The Missile Man Of India – Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam ( Biography )

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam) was one of the world’s best aerospace scientist and engineer, an author, and professor and also the 11th President of India who served his excellence during 2002 to 2007. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam did his education in physics and aerospace engineering and spent his next 4 decades as a scientist and science engineer in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He has the most prestigious of honours and accolades including India’s highest civilian honour of Bharat Ratna. 

Born on 15th October 1931 at Dhanushkodi, Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), Dr. A. P. J.  Abdul Kalam was one of the most influential persons and was most often referred to as the ‘People’s president’. Developing a whole nation’s space technology and many nuclear projects in India, it is no wonder that he has the proud nickname the “Missile Man of India”. While lecturing at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, Dr. A. P. J.  Abdul Kalam suddenly collapsed due to intense cardiac arrest on 27th July 2015. He is now and always a huge inspiration to many youngsters and children globally. 


Childhood Days and Educational Life 


Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was from a Tamil Muslim family from the Pamban island of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. His father Jainulabdeen was an imam (leader of an Islamic mosque) and also a boat owner. Abdul’s mother was Ashiamma, a housewife. Abdul Kalam was the youngest child among the 5 siblings. He had an elder named Asim Zohra and 3 other elder brothers who are namely Kasim Mohammed, Mustafa Kalam, and Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraikayar. 

Ferrying the pilgrims of Hindu community back and forth from Pamban and Sri Lanka was the works of the boy’s ancestors and forerunners. Mara Kalam Iyakkivar which means ‘wooden boat stirrers’ was the family name of Abdul Kalam. But sadly, after the official construction and opening of the Pamban Bridge in 1914 into the mainlands, made their businesses failed and they lost all the profit. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Abudl Kalam’s early years had turned poor and hence he had sold newspapers to make some money. 

With some family income, Abdul Kalam took his education in a matriculation school from Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram. Though he was an average scorer, teachers used to mention him as a hardworking and diligent boy. He then graduated from the Saint Joseph’s College in Tiruchirappalli, which then became affiliated to University of Madras, in Physics in 1954. He later traveled to Madras, now Chennai, in the year 1955 for studying aerospace engineering from the MIT, Madras Institute of Technology, Chrompet. 


Becoming a Scientist – Dr. Kalam Sir


Abdul Kalam’s lifetime achievements began when he joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1958, as a scientist. During the 1960s, Kalam sir worked closely with the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). He was under the guidance of Vikram Sarabhai, renowned space scientist. His career started when he designed a small hovercraft at the DRDO. 

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam got inspired after visiting the space stations like Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt of Maryland, Wallops Flight Facility in 1963-64, and NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Hampton of Virginia and started to invent his own expandable rocket shuttle project. In the year 1969, he personally received government approval to expand the program for adding several engineers to it.  The research and educational ideations described by the scientist was extremely powerful and brought him great laurels.

Abdul Kalam was then appointed as the chief executive for the mission Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) under Ramaswamy Venkatraman, the 8th President of India. This project had worth ₹388 crores and after its success, Kalam did a great job in exploring and inventing new arenas actively inside the Agni mission. 

The Pokhran-II which was a 5-nuclear bomb explosion series was conducted by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam from July 1992 to December 1999. The same year gave him the appointment as the Principal Scientific Adviser for Government of India. He was also noted for the works in handling technology and political concerns successfully. Abdul Kalam was the Chief Project Coordinator along with Rajagopala Chidambaram for the phases of testing. With the rise of media coverage, Abdul Kalam was seen as the country’s best even nuclear scientist. 

Other than space and nuclear resources, Abdul Kalam is also noted for his works in medicine and healthcare. ‘Kalam-Raju Stent’ was a coronary stent discovered by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam with cardiologist Soma Raju in 1998 which is cost-effective to many. This supplied blood to the arteries during a coronary heart disease operation. The duo also worked critically for giving proper healthcare facilities to the rural communities and invented the rugged tab computer termed ‘Kalam-Raju Tablet’ in the year 2012.


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Political Lifestyle of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam


Succeeding the presidency of Kocheril Raman Narayanan, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was the 11th Indian President from 25th July 2002 to 25th July 2007. It was an easy victory as people already had the forethought that Kalam sir would surely win the election. 922,884 was the total vote that Kalam sir won which even surpassed the vote count of 107,366 by Lakshmi Sahgal. 

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1954) and Dr. Zakir Hussain (1963) who late became the Presidents of India were the earliest recipients for getting India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was the next person for receiving it. Notably, Kalam sir was also the 1st bachelor and 1st scientist for occupying inside the Rashtrapati Bhawan. 

Office of the Profit Bill was the only toughest decision that Kalam sir felt hard during his presidency. He performed many notable political actions that were highly in account to his Indian people. For instance, during the PGI Chandigarh’s interactive session in September 2003, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam gave his full support to the Uniform Civil Code of India, having in mind the population of his country. Since he was purely working for the goodness of his nation and its people, the public nicknamed and called him as the ‘People’s President’. 

On 20th June 2007 during the end of his presidential term, Abdul Kalam stated that he may choose to stand for the second time in the office if there were sure chances of winning. But 2 days later, he refused it by saying due to the absence of support from the left parties Shiv Sena and UPA constituents he decided not to involve with the Rashtrapati politics anymore. Even after the support of renowned people like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, and even the social media sites gave huge support to Abdul Kalam’s second time electoral. But still, the President left the position and simply thanked every citizen for his or her love and support to his presidency. 

Personal And Spiritual Life of The Scientist


Post-presidency, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam became a visiting professor of Indian Institute of Management to the branches of Shillong, Ahmedabad, and Indore. He was also the honorary fellow for Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

He even taught lessons from Information Technology at the Banaras Hindu University, Anna University, and the International Institute of Information Technology at Hyderabad.

The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram had its chancellor as Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. He was also the professor at the Aerospace Engineering at Anna University. He was also an adjunct for many other research and academic institutions all over India. 

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam had a simple and integrated lifestyle. He never had a television also, and had the routine of sleeping at 2 AM night and getting early as 6:20 AM or 7:00 AM. He had a few personal possessions like books, a veena, some clothing articles, one CD player and one laptop. 

Religion and spirituality was his main concern and prime goal throughout his living. Being a son of an imam, Abdul Kalam followed the teachings of his father Jainulabdeen by practicing everyday namāz and fasting during the Ramzan days. He even took this into his political affairs and stated that religion is a source to become friends with others and some people use this as a tool for fighting. 

Being a Muslim, he highly respected the values of other religions and has knowledge in both Islamic notions and also read Bhagavad Gita and learned Sanskrit. He loves playing Veena, enjoys writing Tamil poetry and also listens to devotional Carnatic songs. Thus, he respects and treats every religion equally as he strictly follows Syncretism in his day-to-day living. 

Abdul Kalam dreamt of a spiritual, prosperous, and a unified India and this led him to a few great people like Pramukh Swami who was the Hindu Guru for BAPS Swaminarayan Sampradaya. Kalam was absolutely drawn by the simplicity and religiosity of the Guru and saw him as the ideal person for his life values. Kalam sir has met with many good people in his lives but sees Pramukh Swami as his devotional ideal.


Death of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam


On 27th July 2015, Kalam was a guest speaker for the topic ‘Creating a Liveable Planet Earth’ at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. He had a slight difficulty in climbing the staircase but made it into the stage but after a 5-minute speech at the place, Abdul Kalam suddenly collapsed and fell, from where he was rushed to the Bethany Hospital and was noted for missing a pulse and other signs for life. 

7:45 PM IST, People’s President was confirmed dead after a sudden cardiac arrest.  Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam’s body was airlifted by Indian Air Force helicopter from Shillong to Guwahati, and from there was flown to New Delhi on 28th July morning in the air force C-130J Hercules. Again Kalam sir’s body was taken to Palam Air Base and was taken to other areas of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and finally to his hometown Rameswaram. 

Lakhs of people were involved in his cremation and prided the President both during the visits and also at his final cremation. So many great Political leaders, Prime Ministers, International Leaders, Secretaries, scientists, were gathered for his last rites. Over 3, 50,000 people gathered in the Pei Karumbu Burial Ground.  Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam the Missile Man of India was rested to peace on 30th July 2015 with all-state honours including the 21-bullet shots.

Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) built a memorial on behalf of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam in the island town of Pei Karumbu in his hometown. It was inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi on 27th July 2017. Dr. Kalam’s life was depicted beautifully through so many acrylic paintings, carvings, rocket models, etc. and had the proudest moments of the President’s life depicted inside the memorial. The entrance of the memorial had the idol of r. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam playing his favourite veena, with 2 other statues in different postures around the place. 


Awards And Recognitions of Kalam Sir

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam is a recipient for 7 honorary doctorates from 40 distinct universities. Also, preceding his expiry, there were so many places and centres that changed or newly opened in the name of Kalam sir. Some of the other prestigious awards that Abdul Kalam has won are:

1981: Padma Bhushan from Government of India.

1990: Padma Vibhushan from the Indian Government. 

1994 and 1995: Distinguished and Honorary Fellow by Institute of Directors, India and National Academy of Medical Sciences.

1997: Bharat Ratna from Indian Government and Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration from Indian National Congress.

1998: Veer Savarkar Award from Indian Government.

2000: Ramanujan Award from Alwars Research Centre, Chennai.

2003 and 2006: Nominated for MTV Youth Icon

2007: The King Charles II Medal by Royal Society, U.K., and Doctorate of Science from the University of Wolverhampton, UK.

2008: Hoover Medal from ASME Foundation, USA and Doctor of Engineering by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

2009: International Von Karman Wings Award, California Institute of Technology, USA and Honorary Doctorate by Oakland University.

2010: Doctor of Engineering by University of Waterloo.

2011: IEEE Honorary Membership.

2012: Doctor of Laws by Simon Fraser University (Honoris Causa), and ranked Number 2 in Outlook India’s poll of the ‘Greatest Indian’. 

2013: Von Braun Award by the National Space Society.

2014: Doctor of Science by Edinburgh University, UK.


Books And Writings Of Kalam Sir


  • Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India


  • India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium, (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Y.S. Rajan)


  • Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha)


  • The Luminous Sparks


  • Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Sing)


  • Turning Points: A journey through challenges


  • Indomitable Spirit


  • Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji(Dr. A .P. J. Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari)


  • Wings of Fire: An Autobiography, (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari)


  • Envisioning an Empowered Nation (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and A. Sivathanu Pillai)


  • You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond, (Dr. A .P. J. Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari)


  • Advantage India: From Challenge to Opportunity (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Sing)


  • Forge your Future: Candid, Forthright, Inspiring


  • My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions- ‘எனது பயணம்’ (Tamil)


  • Inspiring Thoughts


  • Target 3 Billion, (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh)


  • Mission India 


  • A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 (Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and V Ponraj)


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Biographies of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam


  • My Days With Mahatma Abdul Kalam (Fr. A.K. George)
  • A Little Dream- documentary film (P. Dhanapal, Minveli Media Works Private Limited)
  • The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President (P.M. Nair)
  • P. J. Abdul Kalam: The Visionary of India (K. Bhushan and G. Katyal)
  • Eternal Quest: Life and Times of Dr. Kalam (S. Chandra)
  • President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (R.K. Pruthi)


Interesting Facts About Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam


    • Kalam sir decided just 1 mercy plea through his whole five-year presidency tenure, by rejecting the plea of the rapist Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who late got hanged.
    • Kalam sir was once assigned a project with quick deadline. Even after successful completion and impressing the teacher, he lost it due to a minute difference. He came 9th in the qualifiers list when only 8 were allowed. 
    • The missions Agni and Prithvi of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam were both criticized for issues of time and cost overruns and also due to mismanagement. 
    • Abdul Kalam was a highly helpful person from his childhood and was very close to his family.
    • ‘Youth Renaissance Day’ is celebrated in honour of our People’s President on his birthday 15th October by the Tamil Nadu State Government. 
    • There was a 2011 Hindi movie named ‘I Am Kalam’ that positively portrayed Kalam sir and giving inspirations to a poor but bright boy Chhotu in the Rajasthan district. 
    • During the 1990s, Raja Ramanna had invited Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam for witnessing the nation’s 1st nuclear test named ‘Smiling Buddha’ being representative for TBRL, even though he was not a part of its development.
    • Keeping in mind the Indian development of nuclear facilities, good technological inventions, and other improvisation in the field of agriculture, Kalam sir proposed a plan countrywide called ‘Technology Vision 2020’.
    • There are roads, plants species and an island under the name of this great scientist.  
    • Abdul Kalam as a young boy was very much interested in mathematics and spent hours working and playing with numbers. 
    • Kalam’s last words with Srijan Pal Singh were exactly-“Funny guy! Are you doing well?”
    • Seeing Abdul Kalam as the unifier of diverse traditions in India, the Congress leader Shashi Tharoor denoted that, “Kalam was a complete Indian, an embodiment of eclecticism for India’s heritage of diversity”. 
    • There was the discovery of a new bacterium in filters at the International Space Station (ISS) and named it as ‘Solibacilus Kalami’ for honouring the late President Dr. Abdul Kala. This was discovered by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Researchers. 
    • Dr. Kalam sir’s 79th birthday was ‘World Student’s Day’ for the United Nations
    • Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam did a programme launch in May 2012 for the Indian youths called ‘What Can I Give Movement’, with defeating corruption as its central theme.
    • After Samajwadi Party announcing their support for Kalam sir, Narayanan had chosen to not seek the office for a second term and left the field clearly.  


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