A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a prominent Indian scientist who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. Renowned for his pivotal role in the nation’s civilian space programme and military missile development, he was known as the Missile Man of India. He made significant contributions to India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998 which established him as a national hero. An alumnus of the prestigious Madras Institute of Technology, Kalam began his career as a scientist at the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). He was later transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he served as the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III). He eventually rejoined DRDO and became closely involved in India’s space programme. he served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister in the 1990s before becoming the President of India in 2002. Immensely popular during his term, he earned the moniker of People’s President. He was honored with several awards including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, for his contribution to the nation’s space and nuclear programme.
Childhood & Early Life
Abdul Kalam was born as the youngest of five children of a Muslim boat owner named Jainulabudeen and his wife Ashiamma, in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. His ancestors had once been wealthy traders though his family lost much of its fortunes by the early 20th century. Kalam grew up in humble surroundings and had to take up a job while he was still in school in order to augment his family?s meager income?he distributed newspapers to help his father in providing for the family. He was a bright young boy, blessed with a thirst for knowledge and was always eager to learn new things. He completed his schooling from Ramanathapuram Schwartz Matriculation School and proceeded to study physics at the Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, from where he graduated in 1954. Then he studied aerospace engineering in Madras Institute of Technology, graduating in 1960. His childhood ambition was to become a fighter pilot but he narrowly missed achieving his dream.
Career As A Scientist
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam earned his degree from Madras Institute of Technology in 1957 and joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist in 1958. In the early 1960s, he worked with the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) under the renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabhai. He also designed a small hovercraft at DRDO. He visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Wallops Flight Facility in 1963-64. Inspired by this visit, he began working on an expandable rocket project independently at DRDO in 1965. However, he was not much satisfied with his work at DRDO and was happy to be transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969. There he served as the project director of the SLV-III, India’s first indigenously designed and produced satellite launch vehicle. In the 1970s, he began making efforts to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits, the nation’s PSLV project was an eventual success; it was first launched on 20 September 1993. A.P.J. Kalam also directed several other projects, including Project Devil, in the 1970s. Project Devil was an early liquid-fueled missile project aimed at producing a short-range surface-to-air missile. The project was not a success in the long-term and was discontinued in the 1980s.However it led to the later development of the Prithvi missile in the 1980s. He was also involved with the Project Valiant which aimed at the development of intercontinental ballistic missile. Similar to Project Devil, this project too was not a success in itself but played a role in the development of the Prithvi missile later on. In the early 1980s, the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), an Indian Ministry of Defence programme managed by the DRDO in partnership with other government organizations was launched. Kalam was asked to lead the project and thus he returned to DRDO as the Chief Executive of the IGMDP in 1983. The programme, which received tremendous political support, aimed at the concurrent development of four projects: Short range surface-to-surface missile (code-named Prithvi), Short range low-level surface-to-air missile (code-named Trishul), Medium range surface-to-air missile (code-named Akash) and Third-generation anti-tank missile (code-named Nag). The IGMDP, under the able leadership of Kalam proved to be a resounding success and produced a number of successful missiles including the first Prithvi missile in 1988, and the Agni missile in 1989. Due to his achievements as the director of the IGMDP, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam earned the nickname of “Missile Man.” His increasing involvement with governmental agencies led to his appointment as the Scientific Adviser to the Defense Minister in 1992. In 1999, he was appointed as the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India with the rank of cabinet minister. In the late 1990s, he played a major role in conducting the Pokhran-II, a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in May 1998. Following the success of these tests which elevated Kalam to the status of a national hero, the then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a full-fledged nuclear state. In addition to being a brilliant scientist, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was also a visionary. In 1998, he proposed a countrywide plan called Technology Vision 2020 to serve as an action plan to make India a developed nation by the year 2020. He put forward several suggestions, including nuclear empowerment, technological innovations, and improved agricultural productivity to achieve the same. In 2002, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was in power at the time, expressed its decision to nominate A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the President of India to succeed outgoing President K.R. Narayanan. Both the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party backed his candidacy. Kalam, being a popular national figure, easily won the presidential election. As an Author Abdul Kalam was also a noted author who had penned books like ?India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium? (1998), ?Wings of Fire: An Autobiography? (1999)Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India? (2002), and ?A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020? (2014).
Awards and Honors
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam has been honored with several prestigious awards from the Government of India including the Padma Bhushan in 1981, the Padma Vibhushan in 1990, and the Bharat Ratna in 1997. He was also the recipient of the Von Braun Award (2013) from the National Space Society “to recognize excellence in the management and leadership of a space-related project”. Following his death, theTamil Nadu state government announced that his birthday, 15 October, would be observed across the state as “Youth Renaissance Day”. Personal Life Kalam was a life-long bachelor. He had four elder siblings?one sister and three brothers?with whom he had close relations. He was a very simple person with just a few personal possessions.
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He remained active until the last day of his life. He was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong on 27 July 2015. Only five minutes into his lecture, he collapsed and was rushed to the Bethany Hospital where he was confirmed dead of a sudden cardiac arrest. His last rites were performed in his hometown, Rameswaram.
1931: Born in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India
1954: Graduated from the Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli
1960: Joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
1969: Transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) 1970s: Directed Project Devil and Project Valiant
1982-1983: Became the chief executive of Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP)
1990: Awarded the Padma Vibhushan
1992: Appointed the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Orgasnisation
1997: Awarded the Bharat Ratna
2002: Became the 11th President of India
2007: Stepped down from the presidency of India
2012: Launched a programme for the youth of India called the ?What Can I Give Movement?
2015: Died of a cardiac arrest on 27 July