Udayavni Special

Rajeshwari Chatterjee: Karnataka’s first female engineer

Team Udayavani, Aug 2, 2020, 3:21 PM IST

Born on January 24, 1922, in a family of highly learned and professional stalwarts, Rajeshwari Chatterjee was never short of inspiration or resources of knowledge.

Rajeshwari’s father, B.M.Shivaramajah, was an advocate in Nanjangud. Her brother was the giant of Kannada literature B. M. Srikantaiah and her maternal grandmother Kamalamma Dasappa was the first woman to finish graduation in the erstwhile Princely State of Mysore.

Kamalamma had started the ‘Special English School’ which had an accelerated syllabus that allowed girls to complete matriculation before the age of 14. Rajeshwari did her schooling here.

She went to Central College, Bengaluru where she finished her BSc and MSc in Mathematics. She ranked first in both her undergraduate and postgraduate exams in Mysore University and received the Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar Award, the M.T. Narayana Iyengar Prize and the Walters Memorial Prize for her achievements.

She joined the Indian Institute of Science as a research student in 1943 and till the end of the Second World War was there.

In 1946, after the end of the war and before Independence, the Interim Government of India offered scholarships to researchers to study abroad. Rajeshwari applied for the scholarship and chose to study at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.

After being admitted by the university, she left India in July 1947, a month before Independence, for the USA aboard a ship. She travelled on the ship for about 30 days all alone.

At the University of Michigan, she pursued a master’s degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering. She went for training at the National Bureau of Standards’ Division of Radio Frequency Measurements at Washington DC for eight months and later returned to the university to complete her studies.

She left the university with a doctoral degree in 1953 and returned to IISc the same year and started teaching at the Institute’s Department of Electrical Communication Engineering.

Rajeshwari Chatterjee

In the same year, she married Sisir Kumar Chatterjee, a faculty member at IISc. Both of them then started a microwave electronics research laboratory in the Institute. She worked, taught and was a mentor to about 20 students in their doctoral research and published books and research papers.

She retired for IISc in 1982. He husband Sisir Kumar died in 1994. Post-retirement she was involved with the Indian Association for Women’s Studies until her death on September 3, 2010.

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A decade after her death rarely is the name Rajeshwari Chatterjee heard in Karnataka’s scientific circles. There’s no scholarship by her name in the State as well as the country.

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