Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, your demise has left the nation with a void that can never be filled. A true patriot, a distinguished scientist, an extraordinary soul, and a teacher par excellence till your last breath; you embodied in your humble persona the glory of a luminary. Your ignited mind bore the essence of ‘new India’. To us and the posterity, you shall forever remain our most loved and inspiring President.
As a gesture of paying homage to our Missile Man, let us have a look at the noble journey he led, pinning innumerable badges of accomplishment to his name on the way.
- Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 to a poor Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
- After completing his education at the Ramanathapuram Schwartz Matriculation School, Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, then affiliated with the University of Madras, from where he graduated in physics in 1954.
- He was very close to achieving his dream of becoming a fighter pilot only to miss it by one position. He was placed ninth on the list of qualifiers but unfortunately, only eight positions were vacant in the IAF.
- After graduating from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1960, Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist.
- Kalam was also part of the INCOSPAR committee working under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist.
- Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969, where he was the Project Director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit in July 1980; Kalam had first started work on an expandable rocket project independently at DRDO in 1965.
- In 1963–64, he visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which culminated into success.
- In the 1970s, Kalam also directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant. These projects sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme. The funds for these projects were secretly allotted by Indira Gandhi despite the disapproval of the Union Cabinet.
- Kalam played a pivotal role developing many missiles for the country, of which Agni an intermediate range ballistic missile and Prithvi, the tactical surface-to-surface missile, are the most powerful.
- Kalam served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999.
- Kalam served as the Chief Project Coordinator, along with Rajagopala Chidambaram, during the testing phase of Pokhran-II.
- In 1998, along with cardiologist Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, named the “Kalam-Raju Stent”. In 2012, the duo designed a rugged tablet computer for health care in rural areas, which was named the “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.
- Kalam served as the 11th President of India, succeeding K. R. Narayanan. He won the 2002 presidential election with an electoral vote of 922,884, surpassing the 107,366 votes won by Lakshmi Sahgal. He served from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007.
- A prodigy in the true sense, Kalam was multitalented. Amongst many of his innate gifts, a flair for writing was one. Two of his most groundbreaking pieces are- India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium which was published in 1998 and Ignited Minds – Unleashing the Power Within India, published in 2002.
- In 1981, Kalam was honoured with the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. In 1990, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government. In 1997, Kalam received India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India. In 2005, Switzerland declared 26 May as “Science Day” to commemorate Kalam’s visit to the country. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Von Braun Award from the National Space Society to recognize excellence in the management and leadership of a space-related project.
Even words have hung their heads low today, for they are too inadequate to express the life you led by example. Goodbye sir. The stars are shining brighter than ever to receive you in their abode up there.
The video captures Dr. Kalam’s last speech: