Late Professor Rajeshwari Chatterjee

India’s science and technological development took its own time to develop and cherish to what it is present today. Hundreds or may be thousands have dedicated their sincere service for the development. Among many places in India where Indian Science architects were present, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore stands top on the list. It has the reputation of having Noble Laureate Sir C V Raman as its director. In this blog I will write about a woman who was the first woman faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science, who was even the First Woman Engineer of India, Late Professor Rajeshwari Chatterjee.

Madam Rajeshwari was born on January 24, 1922 in a prestigious educated family of Nanjanagud near Mysore, Karnataka. Those were the days during which giving education to girl child was rare and young girls were tied knots even before knowing what the meaning of husband or life is. But Madam Rajeshwari was lucky, as she was from an educated family. She completed her graduation and post- graduation in Mathematics and Physics from Mysore University in 1942 securing First Rank. Being a post graduate she attended interview at IISc for project fellowship. There was a huge discussion and debate in accepting her, as she was the first woman candidate to attend interview. After a little hesitation, Sir C V Raman, being its director agreed and accepted her for the post of project fellow. It was the period of Pre-Independence.
After Indian Independence, Government of India invited applications for scholarships to pursue higher studies in aboard, with a condition to serve the country for three years after completing education. Madam Rajeshwari got the scholarship and went to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA to do her Master’s in Electrical Engineering and also did her Ph. D from the same university in 1954. She came back and joined IISc as faculty in Electrical Engineering. She was the first woman to be on the faculty of Indian Institute of Science. Being on the faculty of IISc, she has guided 20 Ph D students, who are in top positions of many research institutions. Apart from this she has published seven technical books related to Antennas, Microwave Engineering. She was married to Dr Sisir Kumar Chatterjee who was also a respected professor at the Electrical Engineering department of IISc. Having spent much of her time at IISc she finally retired as Professor and Chairman of Electrical Engineering Department in the year 1982. Madam Chatterjee was respected by her colleagues and students. Students were used to approach her for even suggestion for their personal problems. One more non-technical book to her credit is ‘A thousand Streams: A Personal History’ which has anecdotes of her life starting from her childhood to present which includes conditions of Pre and Post Independent India, her journey to USA all alone and status of women in society. The book is the reflection of intellectual brilliance and phenomenal memory of this great woman. A must read rare book which documents the situation of past by experiencing it.

After living a dignified and content full life Madam Chatterjee passed away on 3rd September 2010.

On a personal note, ‘Women in Engineering’ international conference was organized by IEEE at Bangalore in 2009, I was fortunate to attend as it was organized at the college which I was studying. In the same conference many who had done little work or contributed little to the field of Engineering were honored but no body were aware or known about Dr Rajeshwari Chatterjee, who had honor of being the first woman on the faculty of Indian Institute of Science.

Some of the featured articles about Dr Rajeshwari Chatterjee in current science and other newspapers, sadly some of them published after her passing away:
http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/10dec2010/1612.pdf
http://www.kamat.com/jyotsna/blog/blog.php?BlogID=1449
http://www.iiscalumni.com/news-events/obituary.htm
http://www.ias.ac.in/womeninscience/RChatterjee.pdf
http://www.hindu.com/2008/01/14/stories/2008011450040200.htm
http://www.lifescapesmemoirs.net/chatterjee/streams/index.htm
http://platinum.materials.iisc.ernet.in/~eswar/Alumni.pdf

Following website was developed by Late Rajeshwari Chatterjee to share some of her ideas and thoughts – www.rajchat.info


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