A.P.J. Abdul Kalam; Missile Man of India


Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam) was born in a poor Tamil Muslim family at Rameswaram District of Tamil Nadu on 15th October 1931. His father, Jainulabdeen, was an imam of a local mosque and a boat owner. His mother, Ashiamma, was a home maker. He was the youngest in the family with four elder brothers and a sister. Due to poverty he started working by selling newspapers at a young age to support his father.  During his school days he was an average student but was very hard working and had a strong desire to learn. Mathematics was his favorite subject and would spend hours studying the subject. He did his schooling from Rameswaram Elementary School and graduated in Physics from St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchirappalli in 1954. A year later he moved to Madras and joined the Madras Institute of Technology and studied aerospace engineering. He wanted to beome a fighter pilot but his dream didn’t become reality and he was ranked ninth while the IAF offered only eight slots.

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. In the initial days of his career he designed a small helicopter for the Indian army. He also worked under the renowned scientist Vikram Sarbhai as a part of the committee of INCOSPAR

Journey and Achievements of Kalam as a Scientist


  • 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.
  • 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 succeeded K.R Narayanan as the 11the President of India. He served as the President of India from 25th July 2002 to 25 July 2007. He was affectionately called People’s President.

Awards and Recognitions

  • He was honoured with Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, in 1997 for his contribution in the field of scientific research, development and modernization 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

Dr.  A.P.J Abdul Kalam passed away on 27th July 2015, due to a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong.



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