Fondly remembered as the "missile man of India" and the "people's President", Dr APJ Abdul Kalam would have celebrated his 88th birthday on October 15, this year.
Dr Kalam passed away in 2015 but left behind a generation of inspired youth charged with scientific temperament and a zeal to give back to the motherland.
From a Tamil Nadu lad who sold newspapers to sustain his family to becoming the first non-politically affiliated President of India, Dr Kalam’s life and work continue to inspire and ignite minds across the globe.
The iconoclast openly discredited social evils and envisioned an awakened and enlightened India. His contributions to Science and Research and Development are also unparalleled.
A scientist and teacher by profession, Kalam first made a mark in the country’s scientific feats by designing a small hovercraft at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
By 1965, he had begun working independently on an expandable rocket project. In the following years, he directed two projects named Project Devil and Project Valiant.
During his tenure as the chief executive of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), he played a significant role in developing India’s first missiles -- Agni and Prithvi.
His contribution towards the Pokhran-II nuclear tests is also noteworthy, as they were carried out while he was serving as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister.
While moving on to his contributions to India’s missile programmes, which earned him the moniker “Missile Man of India”, one ought to mention that he was a part of the team of rocket engineers that set up the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS). It is still used by the Indian Space Research Organisation to launch sounding rockets.
He was the project director of the country’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) and played an important role in developing the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
Dr Kalam has penned multiple books in his illustrious career, most of which were best-sellers, such as Wings of Fire, Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India, and India 2020.
In his works, he explains in great details his vision of making India a developed nation by the year 2020 and how he planned to do so.
This included recognising five core areas “for integrated action to double the growth rate of GDP” in India, which were agriculture, infrastructure, education and healthcare, information and communication technologies, and critical technologies and strategic industries.
However, the former president believed that his greatest achievement in life was designing low-weight Ortho callipers for polio-affected kids. These callipers weighed 1/10th of the weight of those that were then available in the market and made movement much less painful for affected kids.
This was not his only contribution to the field of Medical Science. He joined hands with cardiologist Dr Soma Raju and designed a cheaper variant of a coronary stent, that was named ‘Kalam-Raju Stent’ to honour them. The duo also engineered a basic tablet PC to be used for health care in the rural reaches.