It is astonishing to see how far along women have come in all prospects of life. From suppression to feminism, our society has grown and evolved marvellously. This prolific metamorphosis can be attributed to the powerful women who persevered to make a change. This International Women’s Day, let us read about some remarkable women in medicine from across the globe who paved the way for others.
- Anandi Gopal Joshi (1865-1887)
Starting from humble beginnings, Anandi Gopal Joshi went on to become the first Indian woman to hold an MD (Doctor of Medicine). The loss of her first child motivated her to become a physician as she persevered through the adversities posed by the community. She even pursued education abroad in the USA, which further invited heavy scrutiny from society. Facing all the problems bravely, she completed her education and mastered Western medicine and Ayurveda. Unfortunately, Anandibai’s health bought her back to India, and she died at the young age of 21. However, her story inspired many Indians, especially women, to pursue education and keep up with the revolutionising world.
- Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
I’m sure you remember reading about the double helix structure of DNA in your biology class. But did you know that Rosalind Franklin, a British molecular biologist, was the first person to provide proof of the same? She bought to life the Watson and Crick model by using the X-ray crystallography technique. This opened the doors to understanding the secrets that lie in our DNA. Although her efforts were not fully recognised and appreciated in her time, her study and research were credited posthumously by Crick.
- Mary Claire King (1946-present)
The general idea that cancer had a genetic root was not widely accepted in the 1970s. However, incidents of breast and ovarian cancer seemed to be higher in certain families than others. With a background in genetics and after bearing a personal loss, Dr King, an American geneticist, embarked on a journey to understand the relationship between cancer and gene mutation. After almost 20 years of research, she determined the cause of breast cancer: a mutation in a single gene of a particular chromosome. She, then, named the gene BRCA1. This discovery led other scientists to study and understand cancer and other genetic diseases in a different and more effective manner.
- Francoise Barré-Sinoussi (1947-present)
With a keen interest in science and labs since a young age, Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, a French virologist, co-discovered the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in 1983. With her discovery of HIV (a retrovirus), several blood tests to detect the infection came into the picture. This further led to the research and synthesis of anti-retroviral medications. These medications have reprieved the “death sentence” for people with AIDS and instead have made it a manageable chronic disease. Francoise has also been a strong advocate for those without access to AIDS drugs. In the global fight against AIDS, she has indeed been the pioneer and was awarded a Nobel prize in 2008 for her efforts.
These awe-inspiring women have indeed made their mark, not only in their fields of science but also in the minds of many young women, driven by their keen interest and passion for science. This International Women’s Day, let us all celebrate and cherish the women in our lives who continue to inspire and persevere.
“Let us choose for ourselves our path in life, and let us try to strew that path with flowers.” – Emilie du Chatelet
1. Anandibai Joshi: India’s First Woman MD. Accessed from: ttps://feminisminindia.com/2020/03/09/anandibai-joshi-indianwomeninhistory/ Accessed on 3rd March 2021
2. Rosalind Franklin: A Crucial Contribution Accessed from: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/rosalind-franklin-a-crucial-contribution-6538012/ Accessed on 4th March 2021
3. The Pioneering Gene Work of Dr. Mary-Claire King Accessed from: https://www.nfcr.org/blog/pioneering-gene-work-dr-mary-claire-king/ Accessed on: 4th March 2021
4. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. Accessed from:
https://www.nobelprize.org/womenwhochangedscience/stories/francoise-barre-sinoussi Accessed on 3rd March 2021
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