Purnima Sinha

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Dr. Purnima Sinha (centre) with PAM Dirac and S.N. Bose taken at the Botanical Gardens in Kolkata, India in 1954. In that year Dirac had visited Bose in Calcutta along with Mrs. Dirac, who took the picture. At that time, Purnima Sinha was a doctoral student at the Calcutta University College of Science (Photo courtesy of Dr. Supurna Sinha)

Dr. Purnima Sinha was born on 12 October, 1927 into the house of novelist Naresh Chandra Sengupta, and is the youngest daughter in a family of well established professionals. Dr. Sinha received her PhD from the Calcutta University Science College in 1956-7, under the guidance of Professor Satyendra Nath Bose. She has the distinction of being the first Bengali woman to receive a doctorate in Physics.

Dr. Sinha has written extensively on many subjects in both English and Bengali. She has been a regular contributor to Jnan O Bijnan (Knowledge and Science), a scientific journal in the Bengali vernacular published by Bangiya Bijnan Parishad (Bengal Science Association), founded by Satyendra Nath Bose. Recently Bangiya Bigyan Parishad awarded Dr. Sinha for popularizing science in Bengali, a passion she shares with her teacher.

Dr. Sinha's career in science spans many decades. Fifty years ago, she did her PhD in X-ray crystallography of clay minerals. In 1963-64 her work was at the interface of Biology and Physics on the Origin of Life at Stanford University in California, USA, where she studied structures involving clay and bases appearing in the DNA double helix. Since then has been engaged as a scientist in various departments of the Government of India.

In 1970, she wrote An Approach to the Study of Indian Music. She has written extensively on Satyendranath Bose, and has recently completed a biography of artist Gopal Ghosh. At present, she is writing a book on Jnan Prakash Ghosh's musical sensibility.

Dr. Sinha's early education started in Lake School, established by her elder sister Sushama Sengupta. She attended Ashutosh College, then Scottish Church College, and finally Calcutta University. Her contemporaries include the singer Suchitra Mitra, artist Shanu Lahiri, and the theatre personality Tripti Mitra. Her own artistic interests are varied, and include learning Hindustani classical music from Yamini Ganguly, and painting from the well known painter Gopal Ghosh. She has also taken tabla lessons from Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh. Her other talents include sculpting and painting.

Dr. Sinha married the eminent anthropologist Professor Surajit Sinha, former Vice Chancellor, Visva-Bharati University. Professor Sinha made significant contributions to understanding the process of acculturation of tribal peoples in India. He passed away on 27 February, 2002. Their two daughters, Sukanya and Supurna, are both established research scientists.

Dr. Sinha spends her time between Santiniketan and Kolkata singing, painting, writing, and reading books of her choice. She has a large, rare collection of books and journals at home. At the age of 80, she continues to enjoy meeting people, conversing and reminiscing.

 Books and articles by Purnima Sinha on Satyendra Nath Bose include:

  • Bijnan Sadhanar Dharay Satyendranath Bose' a book published by Visva Vidya Sangraha. 
  • Amar Katha a book published by Bangiya Bijnan Parishad.
  • Satyen Bose-er Byaktitto O mononer dhara article published in `Desh'.