Google Doodle celebrates Indian biochemist Kamala Sohonie’s 112th birthday

Known for her work on Neera, the nutritious drink, she was the first Indian woman to achieve a PhD in a scientific field during a time when Indian women were conspicuously underrepresented in scientific disciplines

Updated - June 18, 2023 11:21 am IST

Published - June 18, 2023 08:10 am IST

Google Doodle celebrates Indian biochemist Kamala Sohonie’s 112th birthday.

Google Doodle celebrates Indian biochemist Kamala Sohonie’s 112th birthday. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Google on June 18 paid tribute to an Indian biochemist and scientist Kamala Sohonie, who did pioneering work in her field of biochemistry and helped forge a path for future Indian women to overcome gender bias and pursue their dreams.

Google has depicted a Doodle dedicated to Sohonie, celebrating her 112th anniversary.

Sohonie was born in Indore on this day in 1911. Her father and uncle were chemists and alumni of the erstwhile Tata Institute of Sciences (which later became the Indian Institute of Science) in Bengaluru.

Inspired by her family, Sohonie studied chemistry and physics at Bombay University and graduated at the top of her class in 1933. She became the first woman to be inducted into the IISc but faced issues because its director Sir C.V. Raman doubted the capabilities of women in science. She then approached the Nobel Laureate who turned the request down on the ground that ‘she was a woman’.

Sohonie ignored the refusal which was based on gender discrimination and went on a satyagraha in front of the director’s office. She was then admitted for one year on the condition that her work for the year would not be recognised till the director was satisfied with the quality of her research and that her presence did not distract her male colleagues pursuing research.

For the next few years, Sohonie studied the various proteins found in legumes and concluded they boosted nutrition in children. In 1936, she published her thesis on this subject and obtained her master’s degree.

One year later, she earned a research scholarship at Cambridge University and discovered Cytochrome C, an enzyme important to energy generation, and found that it was present in all plant cells. She returned to India after completing her PhD and continued studying the benefits of certain foods and helped develop an affordable dietary supplement made from palm nectar. This nutritious drink, called Neera, has been proven to improve the health of malnourished children and pregnant women.

Sohonie was awarded the Rashtrapati Award for her contributions to science, and she also became the first female director of the Royal Institute of Science in Bombay.

“Happy birthday, Dr. Kamala Sohonie!,” Google Doodle said.

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