Tessy Thomas

Women in STEM
Tessy Thomas

Birth: April 1963

Specialty: Engineering

Major Contributions:

First female scientist to head a missile project in India

Former Project Director of AGNI-V missile project

Former Director General of Aeronautical Systems

Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award

Image: Wikimedia

Inspired by the Apollo moon missions and then by the rocket launching station that she grew up near, Dr. Tessy Thomas has always been fascinated with science and mathematics. 

Earning a Bachelor’s of Technology from Thrissur Engineering College, Kozhikode, and a Master’s on Technology from the Defence Institute of Advanced Technologies, she was selected for “a guided-weapon course” being offered by the Defence Research and Development Organization in 1988.

She worked as associate project director for the AGNI-III missile program, which focused on creating an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The first successful test of the AGNI-III was in 2007, and just one year later Thomas was appointed the project director of the AGNI-IV missile program, making her the first woman scientist to head a missile project in India.  As project director, Thomas and her team prepared and integrated the Missile System and launched it successfully. Four successful tests have proven many new state of the art technologies like Composite Rocket Motors, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System, Micro Navigation System, Digital Controller System and a very powerful onboard computer system that were created for the AGNI program.

As project director for the AGNI-V project she was in charge of the mission and guidance of the missile based out of the Advanced System Laboratory in Hyderabad. After completing over 10,000 computer simulations, her focus was to get the missile going along the right path to its target, which AGNI- V achieved with great precision in 2012.

Known as “missile woman of India”, she accepts this name with great pride as her mentor Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former director of DRDO and President of India, has been referred to as the missile man of India. 

For her outstanding contribution to making India self-reliant in the field of missile technology she was awarded the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award in 2012. The media has called her “Agni Putri” or daughter of fire, and she continues her work creating what she sees not as weapons of destruction but weapons of peace.

In 2023 she was awarded the Women Pioneer Award as part of the ETPrime Women Leadership awards to celebrate her achievements in science and technology and being a role model and inspiration.

Suggested By: Deva Henry

Written by Angela Goad


ETPWLA 2023: Dr. Tessy Thomas wins Woman Pioneer Award at ETPrime Women Leadership Awards 2023

India Today: Fire in the Belly, With Eggs

Wikipedia: Tessy Thomas

Tessy Thomas Missile Women – Profile and Biography

‘Agni Putri’ Tessy Thomas breaks glass ceiling


See Also:

Facebook: Dr Tessy Thomas

The ‘missile woman’ behind India’s new ICBM