India’s Trailblazing Engineer: Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha, the First Female Engineer

India's Trailblazing Engineer: Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha, the First Female Engineer
India's Trailblazing Engineer: Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha, the First Female Engineer

Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha, fondly referred to as A Lalitha, stands as a seminal figure in Indian history as the trailblazing first female engineer. Her remarkable path, characterized by unwavering determination, resilience, and pioneering achievements, laid the foundation for numerous women aspiring to make their mark in the field of engineering.

Born on August 27, 1919, in Madras, India, A Lalitha’s life took an extraordinary trajectory. At the tender age of 15, she entered into marriage and embraced motherhood, giving birth to her daughter, Syamala, in 1937. Tragically, just four months after their marriage, Lalitha became a young widow following the untimely passing of her husband. Undeterred by the challenges, Lalitha, with the unwavering support of her father, embarked on a remarkable journey into the realm of engineering, enrolling at the College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG). Notably, she was the lone woman pursuing this path among her peers.

Lalitha’s pioneering career in engineering forged new avenues for women in the field. In 1943, she graduated with a degree in electrical engineering, marking a significant milestone. Following her graduation, she completed a one-year apprenticeship at the Jamalpur Railway Workshop, honing her skills and knowledge.

Her professional journey led her to the Central Standards Organization in Shimla, where she collaborated with her father on research endeavors. In 1948, she joined Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in Calcutta, where her contributions left an indelible mark, particularly in the design of the Bhakra Nangal Dam.

Lalitha’s influence transcended India’s borders, earning her international recognition. She became an associate member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) in London in 1953, eventually achieving full membership in 1966. Her global presence was further underscored when she attended the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists in New York in 1964 and earned membership in the British Women’s Engineering Society in 1965.

Tragically, in 1979, Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha’s life was cut short by a brain aneurysm. Nevertheless, her legacy as India’s first female engineer endures as a source of inspiration for women in the field of engineering, serving as a beacon of encouragement and empowerment to this very day.