Like many other fields in the world, Nuclear Science too has a relatively less number of women than their male counterparts, far lesser any major one. In such a field of Science and Technology where women are so uncommon, there are still some ladies who are making many remarkable breakthroughs. One such lady is Dr. Tessy Thomas, the incredible scientist from India. She is the first woman scientist of the country to lead a missile project. Working in Defence Research and Development Organisation, Dr. Tessy has been instrumental in the making of India’s long-range ballistic ‘Agni’ missiles. For her achievements in the field, Dr. Tessy is famously dubbed as the ‘Missile Woman of India.’
Born in 1963, Tessy belonged to a middle-class family of Alappuzha, Kerala. Her father was a small businessman. Interestingly, Tessy was named her after Mother Teresa. In her early years, she grew up near a rocket launching station and from then began her fascination with rockets and missiles. After completing school education, Tessy graduated in Engineering from Government Engineering College, Thrissur. Later, she went to pursue M.Tech in Guided Missile from the Institute of Armament Technology, Pune (what is now known as the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology).
Selected in DRDO, Dr. Tessy has been connected with Agni missile assignments. First, she served there as the associate project chief of the 3,000 km range Agni-III missile project. Later, she became the project director for Agni-IV which was successfully tested in 2011. Afterward, in 2009, Dr. Tessy was chosen as the head for 5,000 km range Agni-V venture. The project too turned out to be booming as the missile was successfully tested in 2012. Agni-V is said to be one of the greatest achievements for Indian defense department.
Dr. Tessy is married to a Saroj Kumar, who has served in the Indian Navy. They have a son, Tejas, who is an Engineer in Ford Technologies. Dr. Tessy, like most working women, keeps a delicate balance between home and career. At the same time, she is a dedicated scientist who is passionate about her job, and also an ideal mother –caring and loving.
- Dr. Tessy Thomas has received much recognition and applause. In a heartwarming tribute in 2008, The Indian Woman Scientists Association extolled the spirit of Mrs. Tessy Thomas and called her ‘a role model for women scientists.’
- In 2012, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told in the Indian Science Congress praised her feats and called her ‘an example’ for women of the country.
- Owing to her association with Agni missile projects, she is also referred to as ‘Agniputri,’ the daughter of Fire or, more mythologically, the daughter of Fire Goddess.
- Dr. Tessy Thomas has also been bestowed the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for her outstanding contribution in her field and endeavors to develop Indian missile technology.
- In 2014, She received the Y. Nayudamma Memorial Award.
- In 2016, Mrs. Tessy Thomas was decorated with an Honorary Doctorate by ITM University, Gwalior.
- She was also nominated in 2016 L’Oreal Paris ‘Women of Worth’ awards for ‘The Originals’ category.
In a world majorly dominated by men, women like Tessy Thomas have been continuously putting forth challenges to change the stereotypical perception about women. Women can be teachers, athletes, and even scientists if they want to. And now, even the fields like Nuclear Technology are not ‘men’s only domain’ anymore. If there are missile men like Late Dr. APJ, then there are missile women like Dr. Tessy Thomas. Born to average parents, Tessy Thomas has strived passionately enough to realize her fantasies of rockets and missiles. Her achievements are not only an individual’s milestones; rather her feats are the prelude to a coming era coming when women would be seen in every field that involves only men now. When Tessy joined the DRDO, there were very few women working there. Now, the numbers have increased too, and many women scientists are working in the major arsenal programs. Hopefully, the participation of women in such fields would continue to further, and we would see more Tessys who would write the future of modern defense technology of India.