HomeNewsWho Is Anna Mani? Indian Physicist Who Defied Gender Norms

Who Is Anna Mani? Indian Physicist Who Defied Gender Norms

A renowned Indian physicist and meteorologist, Anna Mani, who defied gender norms is getting a little extra attention today thanks to Google Doodle.

The doodle depicts Anna Mani working in front of various weather images. The images spell out “Google” on the search engine’s homepage. Google published the doodle on August 23, which would have been Mani’s 104th birthday. Mani began trending on Google shortly after.

Who Is Anna Mani?

Mani was dedicated to her work. Despite nearly 90 percent of Indian women choosing to marry, she remained single and committed to her career throughout her life. Mani’s life work led to her moniker “Weather Woman.” Her work enabled India to make accurate weather predictions.

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“We have only one life,” Mani is reported to have said. “First equip yourself for the job, make full use of your talents and then love and enjoy the work.”

Anna Mani Recognized For Science Contributions
Construction workers at work on the windmill farm at Karma Energy Limited in India. India is a world leader in wind energy partly due to physicist Anna Mani’s contributions.SEBASTIAN D’SOUZA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

1940s India

Prior to 1947, India didn’t have meteorological tools needed to predict weather. Any tools the South Asian country obtained had to be imported from overseas.

In 1948, Mani began work with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) at Pune in the instruments division headed by S.P. Venkiteshwaran. Venkiteshwaran hoped to make India self-reliant in meteorology and weather. Mani contributed to his efforts. She sought out skilled workers to staff sophisticated meteorology machines. She also standardized the blueprint for approximately 100 weather instruments and began production, according to Women’s Web.

Mani also advocated for sustainable energy and published several academic papers on various topics including solar radiation, ozone, the luminescence of diamonds and wind energy instruments.

Wind Energy

Mani took a deep interest in solar radiation and began to design and manufacture instruments to measure radiation in the late 1950s. She also recognized the potential of wind energy. She hoped India could learn to harness wind for energy and then installed wind measurement equipment in 700 places in India to study wind patterns.

Because of Mani’s dedication, India is now a world leader in wind energy power.

Education

Mani pursued education at a time when there weren’t many academic options for Indian women, specifically in the science field.

She attended Women’s Christian College to complete her Intermediate Science course before she transferred to Presidency College, Madras, according to Women’s Web. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree with honors in physics and chemistry in 1939.

Her passion began as a young girl when she is said to have loved reading. Some reports show Mani is known to have read most of the books in her hometown’s library by the age of 12.

Return to India

  • Mani returned to India three years later, in 1948, and she joined the Indian Meteorological Department.
  • Before 1947, simple instruments like thermometers were imported. During her time at the department, she helped the country manufacture its weather instruments, and in 1953, she became the head of the division.
  • This was not a simple task; she worked with 121 men under her, and she assembled a group of Indian scientists and engineers to carry on the task.
  • The scientists standardised the drawings for nearly 100 different weather instruments and started their production. Mani was particularly interested in solar energy and set up a network of stations in India to measure solar radiation.
  • Initially, her team used imported equipment, but soon she designed and manufactured a range of radiation instruments.

Wrong measurements are worse than no measurements

  • The scientist believed that incorrect measurements were worse than none.
  • She insisted on proper design and accurate calibration. In 1960, she started research on measuring atmospheric ozone.
  • “Unless instruments are properly designed and built, accurately calibrated and correctly exposed and read, meteorological
    measurements have no meaning,” she told the United Nations.
  • She designed an instrument to measure atmospheric ozone and set up a meteorological observatory. She also became a member of the International Ozone Commission.
  • Mani retired as the deputy director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department in 1976. She also held positions in the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, and in 1987, she received the INSA K. R. Ramanathan Medal.
  • In an interview, when asked about any advice she could offer young scientists, she said: “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.”
  • During the 1980s, she started a company specialising in precision instruments to measure solar radiation and wind speed.
  • She authored two books on solar radiation that became standard reference guides for engineers and scientists.
  • In 1994, Mani had a stroke that left her immobilised. She died on August 16, 2001, at the age of 83.

‘What Is This Hoopla About Women and Science?’

“My being a woman had absolutely no bearing on what I chose to do with my life,” Mani is reported to have said. “What is this hoopla about women and science?”

Mani was born to a Syrian Christian family August 23, 1918, in Peermade, Travancore, Kerala. She was the seventh of eight children.

A hometown visit from civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi in 1925 influenced Mani when she was 7 years old, who then decided to pursue a life of higher education, unlike her sisters.

She was a member of Indian National Science Academy, American Meteorological Society and the International Solar Energy Society among others.

She was recognized countless times and received many honors, such as the INSA K. R. Ramanathan Medal in 1987. The medal recognized her contributions to science.

Mani’s hobbies transcended science and she is reported to have enjoyed being in nature and bird watching.

A stroke in 1994 left Mani paralyzed. She died August 16, 2001, a week before her 83rd birthday.

Google Doodle Honorees

Though Google Doodles may at times seem like random changes to the Google logo on the website, they usually celebrate a significant event or historical figure.

Last week, Google Doodle featured young artists in their annual competition.

The national winner is 16-year-old Sophie Araque-Liu. Her artwork displays her embracing her mother, in line with this year’s theme of “I care for myself by…” You can see her artwork, along with the four national finalists’ designs here.

In late July, Google Doodle honored the steelpan instrument because it was on July 26 that the instrument was launched to the world.

Google describes how it came about: “On this day in 1951, the Trinidad All-Steel Pan Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) performed at the Festival of Britain, introducing the steelpan and a new music genre to the world.”

Just before that, the spotlight was on musical inventor and composer Oskar Sala.

While once well-known for his pioneering work fusing the fields of electronics and musical instruments—he is widely regarded as having helped create a precursor to the synthesizer, which he used to great effect in films such as the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds—his contribution may have been in danger of becoming forgotten among all but music historians and film buffs.

Sources:

https://www.newsweek.com/who-anna-mani-indian-physicist-defied-gender-norms-1736182

https://www.amarchitrakatha.com/history_details/anna-mani-1918-2001/

https://connect.iisc.ac.in/tag/anna-mani/

https://khabariclub.com/anandibai-joshi-anna-mani-tessy-thomas-remembering-prominent-women-scientists-of-india-1547306/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/23/anna-mani-google

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