July 27, 2015. This date will be marked as one of the darkest days in the history of world’s largest democracy. It is the day when India lost its most beloved politician, scientist and statesman. Sounds weird but yes, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was one of the very few politicians who was loved by every single Indian citizen because of his knowledge, his humility and his kindness. At the age of 83, Dr. Kalam suffered a fatal heart attack while he was in the middle of a lecturing session at Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. His untimely departure has left the nation and the rest of the world mourning the loss of a man of rare intellect. In honor of our beloved President, let us learn 30 interesting A.P.J. Abdul Kalam facts and find out what made him so great and so beloved that the whole world is mourning his death.
At a Glance
Born: 15 October, 1931
Died: 27 July, 2015
Full Name: Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
Profession: Professor, Aerospace Scientist, Author
President of India: 25 July, 2002 – 25 July, 2007
Nicknames: Missile Man of India, People’s President
Interesting A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Facts: 1-10
1. Dr. Kalam was born in a poor family. However, his ancestors were not always poor. In fact, they had accumulated quite some fortune through a ferry Hindu pilgrims to Rameswaram – a pilgrimage center at Pamban Island. Some of the fortune also came from grocery trading.
2. In 1914 however, the Pamban Bridge was opened and this led to the collapse of the ferry business. Over time, the family lost its fortune and succumbed to poverty. Kalam was born in 1931 on October 15. By that time family was already poor and his father Jainulabudeen owned just one boat that was used for earning livelihood for the family.
3. In order to help his father, Kalam started working at an early age. Every day after the school, Kalam used to distribute newspaper to make some money that would help his family.
4. He graduated from Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli in year 1954. He graduated in Physics and the then in 1955 he moved to Madras and took admission in Madras Institute of Technology.
5. Kalam wanted to become a fighter jet pilot with Indian Air Force. He almost made it there, making it to the 9th position in the list of selected candidates. However, IAF had only 8 openings and the first 8 candidates were chosen.
6. In 1960, after graduating out from Madras Institute of Technology, he took a job with DRDO’s (Defence Research and Development Organization) Aeronautical Development Establishment. There, he started designing small helicopters for Indian Army.
7. Though he was not really happy with his job at DRDO, he was also a member of INCOSPAR committee led by Vikram Sarabhai (who was one of the renowned space scientists at that time). During his association with DRDO, Dr. Kalam had already started working independently on an expandable rocket project in early 1965.
8. In 1969, he was transferred to ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) and was made the project director for Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) – India’s first every launch vehicle. He led the project well and Rohini satellite was successfully launched in 1980 in near earth orbit.
9. In 1969, while working with ISRO, Dr. Kalam’s expandable rocket project received an approval from government. This allowed him to add more scientists to his team.
10. While working on SLV-III, he also started working on the development of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) between 1970s and 1980s. Even that turned out to be successful. During this period, he also received an invitation from Raja Ramanna (one of India’s most prominent nuclear physicists who played a crucial role in India’s nuclear programs during the early stages) for witnessing Smiling Buddha as TBRL (Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory of DRDO) representative. Smiling Buddha was India’s first nuclear test.
Interesting A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Facts: 11-20
11. During the 1970s, Dr. Kalam wanted to work on the development of ballistic missiles. The then Union Cabinet disapproved the request but Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave him secret funds to work on Project Valiant and Project Devil. Both the projects were later discontinued without much success but both of them became precursors of Prithvi missile development in 1980s.
12. During 1980s, Dr. Kalam earned a significant amount of prestige because of his educational leadership and research. It is because of his fame and popularity, Kalam was made the director of advanced missile program initiated by Indian government.
13. R. Venkatraman – the then Prime Minister of India, asked Dr. Kalam and Dr. V. S. Arunachalam (who was the scientific adviser to Defence Minister and a metallurgist) to simultaneously work on different types of missiles. A total budget of ₹ 388 crores was allocated for Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. Dr. Kalam was made the chief executive of the program. Because of his work with missiles, he earned the moniker, Missile Man of India.
14. Between July 1992 and December 1999, Dr. Kalam became the Secretary of DRDO and also took up the post of Chief Scientific Advisor for India’s Prime Minister.
15. During Pokhran-II nuclear tests, Dr. Kalam played a significant technological and political role and was also the Chief Project Coordinator during testing phase. He shared the position with Rajagopala Chidambaram.
16. While Dr. Kalam was busy with many advanced technologies that are today known for making Indian Defence stronger than it was ever before, he also engaged himself with small, somewhat insignificant projects for a man of his stature and repute. In 1998, he teamed up with Soma Raju, a cardiologist and developed a low-cost coronary stent which is now marketed by the name Kalam-Raju-Stent. Additional, the duo also developed the Kalam-Raju-Tablet – a low-cost rugged designed specifically for use rural healthcare.
17. On June 10, 2002 when the nation was ruled by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government, Dr. Kalam was nominated for Presidency. Both National Congress Party and Samajwadi Party supported his candidature and he was eventually voted as India’s new President. He was India’s 11th President stayed in office from July 25, 2002 till July 25, 2007.
18. During his Presidency, 21 mercy petitions were submitted to his office of which he did not decide the fate of 20. He acted on only one petition. The only petition he acted upon was that of the infamous rapist Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was convicted of brutally raping a 14-year old girl named Hetal Parekh. Kalam rejected his petition and sealed his fate. Dhananjoy was hanged till death in 2004.
19. Dr. Kalam was succeeded in office by 12th President Pratibha Patil. People of India wanted Dr. Kalam to become India’s President once more after Pratibha Patil’s term ended. However, Kalam rejected the offer with complete humility and respect.
20. During his tenure as President, Dr. Kalam received the moniker, People’s President. People of India lovingly called him so because of his humble nature. He was affectionate and even invited young men and women to his office. He always devoted time (despite his extremely tight schedules) to youth who came up with bright and promising ideas.
Interesting A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Facts: 21-30
21. After the end of his Presidency, Dr. Kalam became busier. Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Management Shillong and Indian Institute of Management Indore respectfully accepted Dr. Kalam as visiting professor.
22. He was selected as the Chancellor of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram and he also became an honorary fellow of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Additionally, he also became Anna University’s professor of Aerospace Engineering.
23. He also started teaching technology at Anna University and Banaras Hindu University. He also taught Information Technology at International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad.
24. Apart from being a respected scientist, a reputed professor and the President of India, Dr. Kalam is also known for being a prolific writer and a passionate poet. He has authored 15 books, one of which is the most popular Wings of Fire: An Autobiography. His autobiography was published in English but was later translated in 13 different languages including Chinese and French.
25. He has earned all three India’s highest civilian awards – Bharat Ratna (1997), Padma Vibhushan (1990) and Padma Bhushan (1981). Apart from that, he has also received several other awards and accolades that include: Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration (1997), Veer Savarkar Award (1998), Ramanujan Award (2000), and Honorary Doctorate of Science by University of Wolverhampton, UK (2007).
26. Dr. Kalam earned honorary doctorates from 40 different universities. In 2003 and 2006, he was nominated for MTV Youth Icon of the Year award.
27. Switzerland recognized his scientific prowess and the day when Dr. Kalam visited Switzerland, the country commemorated it as ‘Science Day’.
28. Kalam wrote many poetries in Tamil and was very fond of playing a South Indian string instrument known as Veenai. Though a Muslim by religion, Kalam really believed in Hinduism and loved listening to Carnatic devotional music daily.
29. He even used to read Bhagavad Gita and was a strict vegetarian.
30. Dr. Kalam died on 27th of July, 2015 at Shillong while delivering a lecture at Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. He was providing a lecture on “Creating a Livable Planet Earth” when approximately at around 6:35 PM (Indian Standard Time), he suddenly collapsed. He was immediately taken to Bethany Hospital where at 7:45 PM doctors confirmed his death due to a sudden cardiac arrest.