Anna Mani was an Indian physicist and meteorologist who made significant contributions to the fields of atmospheric physics, solar physics, and instrumentation. She was one of the first women in India to receive a PhD in physics and later became the first woman to serve as a faculty member at an Indian university. She was also known as “The Weather Woman of India” for her pioneering work in developing weather instruments and studying the ozone layer. Her life and legacy are an inspiration for many aspiring scientists, especially women, who face challenges and barriers in pursuing their dreams.
Early Life and Education
Anna Mani was born in 1918 into a prosperous family in Travancore, a princely state in southern India. Her father was a civil engineer and a scientist who taught his children to be curious and objective. He also encouraged them to pursue higher education, which was rare for girls at that time. Anna Mani developed a passion for reading and learning at a young age. She reportedly read almost all the books at her local library by the age of 12. She also had a keen interest in natural sciences, especially physics.
Anna Mani completed her undergraduate degree from the University of Madras in 1939, where she studied physics, chemistry, and mathematics. She then received a scholarship to join the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, where she worked under the supervision of Nobel laureate C.V. Raman. She conducted research on the spectrometry of rubies and diamonds and published five papers on her findings. She also submitted a PhD dissertation but was denied the degree because she did not have a master’s degree.
In 1945, Anna Mani received another scholarship to study physics in London. However, when she arrived there, she found out that the only available position was in meteorological instrumentation. She decided to take up the challenge and learn about this new field. She spent three years in London, where she gained expertise in designing and calibrating various instruments for measuring atmospheric parameters such as temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation.
Career and Contributions
Anna Mani returned to India in 1948, after the country gained its independence from British rule. She joined the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) as an assistant meteorologist. She soon rose to the position of deputy director general of the department, becoming one of the highest-ranking women scientists in India. She led a team of researchers and engineers who developed and manufactured more than 100 types of weather instruments indigenously. These instruments enabled India to become self-reliant on meteorological observations and research.
Anna Mani also made significant contributions to the study of solar radiation and the ozone layer. She established several observatories across India to measure solar radiation and its effects on climate and agriculture. She also devised an instrument called an ozonesonde, which could measure the concentration of ozone in different layers of the atmosphere. She was one of the first scientists to recognize the importance of the ozone layer in protecting life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays.
Anna Mani retired from IMD in 1976 but continued to be active in scientific research and education. She became a visiting professor at IISc, where she mentored many young students and researchers. She also served as a member of several national and international scientific committees and organizations. She received many awards and honors for her achievements, including the Padma Shri (1977), one of India’s highest civilian honors.
Quotes and Legacy
Anna Mani was not only a brilliant scientist but also a wise and inspiring person. Her quotes reflect her philosophy of life and science, which were based on curiosity, perseverance, innovation, and excellence. Some of her famous quotes are:
- “The pursuit of knowledge should be our most persistent goal.”
- “Find a better way to do it!”
- “Wrong measurements are worse than no measurements.”
- “We have only one life. First equip yourself for the job, make full use of your talents and then love and enjoy the work, making the most of being out of doors and in contact with nature.”
Anna Mani passed away in 2001 at the age of 83. Her legacy lives on through her scientific contributions and her inspiring example. She is widely regarded as one of India’s most eminent physicists and meteorologists, who paved the way for many women to pursue careers in STEM fields. She is also remembered as a pioneer who helped India achieve self-reliance and excellence in meteorology and atmospheric sciences.