A tribute to the visionaries of India

January 12, 2015

After an year of great Revolution in the Indian history by ushering in the change and bringing a strong government at the center and with a visionary like Mr.Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister, I believe it is time for us to set the things right which have gone wrong. On the occasion of the birthday of Swami Vivekananda, I was introspecting if India is poised to play a spearheaded role in the 21st century. I was asking myself if the country has travelled in the right direction in making the dream of Vivekananda come true. Vivekananda said that he sees a bright future for India in the coming years. He prophesized that 21st century would be that of India. On this day I find it relevant to introspect about the direction India is going. Vivekananda was a man who was not just a philosopher or a spiritual leader, but also knew the significance of development of science and technology in a country. He believed that if India had to progress, he knew that India had to achieve greater strides in the field of science and technology. He motivated Jamsetji Tata to build the Tata empire which still stands strong today. India was suffering under the British rule and there was unemployment and poverty across the country. Vivekananda knew that Independence to India was important but at the same time there was a necessity for empowering the nation. He was aware of the ground realities of India and also the root cause of their suffering and knew that with Science and Technology India would become a global leader in the years to come.

Today on the birthday of a great visionary Swami Vivekananda, I write this blog about the direction that India has taken over the years in the field of Science and Technology to make India a global player in 21st century.

Have we forgotten our past?

Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam in his biography “Wings of Fire” said that once during his visit to NASA he was impressed with a portrait in NASA. The portrait was very special and caught his attention immediately. In the portrait there were soldiers fighting on both sides. It seemed to be a battle between two kingdoms, Westerners and Asians. To add to it there was something more interesting, it showed a battle where missiles were being used and the missiles were not being used by the westerners but the Asians. Dr.A.PJ Abdul Kalam was very curious and inquired about the portrait. NASA officials said, the portrait was that of a war between Indians and Britishers. The missiles were first used by an Indian and it is none other than Tipu Sultan. He was a king of Serlingapatnam (near Mysore, Karnataka) and he was a fierce warrior and also a great scholar. He pioneered the missiles and used them in the battle.

It is strange that not many of us are not aware of our great past. All that was pioneered by we Indians, is being developed and scaled up by most of the Chinese and the western countries. It is very important that we know our past which is filled with great inventions in every field of science.

Dr.C.V.Raman

Sir Chandrasekhara  Venkata Raman was born in the 1888 in modern day Trichy in Tamilnadu. After completing his masters in Physics, he joined as a lecturer in a government college, but it was always the research in Physics that was calling him. He immediately quit his job and dedicated himself to the research.  After more than 10 years of research he discovered the Raman Effect. It talks about the scattering of light when passed through a prism and strengthens the quantum behavior of light. The discovery was a great discovery. He became the first Asian to win a noble prize in the field of science in the year 1930. He continued his research on various subjects relating to acoustic, Optica, Optics of Minerals and Diamond, physics of crystals and floral colours and visual perception.

At the end of October in 1970 he collapsed in his laboratory, the valves of his heart having given way. He was moved to hospital and the doctors gave him four hours to live. He survived and after a few days refused to stay in the hospital as he preferred to die in the gardens of his Institute surrounded by his flowers.

Two days before Raman died, he told one of his former students, “Do not allow the journals of the Academy to die, for they are the sensitive indicators of the quality of science being done in the country and whether science is taking root in it or not.” That same evening, Raman met with the Board of Management of his Institute and discussed (from his bed) with them any proceedings with regards to the Institute’s management. Raman died from natural causes early next morning on 21 November 1970.

 

Dr. Homi Jhangir Bhabha

Homi Bhabha was born in 1909 and had his initial education in Bombay but later moved to Cambridge university to pursue his higher studies. His father wanted him to become a mechanical engineer and return to India to join Tata steel as a metallurgist but he was passionate about mathematics. After completing his studies in Mathematics he was attracted towards nuclear physics. Conducting experiments on particles which also released tremendous amount of radiation, was lifelong passion of Bhabha, and his leading edge research and experiments brought great laurels to Indian physicists who particularly switched their fields to nuclear physics.

In January 1933, Bhabha received his doctorate in nuclear physics after publishing his first scientific paper, The Absorption of Cosmic radiation. In the publication, Bhabha offered an explanation of the absorption features and electron shower production in cosmic rays. The paper helped him win the Isaac Newton Studentship in 1934, which he held for the next three years. The following year, he completed his doctoral studies in theoretical physics under Ralph H.Flower.  During his studentship, he split his time working at Cambridge and with Neils Bohr in Copenhagen. In 1935, Bhabha published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A, in which performed the first calculation to determine the cross section of electron-positron scattering.

In the year 1939 he returned to India and accepted the offer to serve the Reader in Physics Department of the Indian Institute of Science which was being headed by Sir C.V. Raman. He received a special research grant from the Sir Dorab Tata Trust, which he used to establish the Cosmic Ray Research Unit at the institute. Bhabha selected a few students, including Harish Chandra, to work with him. Later, on 20 March 1941, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society . With the help of J.R.D Tata, he played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay.

When Bhabha was working at the Indian Institute of Science, there was no institute in India which had the necessary facilities for original work in nuclear physics, cosmic rays, high energy physics, and other frontiers of knowledge in physics. This prompted him to send a proposal in March 1944 to the Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata trust for establishing ‘a vigorous school of research in fundamental physics’. In his proposal he wrote:

There is at the moment in India no big school of research in the fundamental problems of physics, both theoretical and experimental. There are, however, scattered all over India competent workers who are not doing as good work as they would do if brought together in one place under proper direction. It is absolutely in the interest of India to have a vigorous school of research in fundamental physics, for such a school forms the spearhead of research not only in less advanced branches of physics but also in problems of immediate practical application in industry. If much of the applied research done in India today is disappointing or of very inferior quality it is entirely due to the absence of sufficient number of outstanding pure research workers who would set the standard of good research and act on the directing boards in an advisory capacity … Moreover, when nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production in say a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts but will find them ready at hand. I do not think that anyone acquainted with scientific development in other countries would deny the need in India for such a school as I propose.The subjects on which research and advanced teaching would be done would be theoretical physics, especially on fundamental problems and with special reference to cosmic rays and nuclear physics, and experimental research on cosmic rays. It is neither possible nor desirable to separate nuclear physics from cosmic rays since the two are closely connected theoretically.

The trustees of Sir Dorabji Jamsetji. Tata Trust decided to accept Bhabha’s proposal and financial responsibility for starting the Institute in April 1944.

Bhabha is generally acknowledged as the father of Indian nuclear power. He formulated a strategy to extract thorium reserves which is present abundantly in India for the nuclear power programme instead  of depending on uranium which is present in very less quantity in India.

Dr.Vikram Amabala Sarabhai

Vikram Sarabhai was born in 1919 in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He has played a crucial role in establishing the Physical Research Laboratory in Gujarat. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) was established by Dr.Vikram Sarabhai.  He emphasized the importance of space research by quoting “There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight.”

“But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society”.

Vikram Sarabhai was the key person behind the establishment of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM Ahmedabad). The other institutes of world repute are Centre for Environmental planning and Technology, Faster Breeder Test Reactor in Kalpakkam, Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Calcutta, Electronics corporation of India Limited Hyderabad.

Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam

            Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam was born to a very poor parents in Tamilnadu. Due to his strong determination and perseverance he went on to complete his aerospace engineering from Madras. He always dreamt of becoming an Indian Airforce Pilot but missed it by a whisker. He joined Defence Research and Development Organization but went on to join ISRO to work under Dr.Vikram Sarabhai the renowed Indian space scientist. In the 1970’s a landmark was achieved by ISRO when the locally built Rohini-1 was launched into space using the SLV rocket. He also directed to projects namely Project Devil and Project valiant which sought to develop ballistic missiles for India. Kalam also served as a chief executive for the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. After he retired as the scientist he has served as the President of India. With the support of the BJP, he has motivated thousands of youngsters in India and he continues to do so.

Today the life which we are leading is due to the smallest change they brought with their years of toil and hardwork combined with determination and self belief.  They stand as a testimony to the fact that India is the land of innovations and there is still a long way to go for India to becomes a super power. The recent success of Mangalyaan has showed that India continues to produce the great leaders, visionaries and scientists who can change the world and can make a difference to India. Therefore I proudly say that I have been in a country which has produced the best of the intellectuals and the scientists and visionaries that the world can ever see.

Today I urge all the young and curious minds and the youngsters to create a purpose in Life in which ever field it might be and always move ahead questioning the status quo, only then we can make a mark in this world and realize the dream of Vivekananda to make India a truly global leader.

“It is the same India which has withstood the shocks of centuries, of hundreds of foreign invasions of hundreds of upheavals of manners and customs. It is the same land which stands firmer than any rock in the world, with its undying vigour, indestructible life. Its life is of the same nature as the soul, without beginning and without end, immortal; and we are the children of such a country.” – Swami Vivekananda

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