Vikram Sarabhai the doyen of science, astronomy and founding father of space research in India needs no introduction. Today, on his death anniversary (12 August 1919- 30 December 1971) it is incumbent upon a grateful nation to pay their respects to the great son of India who laid the foundation for India to build its position of prestige and pride in world in the field of space research and nuclear science. It can be truly said his vision made it possible for us to literally reach the stars.

He established the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in 1947 which was the nursery for space programme in India. The PRL had a modest beginning at his residence, the “RETREAT”, with research on cosmic rays. He was the founder of the hallowed Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, which has today grown from strength to strength with space orbiters reaching the Mars and Moon.

His interests varied from science to sports to statistics. He set up the Operations Research Group (ORG), the first market research organization in the country. He helped to establish various organisations like the Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the ATIRA and the CEPT. He founded the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts along with his wife Mrinalini Sarabhai, an acclaimed classical dancer. Other projects and institutions initiated or established by him include the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) in Kalpakkam, Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Calcutta and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in Jaduguda, Jharkhand.

Sarabhai started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian satellite. As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhatta, was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian cosmodrome.

He studied at the Cambridge and later during World War II he came to India he joined the Department of Physics at the IISC Bangalore. His doctoral advisor was the great physicist, CV Raman. The IISC Bangalore then had  the legendary giants Vikram Sarabhai, Homi Bhabha and CV Raman all at the same time in its campus.

Sarabhai was a brilliant scientist, institution builder and mentor of budding scientists like APJ Abdul Kalam, the missile man of India. He was a scientist par excellence with a vision for nation building. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 after his death in 1971.

It is pertinent to note that Vikram Sarabhai who could be called the Aryabhatta of 20th Century India, has not yet been awarded the Bharat Ratna, while we have politicians, predominantly from the Congress getting the Bharat Ratna of which three were awarded to the Nehru dynasty. Notably, since the Bharat Ratna is awarded by the President of India on recommendation of the Prime Minister, we have Jwawharlal Nehru recommending his own name for being awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1955 and Indira Gandhi as the PM recommending her own name to the President for the said award! Now that the Indian polity have started preferring to elect governments at the centre devoid of leadership from the Nehru dynasty, it is hoped that the real heroes of India get their due as Bharat Ratnas.

It is hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known for his grassroot connections and promotion of scientists, technologists and academicians who help build India as a world power to reckon with, awards the great scientists of Ma Bharti like Vikram Sarabhai and Dr Homi Bhabha the Bharat Ratna not just to honour the great sons of the soil but also to inspire future scientists to reach their level of excellence.

Note: The material for this article about Vikram Sarabhai is sourced from Wikipedia and excerpts of the book, “In Pursuit of Excellence” given by IFS, Praveen Kaswan mentioned in his tweets.  

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