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On National Science Day, remembering India's original 'Rocket Boys'

National Science Day: Dr Homi J Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai joined forces to formulate India’s space programme.

February 28, 2022 / 08:46 AM IST
National Science Day: Dr Vikram Sarabhai (left) and Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha (right), architects of India's space program. (Photos via Wikimedia Commons)

National Science Day: Dr Vikram Sarabhai (left) and Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha (right), architects of India's space program. (Photos via Wikimedia Commons)

National Science Day is observed every year to mark the birth anniversary of Indian scientist Dr CV Raman. Dr Raman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 for the discovery of the theory which explained the scattering of light, which came to be known as the “Raman Effect”.

In recent days, the phrase “Rocket Boys” has been synonymous with the mega hit web series that tells the story of Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha, who is deemed the architect of India’s nuclear energy programme, and Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who is considered the father of India’s space programme. The show, many would say, has contributed to making science a topic of drawing room conversation.

The two highly respected and self-motivated men joined forces to formulate India’s space programme. On National Science Day, here is a look at the lives of India's original 'Rocket Boys'.

Born into a prominent Parsi family in Mumbai, Dr Homi J Bhabha is known as the “Father of India’s Nuclear Science Programme”. He established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai in 1945. Three years later, he proposed the forming of the Atomic Energy Commission in India. With a go-ahead from then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the body was set up and Dr Bhabha was made chairman. For his contribution to science and engineering, he was awarded the country's highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan, in 1954. He also presided over the first United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy.

He died in an aircrash in Switzerland in 1966.


Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the award-winning physicist, established Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The premier instirute was initially called the Indian National Committee for Space Research when it was set up in 1962, and later renamed ISRO.

He received immense help and support from Dr Bhabha in his endeavours. He helped Sarabhai set up the country’s first rocket launching station near Thiruvananthapuram, complete with advanced infrastructure, skilled staff, and launch pads. Its first flight took off on November 21, 1963.

Dr Sarabhai born in an affluent family of industrialists on August 12, 1919, in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. He attended Gujarat Arts and Science College before graduating from Cambridge University with a doctorate.

He was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1966. Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award, was conferred on him posthumously in 1972.

He died in December 1971 at the age of 52, due to a cardiac arrest.

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