As the Akshay Kumar-starrer Mission Mangal (about ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission) makes a run at the theatres and Google honours Vikram Sarabhai’s 100th birthday with a special doodle, The CSR Journal reacquaints you with the one-of-a-kind Indian scientist.
Fondly called the Father of the Indian Space programme, Vikram Sarabhai was way ahead of his times. From a young age, Sarabhai is known to have a deep interest in science and mathematics. After completing his primary education from India, he moved abroad for further studies. He became obsessed with science and all that science has to offer over his course of stay in England. By the time he was back to India, he was fixated on contributing something of relevance to the country.
He began researching on cosmic rays at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and such was his dedication that he published his first scientific paper within two years of starting his research! He once again went to England and returned when India had become independent. Realising the need for quality research institutions in the newly independent country, he helped to establish the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad. K.R. Ramanathan, an atmospheric scientist was the founder director of PRL and under his able guidance, the institution went on to become a leading research organization dedicated to cosmic rays and space sciences.
Sarabhai is remembered as the “Father of the Indian space programme” for his contributions to the field of space science. He founded the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) which eventually became the largest government space agency in the world. For his visionary work in the field of space science, he was decorated with two of India’s most honorable awards: the Padma Bhushan (1966) and the Padma Vibhushan (awarded posthumously in 1972).
ISRO is planning a year long programme for commemorating the birth centenary of Sarabhai. The programme includes exhibitions, competitions to school children, journalism awards and speeches by eminent personalities. The programme will be conducted across 100 selected cities all over India commencing from today August 12, 2019 and ending on August 12, 2020.
A curtain raiser inaugural function is planned today in Ahmedabad, the birthplace of Dr. Sarabhai. Many important dignitaries both from ISRO/DOS and DAE are participating. The valedictory function for the year long programme will be at Thiruvananthapuram on August 12, 2020. The two-hour inaugural programme will comprise of several events, including the unveiling of a commemorative coin as well as the inauguration of a ‘Space on Wheels’ exhibition inside a bus. ISRO will also be unveiling a coffee table book and a photo album of exclusive candids from Sarabhai’s short-lived 52 years.
This great scientist set up Operations Research Group (ORG), the first market research organization in India. He was the founding director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad which was the second IIM in the country. Along with businessman Kasturbhai Lalbhai he played a key role in setting up the institute of learning in 1961.
He was the driving force behind the setting up of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT University) in Ahmedabad in 1962 which offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in disciplines like architecture, planning and technology. In 1965, he founded the Nehru Foundation for Development (NFD) which is dedicated towards the promotion of basic study on the current problems of societal and individual development.
In the 1960s, he also established the Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC) for promoting science and mathematics education among students and the general public. The organization aimed at stimulating interest in science subject among the masses. Sarabhai was fully supported in his ventures by another visionary scientist, Dr. Homi Bhabha, who helped Sarabhai in setting up the first rocket launching station at Thumba on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The inaugural flight was launched on 21st November 1963.
In 1970 he was the president of the General Conference of the I.A.E.A., Vienna. The next year, he was the vice-president Fourth UN Conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy’. India lost this visionary when he suffered a heart attack at 52 years.
Vikram Sarabhai was gone too soon; we need more role models like him today.