The former President of India, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, passed away on July 27, 2015. The nation remembers him each time India achieves a feat in the area of science, especially in the area of space and missiles. As the 11th President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was instrumental in developing the Agni and Prithvi missiles. Dr. Kalam authored numerous books, including Wings of Fire and Ignited Minds, which inspire children and adults alike to pursue their dreams.
Likewise, his personal story was nothing short of heroic. Dr. Kalam, who was born on October 15, 1931, in a modest family in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, faced hardships throughout his childhood but never gave up. Dr. Kalam graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in Physics after graduating from Schwartz Higher Secondary School. During his studies, it is said that he would study for hours without any breaks and was particularly attracted to mathematics. After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology, Dr. Kalam went on to earn a degree in aeronautical engineering.
Dr. Kalam joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1958. A decade later, in 1969, he joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). During his tenure, he directed the development of the SLV-III, which was the first satellite launch vehicle designed and manufactured in India. In 1982, Dr. Kalam returned to the DRDO to implement the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program, which later earned him the nickname ‘Missile Man of India’.
However, his greatest contribution to India was yet to come. Dr. Kalam also had the distinction of working with parties across a wide ideological spectrum. During the PV Narsimha Rao government, he served as the defence minister’s scientific advisor. Dr. Kalam played an important role in the 1998 nuclear test conducted by India under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. While the international community expressed displeasure over the development and even imposed economic sanctions on India, the May 1998 Pokhran-II tests made Dr. Kalam a household name.
When Mr. Vajpayee returned to power in 1999, Dr. Kalam served as the principal scientific adviser to the government until 2001. He succeeded KR Narayanan as President of India a year later. Dr. Kalam was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna in 1997, which is the highest honor given to a non-military individual.
On July 27, 2015, the ‘Missile Man of India’ collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. However, he continues to live on in the hearts of Indians.