Dr. Kalam: A True Researcher

"If you want to shine like a sun, first burn like a sun", this was said by none other than our missile man Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. I was lucky enough to see and listen to this great yet humble person, when he had come to IIT Bombay for the convocation ceremony. To welcome him all the students, staff, faculty were gathered on the sides of the roads and he with his smiling face and sparkling eyes was waving at the crowd. He was shining like SUN who has overcome all the odds and brightening/igniting the minds of people across the globe, giving inspiration to the generations to follow from his own example"


5/9/20243 min read

Dr. Kalam was known as the ‘Missile Man’ of India due to his continued and successful work with ballistic missiles and launch vehicle technology. In one of his speeches, he has narrated an inspiring story about how the satellite vehicle launching system failed in the first attempt, but the next year he and his team could turn that failure into success. He was the project director for this launch vehicle in 1979. Prof. Satish Dhawan had given him this responsibility. On the day of launch, when the scientists were all set for the launch at Vikarm Sarabhai Space Centre, the computer stopped at 4 minutes prior to the launch, stating that there is a leakage in the second state control system of the launch vehicle. But the scientists took a decision of launching it, thinking that their design can overcome this problem. But their decision proved wrong. The entire nation, rather the entire world was looking at them. All the money, efforts of last 7-8 years seem to be wasted. This was very hard to digest and shocking. Prof. Satish Dhavan held a press conference to answer all sorts of questions. He took the failure on his shoulders, giving confidence to Dr. Kalam and his team, that their leader was with them. The next year, there was no error, and at this time Prof. Dhawan asked Dr. Kalam to address the press conference, thus showering the success onto the team. This was the “Leadership” lesson that Dr. Kalam learnt from his professor. A true researcher never gives up until he gets success, that's why Dr. Kalam used to say FAIL is First Attempt In Learning.

"Winners are not those who never fail but those who never quit". "Perseverance" was the quality which makes him a successful researcher not only in nuclear technology but aerospace as well as healthcare technology. To become a good researcher, one must possess not only Professional Competency and Ability to Analyze Complex Problems, but also skills like Creative/Interdisciplinary Thinking, Mental Strength, Patience, Determination and Positive Attitude. All these qualities were inseparable from the personality of Dr. Kalam.

As a true researcher, he tried to provide solutions to whatever problems he noticed in the society. He was very much concerned about the Healthcare Facilities available to poor people in India and that made him collaborate with Dr. Raju, founder of the Hyderabad-based Care Group of Hospitals. They developed the Kalam-Raju stent which was indigenously produced and marketed in India in 1994. This was 50% cheaper than the ones which we used to import. This project and product gave him immense satisfaction as it was for saving people's lives rather than nuclear weapons which were generally related to war and killing people. Later in 2012, they both also developed a rugged tablet computer for better healthcare administration in the rural parts of the country.

On 15th October 2021, marks the 89th birth anniversary of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam who was a teacher, writer, visionary, aerospace engineer, scientist, people’s President, Bharat Ratna awardee – all in one. A multifaceted personality in a true sense. He wanted every student of the country to be educated and contribute to the nation’s growth. He used to love interacting with students of all age and breathed his last, while he was delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong on May 27 2015. To commemorate his birthday, the United Nations (UN) in 2015 declared, 15th October to be celebrated as World Student’s Day every year.

He laid a very satisfying and peaceful life as most loved president of India. A wonderful advice to the youth of today, which he quoted as “Two rules for a peaceful life: Depression in failure should never go to heart, and ego in success should never go to the brain” bear a torch to show them the path of simplicity, stability and social responsibility. His research contributions are of a great worth and value to all of us. We remember him fondly and wish that his soul keeps guiding us in the direction of Research for Better India today and tomorrow.

- Dr. Anjali Deshpande

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