Dr Vikram Sarabhai’s name is synonymous with Indian space research and the pride of our nation!
Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai was born on August 12, 1919, in Ahmedabad, India, in a wealthy family. His preliminary schooling was conducted at a family school run by his mother. He graduated from the Gujarat College in Ahmedabad, in the year 1940, and later studied at St. John's College at Cambridge, England. After returning back to India, he conducted his research on cosmic rays at Bangalore, along with Sir C. V. Raman.
He returned to Cambridge in 1945 and earned his doctoral degree in the year 1947, his research is based on photo-fission. Soon after India became independent, Dr Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in November 1947, which was supported by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and housed India’s earliest research in space sciences.
Later in his life, Dr Sarabhai was instrumental in establishing permanent recording stations at three locations in India. He led the Indian government's participation in the International Geo-physical year (IGY) during 1957-1958. The launch of the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, encouraged Dr Sarabhai’s interest in outer space. subsequently, the Indian National Committee for Space Research was established in 1962, and Dr Sarabhai was appointed as its first Chairman.
He successfully guided the establishment of the first Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in our country, which launched the first Indian space rocket. With his continuous efforts, he brought international recognition to himself and our country’s space program.
In May 1966, Dr. Sarabhai was appointed as the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India. Thereafter, he initiated the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment, in association with NASA. Unfortunately, he did not live to witness its successful start. Dr Sarabhai expired during a visit to Thumba, on December 31, 1971, before Aryabhata I was put in orbit by the Russians in 1975. However, he was well aware of the impending fruition of both these projects before his death.
During his lifetime, Dr Vikram Sarabhai served as the president of the Physical Section of the Indian Science Congress (1962) and the IAEA General Conference, Verina (1970) and as the vice-President of the Fourth Conference on the Use of Atomic Energy (1971). He was bestowed with numerous awards, amongst the notable being Padma Bhushan in the year 1966 and Padma Vibhushan in 1972, posthumously.
Dr Sarabhai believed that Science and Technology could help build modern India. He saw scientific solutions as a means to advance India, through the application of technological advancements to solve problems facing Indian society. His zest and efforts to practically apply technological skills to overcome difficulties in daily life are clearly evident through his quotes like "No great importance is to be given to mere experience" and "He who can listen to the music in the midst of noise can achieve great things."
Today, as we celebrate his 100th birth anniversary, we must rightfully salute his work and scientific contributions to our country. He is not only a visionary who propelled the Indian space research program but also a respected individual whom the entire world remembers for his scientific laurels. He is an inspiration to all.
Editor: Dr. Prajakta Dandekar Jain