Born in the serene town of Peermade in the erstwhile state of Travancore, Anna Mani’s pursuit towards knowledge started at an early age. Her father, a civil engineer, influenced her curiosity in science. An incident that shaped her life was when at eight years old, she chose an Encyclopedia Britannica over diamond earrings as a gift.
Impressions of Early Life
Life threw her a curveball in the form of Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to her hometown in 1925. Seeing him left a profound impact on young Mani, who decided to wear homespun cotton, a symbolic gesture of her nationalist sentiment.
Anna’s voracious reading habit was so intense that by the age of 12, she consumed nearly every book at her local library. This strong desire to learn only fueled her aspiration to pursue higher studies and make significant inroads in the world of science.
Pivotal Years of Education
After completing her bachelor’s degree with honours in physics and chemistry from Presidency College in Chennai, Anna’s career took a new turn. Her inclination towards socialist ideas earned her a scholarship at the Indian Institute of Science at the age of 22.
At the Institute, Mani was engrossed in the spectroscopy of diamonds and rubies. She made remarkable strides in her research, leading to five groundbreaking research papers and a detailed PhD dissertation. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic hurdles, she was denied a PhD despite her extensive work.
A Life-changing Scholarship in England
Her disappointment was short-lived as in 1945, Anna was awarded a government scholarship to specialize in meteorological instrumentation at the prestigious Imperial College London. While in London, she conducted comprehensive studies on different instruments, focusing on their calibration and standardisation.
Revolutionizing Meteorological Studies in India.
After returning to India in 1948, Anna served the Indian Meteorological Department, pioneering the manufacture of weather instruments in the country. Under her leadership, the division produced drawings for nearly a hundred meteorological instruments to start their production.
Post-Retirement Achievements and Recognition
Anna retired as the deputy director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department in 1976. During her illustrious career, she held significant roles in the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. Her outstanding contributions to the field of meteorology earned her the prestigious INSA K. R. Ramanathan Medal in 1987.
A Ray of Encouragement for Young Scientists
Throughout her career, Anna Mani never hesitated to share her insights with budding scientists. She believed in leading a fulfilling life, equipped with knowledge, talent, hard work, and an undying love for nature. In her words, “We have only one life. First equip yourself for thejob, 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.”
Endeavours after Retirement
Even after retirement, Anna’s thirst for knowledge and innovation didn’t retire. In the 1980s, she started her own company, specialising in precision instruments. These instruments helped in the accurate measurement of solar radiation and wind speed. She also penned two critical books on solar radiation, which became a standard reference for scientists and engineers.
Tragic End and Lasting Legacy
In 1994, a stroke left Anna Mani immobilised, but her indomitable spirit remained alive. Her journey finally ended on August 16, 2001, at the age of 83, but the legacy she left behind is exceptional. Recognising her vast contributions, Google commemorates Anna Mani’s 104th birth anniversary today with a doodle.
Anna Mani’s Journey: A Source of Inspiration
Anna Mani’s journey from the Southern part of India to making colossal contributions in her field is awe-inspiring. She broke many glass ceilings and proved that women can excel in scientific pursuits traditionally dominated by men. Her relentless pursuit of knowledge and dedication towards her work continues to inspire generations.
Anna Mani’s Legacy: The Flavor of Solar Energy
Passionate about solar energy, Anna set up a string of solar radiation measuring stations across India. Using imported equipment initially, she soon began designing and manufacturing radiation instruments in-house. Besides, she emphasized the importance of accurate calibration, uttering a famous phrase, “Unless instruments are properly designed and built, accurately calibrated and correctly exposed and read, meteorological measurements have no meaning.”