientific accomplishments. During colonial rule in India, when modern science education was just beginning, this bias was probably at its worst. Savitribai Phule and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar had tirelessly advocated for girls' access to education, but there were still very few opportunities for women to continue their education or pursue a career in science. Kamala Sohonie, also known as Bhagvat, was born on June 18, 1911, in Bombay, during this turbulent period in India's history. She would not only become the first Indian woman to earn a Ph.D. over time. She would also have a stunning career as Cambridge's top biochemist with a D in a scientific field. Kamala was raised in a family with a lot of education. Narayan Bhagvat, her father, and Madhavrao Bhagvat, her uncle, were among the first chemistry students to graduate from the prestigious Tata Institute of Sciences in Bangalore, which is now known as the Indian Institute of Science. Kamala as a child grew to adore them and share their enthusiasm for science. So no one in her family was surprised when she decided she wanted to study chemistry as well. She enrolled herself in the BSc (Physics and Chemistry) course at Bombay Presidency College, following in the footsteps of her father and uncle after graduating from high school at the top of her class. Kamala applied for the IISc master's program after completing her graduation with flying colors (she received the highest grade in her class). She considered it not only to be a "family tradition," but also an important step toward her goal of becoming a successful scientist. At the time, Prof. C. V. Raman, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, was in charge of IISc, which was regarded as the best institution in the country for scientific research. As a result, Kamala's denial of admission to IISc came as a terrible shock. Despite her high graduation grades, Raman denied her admission solely due to the fact that she was a girl. He reportedly responded, "I am not going to take any girls in my institute!" even when her father and uncle asked him to give her a chance. Nonetheless, Kamala was made of more grounded stuff and chose not to accept the foul play without a fight. She took on the Nobel Prize winner because she was convinced that science research was her calling. When she met him, she demanded that he explain why he didn't let her in. She also challenged him to believe that she would succeed in her course! Raman initially refused to answer Kamala's questions, but when the young woman refused to give up, he retracted his statement because he was unable to provide an authoritative official justification to support his order. He agreed to let her in, but there were some conditions. These were the conditions: ~She won't be permitted as a customary competitor. She must work late at night in accordance with her guide's instructions. She will not harm the lab's environment. Kamala, 22, accepted everything in order to attend IISc and study, but this incident deeply hurt her. She made the following public statement at an Indian Women Scientists' Association (IWSA) celebration: Raman was a great scientist, but he had a very narrow perspective. The way he treated me simply because I was a woman will never leave my mind. I felt very insulted by this. At that time, the bias against women was so severe. If even a Nobel Prize winner behaves in this way, what can we expect?

Kamala devoted her entire being to her work while she was a student at IISc. M Sreenivasayya, a teacher, was the one who would make a lasting impression on her life. One of the trailblazers of microbiological research in India, Sreenivasayya was a severe and requesting educator however he generally made chance to energize and uphold understudies. Kamala worked under him on the proteins in milk, pulses, and legumes—a topic that had important repercussions for Indian nutrition practices. Raman was persuaded that women could succeed in scientific research by her dedication to her work. Kamala submitted her research in 1936, graduated with distinction from her MSc program, and received a research scholarship from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Raman opened IISc to female students the following year. There had been fought and won a silent revolution. Kamala arrived in the United Kingdom in 1937 and joined Derek Richter's group at Cambridge's Biochemical and Physiological Laboratory. She joined Robin Hill's research lab after Richter left to work elsewhere. The scientists were so impressed by her work here that they suggested she apply for a fellowship to work in Fredrick G. Hopkins's renowned laboratory. Hopkins, a Nobel laureate, revolutionized nutrition knowledge with his seminal discovery about the importance of vitamins in diet. In 1939, Kamala joined the Hopkins lab after applying for the fellowship and receiving it. The best period of Kamala's career came in the following few years. She submitted a thesis for her PhD in less than 16 months, inspired by Hopkins, describing her discovery of cytochrome C in the respiration of plant tissue. The review committee was impressed by Kamala's remarkable thesis, which was unconventional in many ways (it only had 40 pages, as opposed to the "normal ones," which had hundreds), and she became the first Indian woman to receive a doctorate in science. Kamala had begun receiving excellent offers from US pharmaceutical companies by this point, but in 1939, she decided to return to India. She wanted to support the nationalist struggle against British rule and was a fervent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Kamala joined the Nutrition Research Lab in Coonoor as Assistant Director, where she conducted research on the role of vitamins in nutrition after a brief stint at Delhi's Lady Hardinge Medical College. In 1947, Kamala moved to Mumbai after marrying M V. Sohonie, an actuary by trade. Kamala was selected for the position of Professor of Biochemistry by the government of Maharashtra, which had recently established a Biochemistry Department at Bombay's Institute of Science. She worked on neera, a popular drink made with sweet palm nectar, legumes, and rice flour, and how it could meet the nutritional needs of Indians, especially the poor, while she was at the Institute of Science. Kamala discovered that even if neera were transformed into jaggery and molasses to extend its shelf life, it would still contain significant quantities of vitamins and iron. This discovery laid the groundwork for using molasses and jaggery as a low-cost dietary supplement for children who are undernourished and pregnant women. She also became an advisor to Bombay's Aarey Milk Project Factory and created a procedure to prevent milk from curdling. She was given the Rashtrapati Award for her outstanding work, and she went on to become the director of the Institute of Science. Researcher Derek Richter, pleased with his ex-understudy, broadly shouted, "She has left a mark on the world." Kamala was also a prolific science writer who wrote a lot of books for young students in Marathi. In addition, she founded the Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) and authored a number of papers on consumer rights. CGSI was India's first consumer protection organization, established in 1966 by nine women. Kamala took her retirement in 1969 and passed away in 1998 after collapsing at a celebration of her accomplishments hosted by the Indian Council of Medical Research. India lost an amazing woman who didn't let anything stop her from living her dream of studying science for the rest of her life. Frequently Asked Questions: Who was Kamala Sohonie? Indian biochemist Kamala Sohonie was the first Indian woman to earn a PhD in a scientific field in 1939. Her admission to and employment at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, paved the way for the first time in the institution's history for women to be admitted. What year did Kamala Sohonie turn one? Born: Indore, June 18, 1912. When did Kamala Sohonie pass away? Died: New Delhi, June 28, 1998.

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