Apj Abdul Kalam 3
His life has been most selflessly devoted to his country, and rewarded most deservingly, with the highest civilian award of the country, the Bharat Ratna. The book also goes beyond biography, and serves as an excellent practical guide to R & D management, on how to design and build institutions, mentor and inspire men, to success and fulfilment. The account often goes deep into his own personal philosophy, austere beyond the reach of most average householders, and fortunately for posterity, records his philosophical and spiritual insights in a most accessible way, in spite of his own modest disclaimer, “I am not a philosopher. This man, who spent all his life “learning rocketry”, also learnt many valuable lessons on how to manage men, matters and materials, while building up the country’s defence R & D Programmes, as also its technological capabilities in space and atomic energy. Born to an obscure middle-class family in a remote but spiritually supercharged island town at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, Kalam progressed in sure and steady steps through childhood, among loving family members who sacrificed readily for him, through scholarship with devoted and inspirational teachers (Rameswaram Elementary School; Schwartz High School, Ramanathapuram; St.
Joseph’s College, Trichy; Madras Institute of Technology, Madras), into his first foray into professional life. This first phase of his life covers 32 eventful years most felicitiously in the space of 31 pages. My nephew, an aspiring engineer himself, just on the threshold of his career after graduation, found this the best part of the book. I was particularly intrigued by the following paragraph on pg. 8, which I thought the most meaningful lesson for a young person preparing for a professional life: “The trouble with Indians [was] not that they lacked educational opportunities or industrial infrastructure – the trouble was in their failure to discriminate between disciplines and to rationalise their choices,” A lesson that young Kalam learned from Professor Sponder, an Austrian aeronautical engineer who taught him at the Madras Institute of Technology.
It was Sponder who, as it were, dedicated Kalam to a life in Aeronautical Engineering. Kalam’s own well meaning advice to all novitiate engineering students is “that when they choose their specialisation, the essential point to consider is whether the choice articulates their inner feelings and aspirations. ” All those young men and women who rush headlong into software careers should pause and reflect. Nearly half of the book goes to the “Creation” phase.
Here, one sees Kalam managing and inspiring large scale developmental projects on rocket technology. This was an adventure, not without struggle and frequent failure, but culminating in the pioneering success of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), the fifth country to achieve satellite launching capability, and thus propelling India into the Space Age. He is seen as engineer and innovator, inspirer and mentor of courageous colleagues, and builder of teams and institutions.
This also brought Kalam his first brush with fame, adulation and inevitably, professional rivalries due to jealousy. The “Propitiation” phase lets us see Kalam going into the defence stage of his career, breathing fresh life into struggling research institutions under the Defence R & D Organisation, and later taking charge of all the D R D O establishments, helping India to acquire modern weaponry and delivery systems. If the “creation” phase was marked by the SLV-3 saga, this phase had the Agni and related missile programmes as the defining theme.
As Kalam moved into the contemplative phase of his life, a grateful and worshipful nation heaped its highest awards on him, and ironically, also made him take more wide ranging responsibilities connected with science, technology and the Defence of the realm. He gives credit to the many great visionaries who prepared him for life, especially Professors Sarabhai, Dhawan and Brahm Prakash. He ends the book with the fervent prayer that eventually the country will become strong, prosperous and “developed”. Year of Award or HonorName of Award or HonorAwarding Organization 2011Doctor of Science (microbiology)
S. Gujarati University 2011IEEE Honorary Membership IEEE 2009Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) Anna University of Technology 2009Hoover Medal ASME Foundation, USA 2009International von Karman Wings AwardCalifornia Institute of Technology, U. S. A 2008Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa)Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 1997Bharat Ratna Government of India 1990Padma Vibhushan Government of India 1981Padma Bhushan Government of India The controversy that surrounds Kalam’s role as a nuclear scientist, is the reliable and factual yield of Pokhran-II tests.
The director of the site test, K. Santhanam, publicly admitted that the thermonuclear bomb was a “fizzle” test, criticizing Kalam for issuing the wrong results. However, Kalam dismissed the claims, and R. Chidambaram, a key associated with Pokhran-II, had also described these claims as incorrect.  In spite of his leading role in the development of Indian nuclear programme, dr. Kalam has received rogue criticism from many of his leading nuclear peers who claimed that dr. Kalam had “no authority” over nuclear science.  Dr. Homi Sethna, a chemical engineer criticized Kalam when dr.
Sethna claimed that dr. Kalam had no background in publishing articles in nuclear science, even in nuclear physics. Sethna maintained that Dr. Kalam received his doctorate in Aerospace engineering which is completely different (discipline) from the nuclear engineering, and various universities who awarded him for his achievements had nothing to do with nuclear physics. Others maintained that dr. Kalam never worked in any of the Indian nuclear power plants and had no role in developing the nuclear weapon designing which completed under dr.
Raja Ramanna.  Kalam worked as an aerospace engineer in a SLV project in 1970s and 1980s onwards as a project director before shifted to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Sethna concluded.  In 2008, Indian Media blast his claims over his inventions such as missiles, while working in an classified missile programme. Kalam took the credit of inventing the Agni,Prithvi, and Aakash missile system.  All of these were developed, researched and designed by other scientists where as Dr.
Kalam was involved in getting the funds and other logistic tasks.  As a director of DRDO, Dr. Kalam named all these missiles and got all the fame. Dr. R N Agarwal, former director, Advanced System Laboratory and former Program Director of Agni missile was considered to be the real architect behind the successful design of Agni Missile.  Dr. Kalam is also criticized by civil groups over his stand on Kudankulam nuclear plant where he supported setting up of the nuclear power plant and never spoke with the local people. 14] The anti-right wing activist even criticized his support to “nationalism” and similar other ideas of RSS which they claim made his path to become President of India very clear. The first turning point came when the National Committee for for Space Research (INSCOPAR) was formed and a talent pool of good aeronautical engineers was created to set-up what later became the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). From here started his perposeful contribution towards the Satellite Vehicle launching programmes. He was chosen to lead Satellite Launch Vehicles (SLVs) amongst many more distinguished peers.
This experience shaped him into a formidable leader. He was decorated with the Padma-Bhushan in 1981 and was given the task of developing indeginous missile capabilities. His tireless journey into missile research gave fruitful results to the nation. He was a key personnel to develop Nag, Prithvi, Aakash, Trishul and Agni missiles to become the Missile-man of India. Kalam imbibes the simplicity of Mahatma Gandhi in his personal life. He still remains unaffected and untainted by the temptations and privileges that the world has offered to him. He was and remains a traveller of life.