Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the former president of India, passed away on July 27, 2015. The nation remembers him every year and each time India accomplishes a feat in the area of science, especially space and missiles. While Dr APJ Abdul Kalam served as the 11th President of India, he was an instrumental force behind the development of Agni and Prithvi missiles. Dr Kalam also authored numerous books, including the famous Wings of Fire and Ignited Minds, which inspired children and adults alike to pursue their dreams.
His personal story, too, was nothing short of a superhero's. Born on October 15, 1931, in a modest family in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, Dr Kalam faced hardships during his childhood but never gave up. After finishing school at the Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Dr Kalam went to St. Joseph's College for his graduation in Physics. It's said that he would study hours without a break and focused especially on mathematics. Following his graduation, Dr Kalam acquired a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology.
In 1958, Dr Kalam joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and over a decade later, in 1969, he moved to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He was the project director for the SLV-III, the first satellite launch vehicle, designed and produced in India. Dr Kalam returned to DRDO in 1982 and implemented the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program, which later earned him the famous nickname of the "Missile Man of India".
Pokhran nuclear tests
His most significant contribution to India, however, was yet to come. Dr Kalam also had the distinction of working with political parties across the ideological spectrum. For instance, he was appointed as the scientific advisor to the defence minister under the PV Narsimha Rao government. Dr Kalam played a critical role in India's 1998 nuclear weapon test under the leadership of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. And while the international community expressed displeasure over the development and even imposed economic sanctions on India, the May 1998 Pokhran-II tests made Dr Kalam a household name.
In 1999, when Mr Vajpayee returned to power, Dr Kalam served as the principal scientific adviser to the government until 2001. A year later, he succeeded KR Narayanan as the President of India. Dr Kalam was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1990 and Bharat Ratna in 1997, the country's highest civilian honour.
On July 27, 2015, the "Missile Man of India" was delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, when he collapsed and passed away due to a cardiac arrest. He, however, continues to live in the hearts of Indians.