Tessy Thomas

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Tessy Thomas
Tessy thomas.png
Tessy Thomas
BornApril 1963
EducationB.Tech.Government Engineering College, Thrissur, M.Tech from Institute of Armament Technology, Pune
OccupationScientist at DRDO
Years active1988 – present
Notable credit(s)
Agni Missile Project Director Agni-IV
Spouse(s)Saroj Kumar

Tessy Thomas (born in 1963) is an Indian scientist and Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for Agni-IV missile in Defence Research and Development Organisation.[1] She is the first woman scientist to head a missile project in India. She is known as the 'Missile Woman' of India.

Early life[edit]

Thomas was born in April 1963 in Alappuzha, Kerala,[2] to a Syrian Christian family.[3] She was named after Mother Teresa (Tessy being a derivative of Teresa or Tressia).[4] There is conflicting information on whether her father was an IFS officer or a small-time businessman or an accountant.[5][6][3] When Thomas was 13 her father suffered from a stroke which left his right side paralyzed. Her mother who was a teacher remained a home maker to look after the family in such dire condition.[4][7]

She grew up near Thumba Rocket Launching Station and says her fascination with rockets and missiles began then. She was stimulated even by the wonderment of aircraft flying.[8][4]

Thomas has four other sisters and one brother. She has mentioned in interviews about her parents ensuring their children received proper education and encouraging the six siblings to pursue careers of their own interest so that they can excel. Two of her siblings are engineers while another pursued a MBA.[4][9]

Thomas credited her home town and mother for her personal development. “I grew up with the pretty backwaters of Kerala as my backyard. I guess nature gives you strength and good thoughts. The power of nature cannot be undermined in one’s development.” Of her mother she has said, “It must have been tough for my mother — who was not allowed to work — to look after us on her own. Yet she made sure each of her five daughters and one son had a good education.... I’ve inherited her strong will for sure. I am equally persevering and determined like my mother.”[4][3]


Tessy Thomas studied in St. Michael's Higher Secondary School and St. Joseph's Girl's Higher Secondary School in Alleppey (Alappzuha). She had a natural flair for mathematics and physics. She scored one hundred percent in mathematics during her 11th and 12th years in school. In the same years she had also scored more than ninety five percent in science.[4][3][7]

She took an education loan of Rs. 100 per month from State Bank of India to study engineering from Government Engineering College, Thrissur. She also received a scholarship that covered her tuition fees having been entered into the first ten students of the merit list during her admissions. The loan gave her the courage to live in a hostel while pursuing her B. Tech.[4][10]

In both school and college Thomas was involved in extracurricular activities including political issues. She excelled in sports especially badminton bringing much recognition to her alma maters.[11]

She also has an M.Tech in Guided Missile from the Institute of Armament Technology, Pune (now known as the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology).[10] She also pursued MBA in Operations Management and Ph.D. in guidance missile under DRDO.[3]


She joined DRDO in 1988.[12] She was placed in the department of design and development of the new generation ballistic missile, Agni. For the Agni Programme, she had been appointed by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.[3]

Tessy was associate project director of the 3,000 km range Agni-III missile project.[13] She was the project director for mission Agni IV which was successfully tested in 2011.[14] Tessy was appointed as the Project Director for 5,000 km range Agni-V in 2009. The missile was successfully tested on 19 April 2012. She was appointed as Director-General, Aeronautical Systems of DRDO in 2018.[1]

She is a fellow in various universities such as Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), Institution of Engineers-India (IEI) and Tata Administrative Service (TAS).[3]

Sexual harassment controversy[edit]

In October 2015, Thomas was accused by a former researcher at DRDO of attempt to silence a case of sexual harassment.[15][16][17]

The researcher who was from Hyderabad, India, and worked under a contract with DRDO was allegedly sent numerous late night messages and phone calls by her immediate senior K. Srinivas, a grade E Officer. While Srinivas refused to elaborate on the matter, further allegations were made that Tessy Thomas, who was the director of the Advanced Systems Laboratory, directed a several hours long interrogation towards the victim instead of the accused and intimidated her by shouting despite the presence of proof of harassment provided. The victim's contract was terminated on September 30, 2015.[15][17]

Later, Thomas responded to the allegations saying that the matter was referred to a NGO representative to determine its truth. However, she also said to Economic Times, “It does not seem to be a genuine case and we had formed a committee to investigate. The charges were not found to be true."[16]

The researcher had filed a complaint against Srinivas on September 7, 2015 addressed to Thomas along with proof of the chats with him who forced her to withdraw complaint without enquiry. "After reading the letter she says she doesn't find any sexual harassment in my case with the attached proofs of chats. Later on I said physical proximity was there for which she says that it's common in work place and I have misunderstood him in this regard", the victim reiterated in her letter to Hina A. Gokhale, the director of Personnel. "I said he always says now and then that women should have extra marital life to flourish professionally. She says that doesn't come under sexual harassment case."[15][16][17]

The victim alleged that Thomas "shouted stating that she is a lab director and I was wasting her time with my complaint and also asked me to give my personal mobile and SIM card for enquiry." She added that she had no confidence in the actions taken by Thomas and her department, although her letter to Gokhale was referred back to the Advanced Systems Laboratory.[15][17]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to Saroj Kumar, a commander in the Indian Navy and they have a son, Tejas.[18]


Thomas received the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for her contribution for making India self-reliant in the field of missile technology.[19][20]


  • Thomas, Tessy (2005-07-01). "Guidance Scheme for Solid Propelled Vehicle during Atmospheric Phase". Defence Science Journal. 55 (3): 253–264. doi:10.14429/dsj.55.1987.
  • Sudhakar, R.; Venkanna, M.; Rao, B. V. Papa; Thomas, Tessy (2017). "Prediction of Real Gas and Non-Equilibrium Effects in the Gas Dynamics of Canister Launch Missile". 30th International Symposium on Ballistics. 0 (0).
  • "Online Trajectory Reshaping for a Launch Vehicle to Minimize the Final Error Caused by Navigation and Guidance - ProQuest". search.proquest.com. Retrieved 2018-01-21.
  • "Quality Assessment of High Strength Metallic Rocket Motor Casings - A Non Destructive Testing Approach" (PDF). 2015 International Journal of Engineering Development and Research. 3 (4).
  • Ghogale, Shrikant; Venkanna, M.; Rao, B. V. Papa; Thomas, Tessy (2017). "Developmental Challenges during Realization of High Progressivity Rocket Motor". 30th International Symposium on Ballistics. 0 (0).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b M Somasekhar (29 May 2018). "Tessy Thomas elevated as D-G Aero of DRDO". The Hindu Business Line.
  2. ^ Profile of Dr.Tessy Thomas
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "'We watched breathlessly, praying for inner strength as the missile took off'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g DD News (2016-10-09), Tejasvini: Interaction with Tessy Thomas, The Missile Women of India, retrieved 2018-01-20
  5. ^ Aji, Sowmya (28 April 2012). "India's Missile Woman: Tessy Thomas". India Today (7 May 2012).
  6. ^ Bagla, Pallava (20 April 2012). "The 'missile woman' behind India's new ICBM". BBC News.
  7. ^ a b Atul Vidyalaya (2016-01-04), Atul Vidyalaya - Speech - Agni Putri - Dr.Tessy Thomas, Missile Woman of India - 2015, retrieved 2018-01-20
  8. ^ Bagla, Pallav. "The 'missile woman' behind India's new ICBM". BBC Online. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  9. ^ INDIA SCIENCE NEWS ISN (2013-02-09), Tessy Thomas.mp4, retrieved 2018-01-20
  10. ^ a b "Tessy Thomas – The First Indian Woman Scientist to Head a Missile Project in India". Be An Inspirer. 2016-12-22. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  11. ^ "Dr. Tessy Thomas". Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  12. ^ "In Love With Rocket Science: The Story of Tessy Thomas, India's Missile Woman". The Better India. 2017-11-30. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  13. ^ Smt. Tessy Thomas is first woman scientist to head missile project Archived 22 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine .
  14. ^ 'Agni Putri' Tessy Thomas breaks glass ceiling
  15. ^ a b c d "Missile Woman Tessy Thomas Hushed up Sexual Harassment Probe: Former DRDO Staffer". www.indiandefensenews.in. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  16. ^ a b c "DRDO junks sexual harassment complaint against senior scientist - The American Bazaar". The American Bazaar. 2015-10-08. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  17. ^ a b c d Pubby, Manu (2015-10-08). "Missile woman Tessy Thomas hushed up sexual harassment probe: Former DRDO staffer". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  18. ^ "Meet India's "Missile Woman"" (PDF). IWSA Newsletter. 34 (3). September 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 September 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Scientist honoured for work on Agni missile tech". Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  20. ^ "'Missile woman' Tessy Thomas conferred Shastri award". October 2, 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012.

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