June 14, 2024
APJ Abdul Kalam

APJ Abdul Kalam: Missile Man of India

APJ Abdul Kalam is India’s Missile Man of India. He was the youngest president in the country, a nuclear scientist and an aerospace engineer. Who help create and head India’s civilian space programme. And was known as an advocate for peace with his famous speech “Missile Man of India”.

As someone who ushered in modernizing reforms for Indian politics at a time. When Nehruvian democracy seemed too outdated to keep functioning. Kalam is seen as an exemplar of modern entrepreneurship, state-building capacity and technological advancement. His life story has been brought to screen by critically-acclaim director Shankar.

About APJ Abdul Kalam

APJ Abdul Kalam was born as the third child in a family of eight in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu on October 15, 1931 to his father Abdul Kala Murti and mother Sujahidah. His father was a member of Kalayakoonan. Who came from a traditional Muslim family from village Peedikaickenpalayam of Ramanattukara mandal of Rameswaram Taluk. His childhood was spent between Rameshwaram and Bangalore after his father’s service as headmaster at St. Joseph’s High School there.

As a child he had an active interest in science, but he did not receive much support at home to pursue his interest in science.

Life of Kalam

His birth

APJ Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931 to an orthodox Muslim family in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. He was the third child and first boy born to his parents Abdul Kala Murtu and Sujjadah. His father was a teacher of Urdu and Persian, while his mother’s family hailed from Zanzibar, East Africa. In his childhood, he had an active interest in science but did not receive much support at home to pursue science as a career.

His education

APJ Abdul Kalam formal education began at Saint Joseph’s High School in Ramanathapuram where his father had been the headmaster. He was a very bright student academically, being a top scorer throughout his academic career. His elder brother Jaffer Murtu was an aeronautical engineer. In 1950, he obtained a bachelor’s degree with distinction in physics, as one of the two Indian students to obtain first class that year from Madras University. In 1951, he obtained an MSc with first class and distinction in physics from the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chennai, then known as Madras Institute of Technology of University of Madras.

Personal life

On 26 November 1953, he got married to Dr Sridevi in Bangalore where she came from a Muslim family as well. During their early years, Kalam and Sridevi had 2 children.

It was after his wife’s death in 1993 that Kalam began to be more involved with social work and serve the nation.

After his graduation, Kalam was selected for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by its chairman Vikram Sarabhai.


APJ Abdul Kalam was recruited as an aerospace engineer in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by its then chairman Vikram Sarabhai in 1963.

At the ISRO he set up a team of scientists and laid the foundation of India’s indigenous space programme. He motivated and inspired them to work in a very tough environment with limited funds, and to overcome all difficulties through sheer dedication and perseverance. The most crucial contribution he made to the space programme was about guidance for the LPS-I launch vehicle that was used for India’s first satellite launch, Aryabhata orbiting from Sriharikota on 19 February 1975.

APJ Abdul Kalam

As a scientist

In 1963, APJ Abdul Kalam moved to Thumba as the Project Director of the first Indian satellite launch vehicle. Over the next 15 years at ISRO he was deeply involve in developing India’s first satellite launch vehicle, SLV-III, which successfully deployed Rohini satellite in near earth’s orbit. He was the project director of Bhaskara space launch vehicle that carried 31 satellites belonging to international customers.

Kalam went on to head DRDL (Defence Research and Development Laboratory) at Hyderabad. During this period he played a key role in developing technologies for societal applications such as modular construction techniques for house boats on river Ganga and flood lights for religions structures like temples and mosques. He also helped develop mobile launchers for the Indian Army.

In 1992, he was give responsibility to set up and head the Technological Sectors of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Under his leadership, DRDL developed India’s longest range missile system, the Agni; a remote sensing satellite launch vehicle which doubled India’s surveillance capabilities; an anti-tank guided missile Ajeya which won him the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award for science and technology in 1999. He was also responsible for developing a Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System Pinaka which is now induct into Indian army.

Nuclear tests

APJ Abdul Kalam served as Chief Scientific Adviser to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from 2001 to 2003. He also served as Chief Controller of Research and Development.

Kalam was also the Secretary of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence Minister’s scientific adviser. He was a renowned scientist, best known as the chief architect of India’s successful Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, which made India a nuclear country.


In 1998, when the then Prime Minister, I. K. Gujral appointed N. D. Tiwari as President of India for a term of five years. Kalam as a Union Cabinet Minister was appoint Cabinet Secretary. However, he took charge of running the affairs of the government from May 1998 to June 2004. As the senior most in office and an honour which is seldom conferr on any civil servant in India . He also became a member of National Security Advisory Board, Reserve Bank Board and Planning Commission Member.

Fondly called ‘The People’s President’, during his term as the President of India, he gave several key policy speeches. He also made famous and unforgettable quotations such as “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’. A part limited in time and space. However, he experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest. We must learn the art of making our lives our own, of dying to self and living through love”

Awakening Of India

The President presided over various programmes that encouraged science education, technology promotion, pollution control, environment protection and research in various areas like health aids for farmers etc.

Awards and honors

Late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, scientist and President of India, a man who brought laurels to the country. Therefore, he was award India’s highest award in civilian science and technology, the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award for Science and Technology in 1998 by K.R. Narayanan, then the President of India.

Kalam was award the Padma Bhushan in 1981 by the Government of India. He was also award the Padma Vibhushan (1990), given as a civilian honour by the Government of India, and Russia’s highest civilian award, the Order of Friendship (2009) for his exceptional services to strengthen international strategic, security and scientific cooperation.

In 2003, he became a visiting fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. However, in 2006, he received an honorary doctorate from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), Chennai. He also gets the Bharat Ratna award.

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