Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – The Missile Man of India


A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a name which does not require any kind of introduction. Popularly, he was known as the Missile Man of India. His full name is Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam. He was an Indian scientist and a politician. He played a crucial role in the development of India’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. Let us read more about Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s biography, family, history, books, etc.      

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October, 1931. His birth anniversary is observed as World Students’ Day. He was the President of India from 2002 to 2007. He was honoured with several prestigious awards including India’s highest civilian honour “Bharat Ratna” in 1997. He was born in Dhanushkodi, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu and studied physics and aerospace engineering.

  • Name: Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam (Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam)
  • Nick Name: Missile Man
  • Nationality: Indian
  • Occupation: Engineer, Scientist, Author, Professor, Politician
  • Born: 15-Oct -1931
  • Place of Birth: Dhanushkodi, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India
  • Died: 27 July 2015
  • Died at the age of: 83
  • Place of Death: Shillong, Meghalaya, India
  • Famous as: Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam President from 2002 to 2007
  • Preceded by: Kocheril Raman Narayanan (President from 1997-2002)
  • Succeeded by: Pratibha Patil (President from 2007-2012)    

He was the 11th president of India and elected against Lakshmi Sehgal in 2002. Before becoming the President of India, he worked with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as an aerospace engineer.

He was known as the Missile Man of India for his important role in the nation’s civilian space programme and military missile development. Also, in 1998, he made significant contributions to India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests.

Do you know that A.P.J Abdul Kalam began his career as a scientist at the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO)? He had also served as the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) at ISRO.

“FAILURE will never overtake me if my definition to SUCCEED is strong enough”.

In 1990s he had served as the Chief Scientific adviser to the Prime Minister before becoming the President of India in 2002. Now, let us study about Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam in detail through this article.

A.P.J Abdul Kalam: Family History and Early Life

APJ Abdul Kalam Family history and early life

Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October, 1931 to a Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram, then in Madras Presidency in British India and now in Tamil Nadu. His father name was Jainulabdeen, who was a boat owner and imam of a local mosque. His mother name was Ashiamma, who was a housewife.

Abdul Kalam was the youngest of five siblings, the eldest was a sister, namely Asim Zohra and three elder brothers, namely Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraikayar, Mustafa Kalam and Kasim Mohammed. He was close to his family and always helps them, though he remained a bachelor whole life.

His ancestors had been wealthy traders and landowners, with numerous properties and large tracts of land. They trade groceries between the mainland and the island to and from Srilanka and also ferrying the pilgrims from mainland to the Pamban Island. So,their family got the title “Mara Kalam Iyakkivar” (wooden boat steerers) and later known as “Marakier.”

But by 1920s, his family had lost most of his fortune; their businesses failed and by the time Abdul Kalam was born are in the stage of the poverty-stricken. To help the family, Kalam started selling newspapers at an early age.

In his school days, Kalam had average grades but was described as a bright and hardworking student who had a strong desire to learn. Mathematics was his main interest.

Knowledge without action is useless and irrelevant. Knowledge with action converts adversity into prosperity.

Education gives you wings to fly. Achievement comes out of fire in our subconscious mind that ‘I will win’.

He had completed his matriculation from Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram and later he went to Saint Joseph’s college where he became a physics graduate. In 1955, he went to Madras to study aerospace engineering in Madras Institute of Technology.

During his third year of graduation, he was assigned a project to design a low-level attack aircraft together with a few other students. Their teacher had given them a tight deadline for completing the project, it was very difficult. Kalam worked hard under immense pressure and finally completed his project within the stipulated deadline. The teacher was impressed by the dedication of Kalam.

As a result Kalam want to become a fighter pilot but he got 9th position in the qualifiers list and only eight positions were available in the IAF.

A.P.J Abdul Kalam: Education and Career

APJ Abdul Kalam Education and Carreer

A.P.J Abdul Kalam had completed his graduation in 1957 from the Madras Institute of Technology and in 1958 as a scientist he had joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

In the early 1960s, he worked with the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) under the renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabhai.

He had started his career by designing a small hovercraft at DRDO.

After visiting NASA’s Langely Research Centre in Hampton, Virginia; Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility in 1963-64, he had started working on an expandable rocket project independently in 1965 at DRDO.

He was not much satisfied with his work at DRDO and when he received transfer orders to the ISRO in 1969 he became happy. There he served as the project director of the SLV-III which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit in July 1980. It is India’s first indigenously designed and produced satellite launch vehicle.

Kalam received the government’s approval in 1969 and expanded the programme to include more engineers. In 1970s, he had made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) with an aim to allow India to launch its Indian remote Sensing (IRS) satellite into Sun-Synchronous orbit, PSLV project was successful and on 20 September 1993, it was first launched.

APJ Abdul Kalam the Missile Man

Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep.

Raja Ramanna invited Abdul Kalam to witness the country’s first nuclear test Smiling Buddha as the representative of TBRL, even though he had not participated in its development.

In 1970s, Abdul Kalam directed two projects namely Project Devil and project Valiant. Do you know about the Project Devil? It was an early liquid-fuelled missile project aimed at producing a short-range surface-to-air missile. This project was not successful and discontinued in 1980s and later it led to the development of the Prithvi missile. On the other hand Project Valiant aimed at the development of intercontinental ballistic missile. This was also not successful.

An Indian Ministry of Defence programme managed by DRDO in partnership with other government organisations launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development programme (IGMDP) in the early 1980s. Abdul Kalam was asked to lead the project and in 1983 he returned to DRDO as Chief Executive of IGMDP in 1983.

The programme led to the development of four projects namely Short range surface-to-surface missile (Prithvi), Short range low-level surface-to-air missile (Trishul), Medium range surface-to-air missile (Akash) and Third-generation anti-tank missile (Nag).

The world today is integrally connected through four rapid connectivities. They are environment, people, economy, and ideas.

Under the leadership of Abdul Kalam, the project of IGMDP proved to be successful by producing missiles like first Prithvi missile in 1988 and then the Agni missile in 1989. Due to his contribution he was known as “Missile Man of India.”

In 1992, he was appointed as the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister. With the rank of cabinet minister, in 1999, he was appointed as the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.

APJ Abdul Kalam DRDO

Abdul Kalam played a major role in conducting the Pokhran-II, a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions in May 1998. With the success of these tests he got the status of a national hero and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a full-fledged nuclear state.

Not this much, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 1998 proposed a countrywide plan called Technology Vision 2020 to make India a developed nation by the year 2020 and suggested nuclear empowerment, various technological innovations, improvement of agricultural productivity etc.

In 2002, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power and nominate Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the post of the President of India. Being a popular national figure, he won the presidential election easily.

Do you know that Abdul Kalam with the cardiologist Soma Raju in 1998 developed a low cost coronary stent named as “Kalam-Raju Stent”. Further in 2012, a rugged tablet computer for health care in rural areas is designed which was named as “Kalam-Raju Tablet”.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as a President of India (2002 to 2007)

– On 10 June 2002, the NDA government proposed Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam name for the presidential post to the Leader of opposition, Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

APJ Abdul Kalam as President of India

– Dr. Abdul Kalam served as the President of India from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007. He was the first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

A Leader must have a ‘Vision’ for an organisation, ‘Passion’ to work for achieving the goals, ‘Curiosity’ to travel an unexplored path and ‘Courage’ to take decisions.

  • Do you know that in the presidential election he got approx 922,884 votes and defeated Lakshmi Sehgal.
  • He became the 11th President of India by succeeding K.R Narayanan.
  • He received the prestigious Bharat Ratna and became the third President to receive the highest civilian honour after Dr. Sarvapali Radhakrishnan in 1954 Dr. Zakir Hussain in 1963.
  • Dr. Abdul Kalam was also known as People’s President.
  • According to Dr. Kalam, the toughest decision taken by him as the President was signing the bill of office of Profit.
  • Over the course of his five-year term, he remained committed to his vision of transforming India into a developed nation.
  • He was however criticised for his inaction to decide the fate of 20 mercy petitions out of 21, including that of the Kashmiri Terrorist Afzal Guru, who was convicted for the parliament attacks in December 2001.
  • He decided not to contest the Presidential election again in 2007 and stepped down as the president on 25 July 2007.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Post Presidency

After leaving the office, Dr. Abdul Kalam chosen the academic field and became a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Management Indore, an honorary fellow of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

He also served as the chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram, professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University and an adjunct at many other academic and research institutions across India.

When you speak, speak the truth; perform when you promise; discharge your trust… Withhold your hands from striking, and from taking that which is unlawful and bad.

The information technology was also taught by him at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University.

In 2011, he was criticised by civil groups over his stand on Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant as he had supported the establishment of the nuclear power plant and was accused of not speaking with the local people.

What Can I Give Movement’ a programme launched by Dr. Abdul Kalam for the youth of India with a central theme of defeating corruption.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Death

On 27 July 2015, Dr. Abdul Kalam was delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong where he suffered a heart attack and his condition became critical, so, he was shifted to Bethany Hospital where thereafter, he died of cardiac arrest. His last words, to Srijan Pal Singh, were “Funny guy! Are you doing well?”

It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone.

On 30 July, 2015, the former President was laid to rest at Rameshwaram’s Pei Karumbu Ground with State honours. Do you know that around 350,000 people attended the last ritual of Kalam, including the Prime Minister of India, the Governor of Tamil Nadu and the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh?

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam National Memorial

In the memory of late President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam a memorial was built on his name at Pei Karumbu, in the island town of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. On 27 July, 2017 it was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

Do you know who built this memorial? It was built by Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial

In the memorial various replica of rockets and missiles are kept which shows the work of Dr. Abdul Kalam. Also, some acrylic paintings about his life are also displayed along with hundreds of portraits which depict the life of Dr. Kalam.

At the entrance of the memorial a statue of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was placed showing him playing Veena a musical instrument. With this two more statues are there in sitting and standing posture.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Legacy

As we know that Dr. Abdul Kalam was the youngest child in his family and was close to his parents and his brothers and sisters. He never married and served his relatives whole life. No doubt he was a very simple person with simple lifestyle. He owned a few possessions including veena and collection of books. He was a kind hearted man, a vegetarian and consumed simple food.

For a great men religion is a way of making friends; small people make religion a fighting tool.

According to S.M Khan who was close to Dr. Abdul Kalam wrote a book The Peoples President on Abdul Kalam says “He lived the life of a true Muslim but had high respect for all other religions and believed that humanism is the biggest quality of a human being. “He would perform namaaz everyday but also read Bhagwat Gita. Playing veena has nothing to do with religion. For him religion was a personal matter and used to emphasise that one should not make it a matter of pomp and show. He used to say in your dealings with the society you have to be a humanist. Dr. Kalam often used to cite the story of how his mentor Vikram Sarabhai asked for church land for scientific research and got it because the bishop believed that both science and spirituality seek the Almighty’s blessings for human prosperity, mind and body.”

While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong on 27 July 2015, he collapsed and was rushed to the Bethany Hospital, where he was confirmed dead of cardiac arrest and on 30 July 2015 last rituals were performed at Pei Karumbu Island, Rameswaram.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Educational and Scientific Institutions

APJ Abdul Kalam Scientific institutions

Source: www. indiatimes.com

Do you know that various educational, scientific institutions and some locations are named in honour of Dr. Abdul Kalam. They are as follows:

  • – On the day of Kalam’s funeral, An agricultural college at Kishanganj, Bihar was renamed as the “Dr. Kalam Agricultural College, Kishanganj” by the Bihar State Government.
  • – Uttar Pradesh Technical University (UPTU) was renamed “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technical University” by the Uttar Pradesh state government.
  • – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Memorial Travancore Institute of Digestive Diseases, a new research institute in Kollam city, Kerala attached to the Travancore Medical College Hospital.
  • – In September 2014, India and US have launched the Fulbright-Kalam Climate Fellowship. The fellowship will be operated by the binational US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) under the Fulbright programme.
  • – Kerala Technological University, headquartered at Thiruvananthapuram where Kalam lived for years, was renamed to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technological University after his death.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Books

APJ Abdul Kalam Books
  • – India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium (co-authored with Yagnaswami Sundara Rajan, (1998)
  • – Wings of Fire: An Autobiography (1999)
  • – Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India (2002)
  • – The Luminous Sparks (2004)
  • – Mission India (2005)
  • – Inspiring Thoughts (2007)
  • – You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond (co-authored with Arun Tiwari, 2011)
  • – Envisioning and Empowered Nation
  • – Target 3 Billion by A.P.J. Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh (December 2011)
  • – Turning Points: A journey Through Challenges (2012)
  • – My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions (2013)
  • – A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 (co-authored with V. Ponraj, 2014)
  • – Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh (2015)
  • – Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji (co-authored with Arun Tiwari, 2015)
  • – Advantage India: From Challenge to Opportunity by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh (2015)
  • – Governance for growth in India (2014)

Biographies on A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

  • – Eternal Quest: Life and Times of Dr. Kalam by S Chandra, 2002
  • – President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by R K Pruthi, 2002
  • – A.P.J.Abdul Kalam: The Visionary of India by K Bhushan and G Katyal, 2002
  • – The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President by P M Nair, 2008
  • – A Little Dream (Documentary film) by P. Dhanapal, (2008)
  • – My Days With Mahatma Abdul Kalam by Fr A K George, 2009

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Famous Quotes

– “Don’t take rest after your first victory because if you fail in second, more lips are waiting to say that your first victory was just luck.”

– “Dream, dream, dream. Dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action.”

– “If you fail, never give up because FAIL means “First Attempt in Learning”.

– “If you want to shine like a sun. First burn like a sun.”

– “All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.”

– “All Birds find shelter during a rain. But Eagle avoids rain by flying above the Clouds.”

– “Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.”

– “Do we not realize that self respect comes with self reliance?”

– “My 2020 Vision for India is to transform it into a developed nation. That cannot be abstract; it is a lifeline.”…… etc.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.