- By Dwaipayan, 16 October 2020 | 8 MIN READ
“The best brains of a nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom” – APJ Abdul Kalam
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the Missile Man was not only known for his significant contribution in science but also served as the 11th President of India and was widely regarded as the 'People's President'. He was a youth icon, an aerospace scientist, and a man with unparallel vision. Dr. Kalam worked with India's two major space research organizations-Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He also penned several books “Wings of fire” being the most popular, a must read.
Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 to a Tamil Muslim family in the pilgrimage center of Rameswaram on Pamban Island. Kalam was the youngest of four brothers and one sister in his family. His ancestors had been wealthy traders and landowners. However, by his early childhood, Kalam's family had become poor; at an early age, he sold newspapers to supplement his family's income.
In his school years, Kalam had average grades but was described as a bright and hardworking student who had a strong desire to learn. He spent hours on his studies, especially mathematics. It was only his progressive mind, a curiosity to learn made him achieve laurels – A journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary!
There are many inspiring stories of him that will motivate you, inspire you, and uplift you. A very humble man with a big heart and a quality conscious.
The simplicity of Abdul Kalam
The missile man once refused the suggestion to put broken glass on the wall of a building that needed protection because broken glass could be harmful to birds!
This took place when Dr. Kalam was with the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and his team was considering options to secure the edging walls of the building that needed protection. Dr. Kalam promptly said: “If we do that, birds will not be able to perch on the wall. Think of a better idea.
In another incident, As the President, Dr. Kalam was entitled to invite any two persons as the “Presidential Guests” to the Raj Bhavan of Kerala during his visit to Trivandrum. He had spent substantial time as a scientist in Trivandrum and guess who he invited? a roadside shoemaker who was quite close to Dr. Kalam during his time in Kerala; and an owner of a very small hotel where Dr. Kalam used to have his meals. This gesture shows his level of simplicity. Truly Amazing!
With this humble man and a humble beginning of ISRO, or the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) set up in 1962 by Jawaharlal Nehru and led by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, INCOSPAR was India’s first attempt to devise the Indian Space Programme.
A quintessential Kerala fishing hamlet with thatched huts, coconut groves, and peaceful sea, it was an unlikely setting for a rocket launch station. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was amongst the few young scientists who set up the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, which launched as many as 350 small rockets over the next 12 years.
India’s first communication satellite, APPLE
It was 1979, the key launching site of ISRO was shifted to Sriharikota, and sooner, in 1980, RS-1 became the first satellite to be put into orbit by an Indian launch vehicle, SLV-3. While such feats were accomplished by several other countries, but it was major progress for India’s young space programme. Dr. Kalam said “A small vehicle, no doubt, but a giant leap for the nation”. ISRO designed India’s first communication satellite, APPLE, in 1981.
Interestingly, the iconic photograph of APPLE was transported in a bullock cart seen to make rounds in newspapers and social media then. The reason for using wooden bullock carts was graceful and yet simple – to prevent interference of magnet-sensitive instruments with metal trucks!
A man ahead of his time
Kalam took some real interest in other advancements in the field of science and technology, one of them includes the biomedical implants. He also supported open source technology over proprietary software, forecasting that the use of a free software program on a large scale would bring the benefits of information technology to more people.
After his resignation from the post of scientific adviser in 1999 Kalam chose to interact with 100,000 students. Especially, high school students to ignite their imagination and preparing them to work for a developed India. APJ’s dream was to let every student to light up the sky with victory using their latent fire in the heart.
The Government of India honored Abdul Kalam with the Padma Bhushan in 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 for his extraordinary work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government.
Kalam received 7 honorary doctorates from 40 universities and received India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the scientific research and modernization of defence technology in India.
In 2013, he became the recipient of the Von Braun Award from the National Space Society for his excellent work in the management and leadership of a space-related project.
Outlook India's poll 2012 Kalam was ranked 2 in the Greatest Indian.
After his demise, Kalam received numerous tributes. The Tamil Nadu state government announced that his birthday, 15 October, as "Youth Renaissance Day;" The state government further instituted the "Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Award", constituting an 8-gram gold medal, a certificate, and INR 500,000. The award will be awarded annually on Independence Day, beginning in 2015, to residents of the state with achievements in promoting scientific growth, the humanities, or the welfare of students.
Not just in India, researchers at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had discovered a new bacterium on the filters of the International Space Station (ISS) and named it Solibacillus kalamii in honor of the late president Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam will be ever lived as an inspiration and role model for generations to come. The 11th President of India Dr. Kalam will be always remembered as a role model for the youth and as a teacher first.
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