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Scientist par excellence - An unsung Punekar - Dr. Kamal Randive.


In the bustling city of Pune, known fondly as the "Oxford of the East" and the "Queen of Deccan," there exists a rich tapestry of education and culture. From illustrious Bharat Ratnas like Dhondo Keshav Karve and Bhimsen Joshi to renowned research institutions like the Bhandarkar Institute, Gokhale Institute, Agharkar Institute, Ranade Institute etc, Pune has long been a beacon of intellectual pursuit and scholarly achievement. Yet, amidst these celebrated names, there exists a lesser-known but equally brilliant figure - Kamal Randive.



Born on November 8th, 1917, in Pune to a family immersed in academic fervor, Kamal was destined for greatness. Her father, Dinkar Samarth, a biology professor at Fergusson College from 1920-1955, instilled in her a love for learning from an early age. Despite her father's hopes for her to pursue medicine at B.J. Medical College, Kamal charted her own path. Instead, she went into the field of cell biology. She excelled in her studies, graduating with distinction in Botany and Zoology from Fergusson College, before delving into Cell Cytology for her master's degree at Pune Agriculture College.


Marriage to Jaisingh Randive in 1939, an actuary (specialist in the field of insurance) and staunch supporter of her academic aspirations, marked a turning point in Kamal's life. Undeterred by societal expectations, she embarked on a journey of scientific inquiry, joining the prestigious Tata Memorial Hospital as a research scholar. Under the guidance of Dr. R.V. Khanolkar, Kamal's pioneering research in the role of viruses in carcinogenic tumors laid the foundation for her illustrious career in cancer research. Dr. Khanolkar was called the Father of Pathology in India. He was one of the founders of oncology lab and the Tata Memorial Hospital. Dr. Randive gave the entire credit of her higher education and research to Dr. RV Khanolkar.

Dr. Khanolkar was Kamals guide in her doctorate and main impetus in Kamals post doctoral at Johns Hopkins Institute.


In 1949, her academic prowess earned her a Rockefeller scholarship to pursue post-doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she became a world authority in HeLa cell morphology with doctor George Gay.


Upon her return to India, Kamal continued her groundbreaking work at Tata Cancer Hospital, focusing on the development of leprosy vaccines and establishing tissue culture laboratories at the Indian Cancer Research Centre which was formed as a separate research centre in 1952. She was firm believer that every Indian trained abroad must come back to India and impart knowledge and practical skills for the benefit of the country.


She established the first tissue culture lab in ICRC (Indian Cancer research Centre) and her research on Leprosy bacteria resulted in the development of Leprosy vaccine.



Over the years, Kamal's contributions to oncology, leprosy research, molecular biology, and cell cytology garnered international recognition. Kamal Randive's remarkable career in the field of medical research extended far beyond her groundbreaking discoveries. Not only was she a pioneering scientist, but she also held esteemed leadership positions within India's scientific community. Randive served as the Director of the Indian Cancer Research Centre (ICRC) an astonishing five times, underscoring her exceptional expertise and leadership capabilities in the realm of cancer research.


Furthermore, her profound contributions to medical science were duly recognized by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), where she was appointed as a Emeritus Medical Scientist. This prestigious title bestowed upon her by the ICMR acknowledged Randive's unparalleled dedication and significant impact on the advancement of medical knowledge and research practices in India.


Through her exemplary leadership and unwavering commitment to excellence, Kamal Randive not only shaped the landscape of cancer research in India but also inspired countless individuals to pursue careers in the sciences. Her legacy as a visionary scientist and esteemed leader continues to resonate within the scientific community and beyond, serving as a testament to her enduring influence and invaluable contributions to humanity's fight against disease. She was the first proponent of direct connection between breast cancer and heredity which was later on accepted worldwide. She has to her credit, over 200 published scientific papers.


In 1982, she was awarded the Padmabhushan the 4th highest civilian award.



Beyond her scientific endeavors, Kamal was a trailblazer for women in science, founding the Indian Women Scientists' Association and Satya Niketan in 1989 an institute dedicated to socio-scientific work. Her legacy continues to inspire generations of researchers, yet her name remains relatively unknown to many in her hometown of Pune.


On the occasion of her 104th birth anniversary on the 8th of November 2021, Google paid tribute to Kamal Randive with a Google Doodle, immortalizing her contributions to humanity. Google doodle publishes on its homepage and pays tribute to outstanding contributors in various fields. She breathed her last on 11th April 2001.




As we remember this monumental Punekar scientist, let us honor her indomitable spirit, her unwavering dedication to science, and her enduring legacy in the annals of history. P.S : Though the word unsung is used in the title, Dr Kamal Randive was extremely well known among the scientific community across the globe.

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That’s a great information that I didn’t know. Thanks for sharing.

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Detailed information given. There are so many idols less known to society. Thanks for sharing this article

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