Asima Chatterjee was born on 23 September 1917 in Bengal. She graduated with Chemistry and further undertook research in the field. She was the founding head of the department of chemistry at Lady Brabourne College, Calcutta.
Among her notable instructors at the time were Prafulla Chandra Roy and Prof S.N. Bose. Additionally, she also had research experience from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Caltech. Chatterjee’s research centered on natural products chemistry and resulted in anti-convulsive, anti-malarial, and chemotherapy drugs. Her most notable work includes research on vinca alkaloids and the development of anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs. She also authored a considerable volume of work on medicinal plants of the Indian subcontinent.
She received the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in Chemistry (1961) from CSIR (India). She is the first Lady-Scientist to be elected as the General President of the Indian Science Congress in 1975. The same year, she was conferred the title: Padma Bhushann by the Government of India. Along with her scores of research students and associates has made significant contributions in the fields of alkaloids, terpenoids, polyphenolics, and in structural and mechanistic Organic Chemistry. Her pioneering work on the alkaloids of Rauwolfia, Alstonia, Kopsia, Rhazya and Vinca, has made an immense impact on researches that followed in the field of indole alkaloids (novel 5a-pregnane derivatives) from Apocynaceae and Buxaceae. In terpenoids, she provided cutting-edge methods of transformation and correlation of their different skeletal patterns, e.g. through catalytic rearrangements and synthesis. Coumarins of the Rutaceae, Umbelliferae, Compositae and Euphorbiaceae, are yet another group of natural products which bear the imprint of her contributions. Mechanistic studies, e.g. acid-catalysed hydramine fission reaction, constitute yet another of her contribution which has been cited in textbook of Organic Chemistry (I. L. Finar).
She was interested in vocal music since her childhood days. She received specialised training in Indian Classical music, and in this field also, received many awards. Professor (Mrs.) Asima Chatterjee has completed 85 years and is still highly enthusiastic and active in the pursuit of Science and life divine. She is an example of the fact that hobby enriches the life of man.
If such a brilliant and busy woman could spare time to obtain mastery even in her hobby, it is surely an inspiration for the current youth to take up something new and pursue it further in life along with their careers. No one can limit their potential. Indeed Aseema Madam lived up to her name.
An interesting aspect of successful people is the ability to balance. They manage to strike a balance between their career and hobby/personal life/ other likes etc. Of course, this comes with practice but it a virtue worth acquiring.