Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen “A. P. J.” Abdul Kalam
(15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015) was the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. A career scientist turned reluctant politician, Kalam was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and studied physics and aerospace engineering. He spent the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and was intimately involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He also played a pivotal organizational, technical, and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.
Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Widely referred to as the “People’s President,” he returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service after a single term. He was a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour.
While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Kalam collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015, aged 83. His death was mourned across the nation with thousands including national-level dignitaries attending the funeral ceremony held in his hometown of Rameshwaram, where he was buried with full state honours.
Below is a list that tries to do justice to his numerous achievements:
• After graduating from Madras Institute of Technology in 1960, Mr Kalam joined the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). He designed helicopters for the Indian Army, but he always said he didn’t feel at home at the DRDO.
• In 1969 he got the Government’s approval to expand the programme by including more engineers and scientists.
• After he was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Mr Kalam worked as the project director for SLV-III, India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle.
• SLV-III successfully launched satellite Rohini to orbit on July 1980. From then, Mr Kalam expanded India’s space programme.
• In the 1980s he led India’s missile programme. Under his leadership, India became a major military power after the successes of Agni and Prithvi.
• He was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999.
• In 1998, along with cardiologist Dr.Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost Coronary stent. It was named as “Kalam-Raju Stent” honouring them. In 2012, the duo designed a rugged tablet PC for health care in rural areas, which was named as “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.
• In 1998, the Pokhran-II tests cemented India’s nuclear prowess. Mr Kalam played the pivotal role in the project. He firmly told the international community that such arms were only to deter other nations from trying to subjugate India, and were only to be used as “weapons of peace”.
• In a rare show of unity, all political parties unanimously voted for Mr Kalam in 2002 as the 11th President of India.
• As President, Mr Kalam personified dignity and optimism throughout India and abroad. His stirring speeches at the UN and the European Parliament are among the best ever delivered. His simplicity in oration and action were applauded and made him dear to all.
• After the completion of his term as President, Mr Kalam became a visiting professor, wrote extensively and launched many initiatives for youth development. “Wings of Fire” and “India 2020” are modern classics, and have motivated millions of Indians.
|Year of award or honour||Name of award or honour||Awarding organisation|
|1997||Bharat Ratna||Government of India|
|1994||Distinguished Fellow||Institute of Directors (India)|
|2010||Doctor of Engineering||University of Waterloo|
|2008||Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa)||Nanyang Technological University, Singapore|
|2012||Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa)||Simon Fraser University|
|2014||Doctor of Science||Edinburgh University,UK|
|2008||Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa)||Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh|
|2009||Honorary Doctorate||Oakland University|
|2007||Honorary Doctorate of Science||University of Wolverhampton, UK|
|2007||Honorary Doctorate of Science and Technology||Carnegie Mellon University|
|2009||Hoover Medal||ASME Foundation, USA|
|2011||IEEE Honorary Membership||IEEE|
|1997||Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration||Indian National Congress|
|2009||International von Kármán Wings Award||California Institute of Technology, USA|
|2007||King Charles II Medal||Royal Society, UK|
|1981||Padma Bhushan||Government of India|
|1990||Padma Vibhushan||Government of India|
|2000||Ramanujan Award||Alwars Research Centre, Chennai|
|1998||Veer Savarkar Award||Government of India|
|2013||Von Braun Award||National Space Society|