Career Story of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – The Missile Man of India

By : Swati Sharma |
APJ Kalam

An Indian aerospace scientist and politician, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has always been known for his knowledge and kindness. It is undoubtedly true that reading success stories of greatest professionals stimulates motivational enzyme within us and gives us wings to fly! Exactly with this aim, here we are presenting the motivational story of our beloved President and Missile Man of India, Late Dr Abdul Kalam.

Early Life, Family History and Education

Avul Pakir Jainulabudeen Abdul Kalam popularly known as Dr APJ Kalam needs no introduction. Dr Kalam was born on 15 October 1931 to a Tamil Muslim family and he was the youngest of four brothers and one sister in his family. His father Jainulabdeen owns a boat and his mother Ashiamma was a housewife. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Kalam’s ancestors had been wealthy merchant and landowners, with numerous properties and large tracts of land. Unfortunately, the businesses failed and the family fortune and properties were lost over time. By his early childhood, his family had become poor and he had to do assorted jobs, he sold newspapers to supplement family’s income.

A bright and hardworking student, Kalam completed his school education from the Schwartz Matriculation School, Ramanathapuram then he attended the Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli. He completed his graduation in Physics in 1954 and then moved on to Madras in the year 1955 to study aerospace engineering in Madras Institute of Technology. He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology, Anna University.

Career as a Scientist – Started his career by designing a small hovercraft at DRDO, Joined ISRO

He developed an early fascination with flight by watching birds, Nicknamed as the ‘Missile Man of India’, Kalam missed achieving his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, as he got a ninth position in qualifiers, and only eight positions were available in the IAF. He knows it well that the path to becoming an aerospace scientist is a rigorous one but the future in this field is bright. After graduating from MIT, APJ Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation as a scientist, in the year 1958. He designed a small hovercraft at DRDO but he was not happy.

In the year 1969, he was transferred to the newly formed Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he worked as the project director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III). Founded in the year 1969, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an Indian space agency. Whether you choose to focus on developing a career as an ISRO Scientist/ Engineer, Technician, Draughtsman or take your career “out of this world” as an astronautical engineer, Career Opportunities in ISRO offers several rewarding paths. If we talk about Life at ISRO, it is true that one can enjoy work quality, career growth, financial benefits and social life.

He quoted, “Dreams is not what you see in sleep is the thing which doesn’t let you sleep.” Always dream and think big! Later in the year 1969, he received the government’s approval and expanded the programme to include more engineers. In the 1970s he directed two projects namely Project Devil and Project Valiant and he made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Mr Kalam was called by Raja Ramanna to see the nation’s first nuclear test, Smiling Buddha, as the representative of TBRL, even though he had not participated in its development.

In the early days of 1980, Indian Ministry of Defence programme managed by DRDO in collaboration with other departments launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) and appointed Kalam as the chief executive. Due to his contribution, he was known as “Missile Man of India.” He rejoined DRDO in 1982. He served as a Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister in the year 1992. Later, in 1999, he was appointed as Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government, with the rank of a cabinet minister. His prominent role in conducting the Pokhran-II, a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions in May 1998, established Kalam as a national hero and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a full-fledged nuclear state.

In the year 1998, Kalam proposed a countrywide plan called Technology Vision 2020, which explained the road map for transforming India from a less-developed to a developed society in 20 years. The plan suggested steps to increase agricultural productivity, nuclear empowerment, technological innovations and widening access to health care and education.

Career in Politics – The first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan

In the year 2002, in recognition of APJ Kalam’s services to the nation and broad popularity, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominated him for President of India. Being a popular national figure, he won the presidential election easily and served as the 11th President of India, succeeding K. R. Narayanan. The first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Kalam served as the President of India from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007 and is highly regarded as the People’s President.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Post-Presidency

After leaving office in 2007, Kalam chose the academic field became a visiting professor at several universities namely, the Indian Institute of Management Indore, Indian Institute of Management Shillong, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and an honorary fellow of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked as a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University and chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram. At International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad, he taught information technology and also technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University. He launched the “What Can I Give Movement” in 2011 for the youth of India with a central theme of defeating corruption, and in 2012, his efforts to improve healthcare led to the release of a tablet for medical personnel to use in remote areas.

Awards and Achievements of APJ Kalam – The Man Who Taught Us to Be Human First!

His works awarded him many awards, both from the Indian government and from the international community. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam won three renowned awards from the Govt. of India namely- Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and the Bharat Ratna in 1997. He won the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in the year 1997. In the year 1980, he was awarded the Veer Savarkar Award and the Ramanujan Award in the year 2000. Kalam received honorary doctorates from 40 universities all across the world. In 2008, he won the Hoover Medal given by ASME Foundation, USA. The California Institute of Technology, U.S.A, presented Kalam with the International von Karman Wings Award in 2009. Not only this, he won many other awards too.

APJ Books – Continued with his Job, Kalam penned down Inspirational Books

Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was the proud author of numerous inspirational books, he encouraged the people to inculcate the habit of reading and he penned down several inspirational books with topics ranging from nuclear physics to spiritual experiences. Here are some of the best books written by Dr Kalam:

India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium (co-authored with Yagnaswami Sundara Rajan1998
Wings of Fire: An Autobiography1999
Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India2002
The Luminous Sparks2004
Mission India2005
Inspiring Thoughts2007
You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond (co-authored with Arun Tiwari)2011
Target 3 Billion by A.P.J. Kalam and Srijan Pal SinghDecember 2011
Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges2012
My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions2013
A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 (co-authored with V. Ponraj)2014
Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh2015
Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji (co-authored with Arun Tiwari)2015
Advantage India: From Challenge to Opportunity by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh2015
Governance for growth in India2014

Death: May This Noble & Pious Soul rest in Peace!!

On July 27, 2015, Kalam travelled to Shillong to deliver a lecture on “Creating a Livable Planet Earth” at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong. While climbing the stairs, he experienced some discomfort. At around 6:35 p.m. IST, only five minutes into his lecture, he suffered a massive heart attack while lecturing. He was rushed to the nearby Bethany Hospital in a critical condition, despite being placed in the intensive care unit, Kalam was confirmed dead of a sudden cardiac arrest at 7:45 p.m. IST. He died at the age of 83. He was laid to rest on July 30 with full state honours in his native Tamil Nadu.

It is true that Mother India is proud of you Dr Kalam and forever wishes to have sons like you!