Indian scientist and administrator Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam is known for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology, hence the title The Missile Man of India. The 11th President of India has however, a very humble beginning. Born to a boat owner father and a housewife mother at Rameshwaram on 15 October 1931, Kalam came from a poor family and started working from an early age to support his family. After completing school, he distributed newspapers to assist his father financially. But belonging from a financially disadvantaged family didn’t deter him from pursuing his education in gusto.
He studied aerospace engineering in Madras, after which he joined Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as a scientist. He also worked under Vikram Sarabhai and was later transferred to Indian Space Research Organization. He is said to have found himself when he worked in that organization, being the project director of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle. He was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of Defence Research and Development Organisation from 1992 to 1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period where he played an intensive political and technological role.
Kalam won the 2002 presidential elections succeeding K. R Narayan and defeating Lakshmi Sahgal. He served from 2002 to 2007. Kalam was the third President of India to have been honoured with a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, before becoming the President. Although he has been criticized for several reasons, yet Dr. Kalam continues to influence and inspire the student community of India. In his book India 2020, Kalam advocates an action plan that would put India in the league of powerful countries. He is an enthusiastic individual who loves to interact with the youth, especially high school students. In May 2011, he launched the What Can I Give Movement for the youth with the central theme to eradicate corruption. He has received honorary doctorates from 40 universities and has been nominated for MTV Youth Icon of the Year Award in 2003 and 2006.
Apart from his exemplary achievements, Dr. Kalam is interested in Tamil poetry and playing veenai, a South Indian stringed musical instrument.