Vikram Sarabhai (aka Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai) (12 August 1919 – 30 December 1971) was a well-known Indian scientist widely considered as the father of India’s space program. He received the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in the year 1962 and was honored with the Padma Bhushan in the year 1966 and the Padma Vibhushan (posthumously) in the year 1972.
He was the son of Ambalal Sarabhai, and he came from the famous Sarabhai family of India who was major industrialists supported the Indian independence movement. Vikram Sarabhai got married to the classical dancer Mrinalini in the year 1942.
The couple had two children. His daughter Mallika gained prominence as an actress and activist, and his son Kartikeya Sarabhai too became an active person in science. During his lifetime, he practiced Jainism.
Well recognized as the cradle of Indian space sciences, the Physical Research Laboratory (P.R.L.) was founded in 1947 by Vikram Sarabhai. P.R.L. had a moderate beginning at his residence, the RETREAT, with research on cosmic rays.
On 11 November 1947, the institute was formally established at the M.G. Science Institute, Ahmedabad, with support from the Ahmedabad Education Society and the Karmkshetra Educational Foundation. Prof. Kalpathi Ramakrishna Ramanath was the first Director of the institute. The preliminary focus was to research on cosmic rays and the properties of the atmosphere in higher heights. Later with grants from the A.E.C. (Atomic Energy Commission), research areas were expanded to include theoretical physics and radiophysics.
He led the Sarabhai family’s business. His interests diverse from science to sports to statistics. He established the first market research organization in the country, the Operations Research Group (O.R.G.). He helped in setting up most notable institutes, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (I.I.M.A.), the Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, the Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (A.T.I.R.A.) and the (CEPT). Along with Mrinalini Sarabhai (his wife), he founded the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. Other projects and institutions established by him include the Faster Breeder Test Reactor (F.B.T.R.) in Kalpakkam, Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Calcutta, Electronics Corporation of India Limited (E.C.I.L.) in Hyderabad and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (U.C.I.L.) in Jaduguda, Jharkhand.
Vikram Sarabhai started a project in the area of space, for the fabrication and launch of Indian satellites. As a result, Aryabhatta, the first Indian satellite, was put in orbit in the year 1975 from a Russian cosmodrome.
Indian Institute of Management (I.I.M.), Ahmedabad
The decade following independence in the year 1947 was a witness to a surge of innovative ideas to build a nestling independent nation into a model democratic state committed to growth with equality in the development of its people. The outcome of one such innovative initiative was the establishment of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (I.I.M.A.).
- President of the Physics section, I.S.C.- Indian Science Congress (1962).
- President of the General Conference, I.A.E.A., Vienna (1970).
- Chairman of the A.E.C. – Atomic Energy Commission of India (1966–1971).
- Vice-President, Fourth U.N. – United Nations Conference on ‘Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy’ (1971).
- Founder and Chairman, Space Applications Centre (1963–1971).
Vikram Sarabhai on a 1972 stamp of India
- The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (V.S.S.C.), which is the Indian Space Research Organization’s (I.S.R.O.) lead facility for launch vehicle development located in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, is named in his memory.
- In collaboration with other Ahmedabad-based industrialists, he played a significant role in setting up the IIM – Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
- On his first death anniversary on 30 December 1972, Postal Department of India released a commemorative Postal Stamp.
- In 1973, the International Astronomical Union decided to rename Bessel A, a lunar crater in the Sea as the Sarabhai crater.
- The lander of India’s moon mission Chandrayaan II is named Vikram in the name of Vikram Sarabhai in his honor which will finally land on the South Pole of the moon on Sep 7, 2019.
Content Credits: Wikipedia-Vikram Sarabhai