Shakuntala A. Bhagat (1933-2012), the first woman civil engineer, with her husband Anirudha S. Bhagat, was engaged in research and development in bridge superstructures. They jointly evolved the first-ever total systems approach in this field, which involved using standardised, modular parts applicable across various types of bridges of different spans & traffic widths and loading, merely through permutations in assemblies.
The Quadricon modular bridge system, as it is known, involves the construction of a prefabricated bridge from standardised modular mass produced steel components. Quadricon allows ease of handling and small lightweight standardised modules capable of building up stocks for ex-stock supplies for universal adoption by bridge contractors, including technological support at a fraction of the cost as compared to conventional technology.
Shakuntala, who co-founded the family-run bridge-construction company, Quadricon Pvt. Ltd, in Mumbai, was born in February 1933 to S.B. Joshi, Father of Bridge Engineering in India. She graduated in civil engineering from Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute, Bombay University, in 1953, as the first woman civil engineer in India. She did her Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from University of Pennsylvania, in 1964. She had two years of practical training in West Germany, and the UK from 1954 to 1956.
Shakuntala Bhagat worked as Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering in IIT-Bombay, from 1960 to 1970 . She designed over 200 Quadricon steel bridges, of spans ranging from 18m to 138m. She developed the concept of designing Bhagat Unishear Connectors through 11 prototypes, perfected through applications. She developed formulae for designing any capacity of Bhagat Unishear Connector from 20T to 500T in tension and up to 100 per cent additional capacity when used in compression. A.S. Bhagat and S.A. Bhagat were awarded the highest award from Invention Promotion Board for inventing ‘Unishear Connectors’ in 1972. Shakuntala was awarded the ‘Woman Engineer of the Year’ award in 1993.
The first woman civil engineer passed away on October 14, 2012.