Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Biography
Bharat Ratna Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Ab dul Kalam, generally known as Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, was the 11th Presidentof India (2002-2007). He was elected against Lakshmi Sehgal in 2002 and had support from both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, the two leading political parties of India. By profession, he was a scientist and an administrator in India. He worked with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as an aerospace engineer before becoming the President of India. His work on the development of launch vehicle and ballistic missile technology had earned him the name of the ‘Missile Man of India’. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests conducted in India in 1998 after the original nuclear test of 1974 saw him in a pivotal political, organisational and technical role.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was the visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Indore; the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; and the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. He was a professor of Aerospace Engineering at the JSS University in Mysore and at the Anna University in Chennai, apart from being an adjunct and visiting faculty at other research and academic institutions in India. He was the honorary fellow of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and the Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram.
In his book ‘India 2020’, he recommended plans to make the nation a fully developed one by the year 2020. His interactions with the student community and his motivational speeches made him quite popular among the youth. In 2011, he launched a mission called ‘What Can I Give Movement’ aimed at the youth of India, which focused on defeating corruption in the country.
Detailed Personal Background
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was born in a necessitous and little educated Tamil family on 15 October 1931, at Rameswaram district of Tamil Nadu, India. His father, Jainulabdeen, was a boat owner, and his mother, Ashiamma, was a homemaker. He started working at a young age to support his father. He received average grades in school but was seen as a hardworking and bright student with a strong desire to learn things. He used to study for hours, especially mathematics. He completed his schooling from Rameswaram Elementary School. In 1954, he graduated in Physics from St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchirappalli, which was then affiliated to the University of Madras. Thereafter, in 1955, he moved to Madras (now Chennai) and joined the Madras Institute of Technology and studied aerospace engineering. His dream was to become a fighter pilot but he was ranked ninth while the IAF offered only eight slots. He remained a bachelor.
Kalam rose from obscurity through his personal and professional struggles and his work on Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag missiles became a household name in India and raised the nation’s prestige to international reckoning.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam passed away on 27 July 2015, due to a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong.
Journey and Achievements as a Scientist
- After completing his graduation in 1960, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam joined as a scientist in Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Aeronautical Development Establishment.
- At the very start of his career, he designed a small helicopter for the Indian army.
- He also worked under the renowned scientist Vikram Sarabhai as a part of the committee of INCOSPAR.
- From 1963 to 1964, he visited the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the Wallops Flight Facility located at the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Langley Research Center of NASA situated at Hampton, Virginia.
- In 1965, he worked independently in Defence Research and Development Organisation for the first time on an expandable rocket project. The programme was expanded in 1969 and more engineers were included after receiving Government approval.
- He became the Project Director of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) when he was transferred in 1969 to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In July 1980, his team was successful in deploying the Rohini satellite near the orbit of the Earth.
- Dr. Kalam’s efforts in developing the projects on SLV-III and Polar SLV from 1970s to 1990s proved to be successful.
- Dr. Kalam directed Project Valiant and Project Devil that aimed at developing ballistic missiles using the technology of the SLV programme that was a success. It is known that the then
- Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, using her discretionary powers, allotted secret funds when these aerospace projects were disapproved by the Union Cabinet.
- Dr. Kalam and Dr. V.S. Arunachalam, on the proposal of the then Defense Minister R. Venkataraman, worked on developing a quiver of missiles instead of one at a time. Dr. Kalam was made the Chief Executive of the programme, which was named Integrated Guided Missile Development programme.
- From July 1992 to December 1999 he remained the Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, and also the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister. This period witnessed the Pokhran II nuclear tests, when Dr. Kalam played a key technological and political role. At the time of the testing phase, he, along with R. Chidambaram, was made the Chief Project Coordinator.
- He developed a low-cost Coronary Stent along with Dr. Soma Raju, a cardiologist, in 1998. It was named “Kalam-Raju Stent” after them. Both of them also designed a tablet PC called “Kalam-Raju Tablet” for healthcare in rural areas.
Dr. Kalam’s Tenure as President of India
- The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on 10 June 2002 proposed Dr. Kalam’s name for the Presidential post to the Leader of Opposition, Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
- The Nationalist Congress Party and the Samajwadi Party supported his candidature.
- Dr. Kalam served as the President of India from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007.
- He won the election, getting 922,884 votes, thus defeating Lakshmi Sehgal, who got 107,366 votes.
- Dr. Kalam succeeded K.R. Narayanan as the 11th President of India.
- He was the third President of India to have received the prestigious Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour. It was earlier given to Dr. Sarvapali Radhakrishnan in 1954 and Dr. Zakir Hussain in 1963.
- He was the first bachelor and scientist to reside in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
- Dr. Kalam was affectionately called the People’s President.
- According to him, the toughest decision taken by him as President was signing the Bill of Office of Profit.
- He was criticized as a President for his inaction to decide the fate of 20 mercy petitions out of 21, including that of the Kashmiri Terrorist Afzal Guru, who was convicted for the Parliament attacks in December 2001.
Awards and Recognitions
- The nation honoured Dr Kalam with Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, in 1997 for his contribution in the field of scientific research, development and modernisation of technology in the defence sector of India.
- In 1990, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Indian Government for his work with the DRDO and ISRO and as scientific advisor to the Government.
- In 1981 he received the Padma Bhushan
- In 1998, the Government of India presented to him the Veer Savarkar Award.
- The Alwar Research Centre, Chennai, bestowed on him the Ramanujan Award in 2000.
- The University of Wolverhampton in UK bestowed on him the Honorary Doctorate of Science in 2007.
- California Institute of Technology, USA, honoured him with the International von Karman Wings Award in 2009.
- In 1997, the Indian National Congress conferred him with the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.
- He received the Hoover Medal from ASME Foundation, U.S.A, in 2009.
- The Royal Society of UK honoured him with the King Charles II Medal in 2007.
- In 2008, he received the Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa) from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
- In 2010 The University of Waterloo honoured him with the Doctor of Engineering
- In 2011, he became an honorary member of the IEEE.
- In 2012, the Simon Fraser University conferred on him the Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa).
- In 2013, he received the Von Braun Award from National Space Society in recognition of his excellence in the leadership and management of space-related projects.
- In 2014, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Science from Edinburgh University, UK.
- 2015 – The United Nations recognized Dr. Kalam’s birthday as “World Student’s Day”.
Documentaries and Books by Dr. Kalam
- Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India
- Inspiring Thoughts
- Indomitable Spirit
- The Luminous Sparks
- Turning Points: A journey through challenges
- My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions
- Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha
- India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Y.S. Rajan.
- Wings of Fire: An Autobiography, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari.
- Mission India, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
- Envisioning an Empowered Nation, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and A. Sivathanu Pillai.
- You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari.
- Target 3 Billion, by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh
- A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: The Visionary of India, by K. Bhushan and G. Katyal.
- Eternal Quest: Life and Times of Dr. Kalam, written by S. Chandra.
- President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, written by R.K. Pruthi.
- My Days with Mahatma Abdul Kalam, written by Fr. A.K. George.
- A Little Dream, a documentary film by P. Dhanapal, Minveli Media Works Private Limited.
- The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President, written by P.M. Nair.
- APJ Abdul Kalam – Achievements, quotes, and books
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