Lilavati's Daughters

An issue that concerns the scientific establishment in the country - and, it must be acknowledged, in most countries- is the low numbers of students opting for a career in the sciences. A second matter of concern is the lack of diversity in the types of students who do come to the sciences, and here, the number of women who choose a scientific career is particularly low. Especially as a proportion of the number of women who get an education in the sciences.

The Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore has taken an initiative in probing these issues. On the matter of women in the sciences, they have set up the Women in Science (or WiS) panel. As one of the more tangible of their activities, the WiS panel has asked about one hundred women scientists who are based in India to write about themselves, what brought them to science and what has kept them going...

This collection of essays, entitled Lilavati's Daughters. The women scientists of India, was released two days ago at the annual meeting of the Indian Academy. The essays are both biographical and autobiographical, and typically run about three or four pages each... Ideal dipping material that one can read in bits and pieces, and of the hundred or so contributors there is a wide representation... Physicists, biologists, chemists, mathematicians, doctors, geoscientists, computer scientists... and from all parts of India.

The title of the book "is drawn from The Lilavati, a twelfth century treatise in which the mathematician Bhaskaracharya addresses a number of problems to his daughter, Lilavati. Although legend has it that Lilavati never married, her intellectual legacy lives on in the form of her daughters - the women scientists of India".

What makes a successful career in science possible for a woman? Many answers to this question can be found somewhere in the essays written by Lilavati's Daughters. The book is directed towards the reading public. A young student with research ambitions will find this an important collection where she or he can learn firsthand of women who functioned and achieved their goals in the Indian social and academic environment. Others will also find the essays to be of value and interest for what they say. And as is often the case, also for what they do not say..."

Rohini Godbole and Ram Ramaswamy, both members of the WiS Panel have edited the book for the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore..

368 pages, paperback. Rs 325 (inclusive of postage) within India, and US$25 (again inclusive of postage) outside India. ISBN 9788184650051