The Missile Man of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam


Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam An Indian scientist, administrator and India’s 11th President (2002-2007), and was one of the most respected people of the country. Kalam contributed immensely both as an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientist and as a president. For this reason he was also known as “People’s President” and “Missile man of India.” Kalam passed away on 27th July 2015 due to cardiac arrest in Shillong.

Born on 15th October 1931 in Dhanushkodi, India, ‘into a Muslim family. ‘ Little did Jainulabdeen and Ashiamma (his parents) know that their son would grow up to be the first (1st) citizen of India. His father was a humble boat owner, and a devout Muslim. Kalam grew up in poverty and had seven siblings. He distributed newspapers as a young boy to contribute to his father’s meager income.

Despite his modest beginnings – Kalam was a bright student, and  had the support of his school teachers. His teacher Iyadurai Solomon often told Kalam that if he truly, intensely desired something, he would get it. As a boy he was always fascinated by birds and it was from here that he got interested in flying aircrafts. But fate had something else in store. Since  there were only 6 vacancies, he narrowly missed the opportunity to join the Indian Air force just by one rank.

At Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chennai, where Kalam studied aeronautics, he learned an important lesson: the value of time.

As A Scientist

Kalam joined the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a senior scientific assistant in 1958. After moving to the newly formed Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 1969, he was named project director of the SLV-III, the first satellite launch vehicle designed and produced on Indian soil.

His years at the ISRO were the most crucial ones, as they left a lasting impact on him. Kalam led many projects and they all turned out to be successful.

In the 1970s, Kalam directed two projects, namely, Project Devil and Project Valiant, which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV program. Returning to the DRDO as director in 1982, Kalam implemented the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.


Abdul Kalam teaching Scientist at ISRO 1980

 Rise to the Presidency

From 1992 until 1999, Kalam was appointed as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defense Research and Development Organization. Kalam was a key figure in the May 1998 Pokhran-II tests, in which five nuclear devices were detonated in the Rajasthan Desert. Although the tests resulted in condemnation and economic sanctions against india by the world powers, Kalam was hailed as a national hero for his staunch defense of the country’s security, after which he was fondly called the “Missile Man of India”.

Kalam succeeded K. R. Narayan to serve as the 11th President of India from 2002 until 2007. Kalam set a goal of conducting 5,00,000 one-on-one meetings with young people over the course of his five-year term. His immense popularity led to him being nominated by MTV for a Youth Icon of the Year award in 2003 and 2006.

After completing his term as President, Dr Kalam served as visiting professor in various esteemed institutes and Universities of India, such as Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Indore. He also served as Chancellor of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, Aerospace Engineering at Anna University (Chennai), JSS University (Mysore)

Death and Legacy 

On July 27, 2015, at the age of 83 Dr Abdul Kalam passed away at Bethany Hospital, Shillong, Meghalaya, due to heart failure after having collapsed during a lecture at Indian Institute of Management, Shillong.

Kalam was laid to rest on July 30 with full state honors in his native Tamil Nadu. In his honor, the southeast Indian state government of Tamil Nadu created a “Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Award,” which recognizes exceptional individuals who promote the sciences, students and humanities. The government has also established Kalam’s birthday (October 15) as “Youth Renaissance Day.”

He had many accolades, including honorary doctorates from 40 universities. He was granted the Padma Bhushan (1981), the Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the Bharat Ratna (1997) — India’s highest civilian awards — for his contributions in modernizing government defense technology. He also wrote several books, “Ignited Minds”, “Mission India”, “Inspiring Thoughts” and “The Luminous Sparks” including the autobiography, Wings of Fire in 1999.

Another book, “India 2020” which was widely read and appreciated. It forecast an action plan which advocated India turning into a knowledge superpower and as one of the developed nations of the world by the year 2020.

Interesting facts:

  • He was a protege of the great Indian scientist Dr. Vikram Sarabhai who guided him and gave him valuable advice.
  • He was the first scientist and first ever bachelor to occupy the Rastrapati Bhawan.
  • He was known to write his own, thank you cards with messages in his own handwriting.
  • He had a keen interest in literature and wrote poems in Tamil.
  • Despite being a practicing Muslim, he believed in all religions. He used to read both the Bhagavad Gita and Kuran.
  • Dr A.P.J. Kalam remained unmarried throughout his life.

Some of his Famous Sayings:

  • Don’t declare a holiday on my death, instead work extra day; if you really love me.
  • Man needs difficulties in Life because they are necessary to enjoy the Success.
  • The Dream is not what you see in sleep, dream is which does not let you sleep.
  • It’s very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone.
  • Your Best teacher is your last mistake.

He was “Peoples President”; as he was one of the few presidents who have touched the hearts of so many poors in the country. Since he came from a poor background, he knew the power of education in changing one’s future.

A Leader, Visionary and a great Human being might have passed away who “ignited minds” across the world, but his inspirational life and vision will always keep motivating us”.



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