About Dr. Chandrakanta Kesavan (1918-2004)

Dr. Chandrakanta Kesavan’s life is an inspiration to many Indian women not only in the domain of Science and Technology but also in other spheres. She earned her PhD in Acoustical Physics from Allahabad University in 1938. In those days, the University was home to many distinguished physicists as faculty, including Dr. Meghnad Saha and Dr. K.S. Krishnan. One of her viva-voce examiners for her dissertation was the Nobel Laureate Sir C.V. Raman. Dr. Kesavan served All India Radio for most of her career. She was also a Fullbright Scholar and worked at MIT, Cambridge. She also served on the Board of Governors of Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi, for more than three decades.

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Chandrakanta Kesavan, nee Chandrakanta Narain, was born in 1918. She was one of the first generation of girls who went to school instead of being privately educated at home. She attended Indraprastha Girl's School situated adjacent to the Jama Masjid in Shahjahanabad, Delhi. She finished school at age fifteen and then began attending Hindu College in Kashmiri Gate on the outer edge of the walled city, next to Civil Lines. Hindu College was the college in Delhi at the time that allowed women admission into the B.Sc. degree because Science was seen as a male preserve. This was 1933. There was just one other girl in her class and their lecturers were so embarrassed by their presence that they refused to look at them or take their questions. After completing her undergraduate degree, she moved to Varanasi to do a Master's degree in Physics at the Banaras Hindu University, founded just two years before she was born, in 1916. She stayed in the University's women's hostel, which was so unusual at the time that when asked, her father would say that she was living with an aunt.

From there she moved to Allahabad University for her doctorate in Physics in 1938. The University hosted the most distinguished physics department in the country with faculty that included Dr. Meghnad Saha and Dr. K.S. Krishnan. Her field of research was acoustical physics. One of her viva voce examiners for her dissertation was the Nobel Laureate Sir C.V. Raman.

After completing her Ph.D., she interviewed for and got a job as a lecturer in a women's college in Lahore, where she taught for two years. Her career in higher education traversed all the great universities of north India at the time: Delhi, Banaras, Allahabad and finally, Punjab.

She returned to Delhi to join the Dictionary Office, a government institution involved in producing the encyclopaedic survey of India's resources, The Wealth of India. After that she joined the Research Department of All India Radio in the late 1940s, bringing her expertise in acoustics to bear on the functioning of India's sole broadcasting organization. She remained a pioneering acoustical engineer for the rest of her career, publishing research papers and participating in the administration of India's national broadcaster.

In 1952, she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship for post-doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. She spent a year in the US, working and travelling before returning to her work at All India Radio.

She served on the board of governors of Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi, for more than three decades.