Women Section

Dr (Mrs) Ashima Chatterjee

Birth: September 23 ,1917
Death: November 22, 2006
Achievements:Bhatnagar awards in 1961 in Chemical sciences.
C V Raman Award of the UGC (1962),
P C Ray award (1974)
Padma Bhusan by the Government of India in 1975.

Dr (Mrs) Ashima Chatterjee was conferred the title: Padma Bhusan by the Government of India. She has been the recipient of scores of awards and laurels from prestigious National and International Organizations. As a Scientist-Academia, she was nominated twice by the President of India as a member of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha) (1982,1984).Was the first woman to be appointed general president of the Indian Science Congress in 1975.

A scholar in pure chemistry, Chatterjee received the S S Bhatnagar Award (1961), C V Raman Award of the UGC (1962), and P C Ray award (1974) for her research and contribution to the subject. A first class second from Calcutta University, Chatterjee began her teaching career as the Founder Head of the Department of Chemistry in Lady Brabourne College in 1940.In 1945, she joined Calcutta University and taught there till her retirement in 1982.Chatterjee received all-round praise for her DSC thesis - Indol-Alkaloids and Coumarin of Indian Medicinal Plants - and later received honorary DSC degrees from Banaras Hindu University as also the universities of Burdwan, Kalyani and Vidyasagar.
She also received fellowships from Watumull University, US in 1948-49 and International Science Academy in 1960.She had keen interest in music, and was placed second in classical vocal music in the All Bengal Music Conference in 1932.

Professor (Mrs.) Chatterjee, 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. She has built up an active school of advanced study and research in the chemistry of natural products, especially in the chemistry of alkaloids and coumarins, including furanolactones isolated from medicinal plants indigenous to India.

She has investigated 50 plant species of 12 botanical families from which she isolated 20 new alkaloids, 5 polyphenolics, of which 3 are coumarins and two dianthraquinones, besides several furanoid bitter principles and an antiepileptic long chain ester. These researches are characterized by novel techniques for the isolation of organic compounds from plant sources, elucidation of their molecular architecture and stereochemistry by classical and modern methods, including spectroscopy, their synthesis, biogenesis and chemotaxonomy, the latter study being undertaken to trace the path of biological evolution. The alkaloids isolated by her are of novel structural patterns belonging to monomeric and dimeric indole groups, to quinoline, isoquinoline, pyridine, diterpene and steroidal series. She has also made notable contribution to organic reactions by postulating a new mechanism. She and her colleagues have conducted intensive physiological, pharmacological and clinical studies on natural and synthetic organic chemicals. Their work on the tranquillising alkaloids of Rauvolfia, particularly Rauvolfia canescens, in the treatment of insomnia and hypertension, and on Alstonia alkaloids in curing cardiac disorder, deserves special mention.
Her pioneering work on the alkaloids of Rauwolfia, Alstonia, Kopsia, Rhazya and Vinca, has made immense impact on researches that followed in the field of indole alkaloids (novel 5α-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 text book of Organic Chemistry (I. L. Finar).

Professor (Mrs.) Chatterjee has published more than 350 original papers in internationally reputed scientific journals and 20 review articles in peer-reviewed serial volumes. As the principal author she has compiled (in six volumes) the Treatise on Indian Medicinal Plants, under the aegis of the Publication and Information Directorate, CSIR, New Delhi. The antiepileptic drug Ayush-56, from Marsilia minuta and Nardostachys jatamansi; and the antimalarial, Ayush-64, a combination of four herbs, have been patented by the Central Council of Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS), Union Ministry of Health, Government of India. Since the beginning of her academic pursuit, she dreamed of establishing an Institute for research and development of Ayurvedic medicines based on Indian medicinal plants. Her mission has now been fulfilled by the generous grants from the State and the Union Government. The Institute is located at Salt Lake City, Kolkata.

Source : ARKIVOC 2003 (ix) 1-3IVOC PTI