In 1917, Dr. Kamal Samarath, also known as Dr. Kamal Ranadive, was born in Pune. Her family pushed her to pursue a medical degree, but Ranadive was more interested in biology. While working at the Indian Cancer Research Centre, Ranadive acquired a PhD in cytology, the analysis of cells. She was not only one of the first researchers to find linkages between tumours and particular viruses during her time as director of the centre, but she was also one of the first to establish a relationship between breast cancer and genetics. Ranadive has worked on developing a vaccine for the bacteria that causes leprosy. She was a founding member of the Indian Women Scientists’ Association, which was founded in 1973 to assist women who wanted to pursue careers in science.
Following her retirement in 1989, the scientist served in Maharashtra’s rural areas, educating women to be health workers and offering health and nutrition courses. This initiative was a big success, with tribals learning about nutrition and medical care and women health workers being trained as primary health care providers. In India, the IWSA has 11 branches and offers scholarships and childcare to women in science.
Influence on people
Dr. Ranadive, affectionately known as “Bai” by her coworkers and pupils, had a commanding presence. She was a stern disciplinarian who instilled in her pupils a work ethic; her lab was active until late at night! Ranadive also urged youths and Indian intellectuals studying overseas to return to India and put their skills to good use in their hometowns. Those who had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Ranadive remember her kindness and hospitality fondly. Science, new ideas, successes, and what needed to be explored and was important to the country’s needs would constantly be discussed. How would one remember this rather reclusive, yet warm-hearted, and beloved Indian daughter? Dr. Ranadive left an unforgettable mark on people’s minds with her compassion, ethics, and concern with scientific development.
Google has created a doodle in honour of an unsung STEM hero on her 104th birthday, bringing her story – belatedly but rightly — into the forefront. The experiences of women like Dr. Kamal Ranadive must be recounted for future generations at a time when the notions of inclusion, STEM, and women empowerment have gained a fever pitch. She received several honours for her services in the field of leprosy, including the Padma Vibhushan and the Watumull Foundation Award.