APJ Abdul Kalam

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a man of many parts. Best known for the good nature he brought to the office of the president, he was also an author and inspirational speaker, a poet in Tamil, an amateur musician and polymath. Most of all, however, he was a scientist with a flair for inventiveness, adaptation and administration – qualities that propelled him to the frontlines of the national imagination when the rocketry that he devoted most of his professional life to helped India reach for the skies. Kalam was 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007.

  • Contributions to DRDO:
    • Dr Kalam started his career at DRDO after graduating from the Madras Institute of Technology.
    • He joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation as a scientist after becoming a member of the Defence Research and Development Service (DRDS).
    • Kalam apparently started his career by designing a small hovercraft at DRDO.
    • In 1965, Kalam independently started work on an expandable rocket project at the institution, and in 1969 he received the government’s approval and expanded the programme to include more engineers.
    • During his tenure at DRDO, Kalam directed two projects namely Project Devil and Project Valiant, which aimed at developing ballistic missiles from the technology of SLV programme.
    • Kalam also played an instrumental role in developing missiles like Agni and Prithvi under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) of which he was the chief executive.
    • Kalam is also credited with playing a major role in the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, which were carried out during his stint as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999.
  • Contributions to ISRO:
    • Dr Kalam was part of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), which was set up by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, father of Indian space programme.
    • INCOSPAR, the team of rocket engineers of which Kalam was a part, set up the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) that is used by ISRO to launch sounding rockets even today.
    • Kalam was also the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit. Kalam has also played a contributory role in the development of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
  • An Inspiration to The Youth of New India:
    • Kalam had always tried to inspire the younger generation through the medium of his powerful speeches.
    • In fact, some of his decisions have also been the result of his own youthful passion.
    • For example, his decision to no longer live a comfortable life as the President of India and take up the very ambitious venture of teaching and imparting his knowledge to students, the younger generation, was clearly a youthful act.
  • Other interests:
    • A vegetarian, Dr. Kalam had the prowess of reciting the holy book Quran and the Bhagavad Gita with equal ease.
    • Through a third person’s view, Dr. Kalam was a man of peace. He loved classical music and used to play the Veena with utmost poise. He used to write Tamil poems which were famed to move the reader.
    • As if it wasn’t already enough, Dr. Kalam was a voracious reader as well. He even authored many books like India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium, Wings of Fire, Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power within India, Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji, A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020.

Whether it was his advocacy of nuclear weapons, his conversion – but only after leaving Rashtrapati Bhavan – to the cause of the abolition of the death penalty, his occasionally indifferent poetry, and his embarrassing fondness for getting audiences to repeat his homilies in unison, there was always a side of Kalam even his admirers may not have found appealing. But it was impossible to remain unmoved in his presence, his face often set to a stern expression like a schoolteacher who has struck upon an epiphany, his neatly partitioned mane of silver hair staying obediently out of the way. The success of the SLV-3 fetched him a Padma Bhushan in 1981; excellence at the DRDO, the Padma Vibhushan in 1990; and ultimately the Bharat Ratna in 1997.