Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai (August 12, 1919, Ahmadabad, India—December 30, 1971, Kovalam) was an Indian physicist and industrialist who pioneered space research and contributed to the development of nuclear power in the country.
Sarabhai is regarded as the father of India's space programme, having established the Physical Research Laboratory in his hometown of Ahmedabad in 1947, which served as a forerunner to the ISRO.
Sarabhai was named chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India after physicist Homi Bhabha died in 1966.
Sarabhai received the Padma Bhushan in 1966 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1972, two of India's highest honours.
KEY FACTS ABOUT HIS LIFE
Dr Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai was born into a Gujarati industrialist family and attended Gujarat College and the University of Cambridge. ‘Cosmic Ray Investigation in Tropical Latitudes' was the title of his doctoral dissertation at Cambridge.
He also worked on cosmic ray studies at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, where he was mentored by Nobel Laureate Dr. C V Raman. In 1947, he returned to India and founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad. PRL was one of the first research institutes in India to work in the field of space sciences.
Dr. Sarabhai recognised the value of a space exploration programme for a developing world and persuaded the government to support it. In India, he was a pioneer in space exploration. In 1969, he played a key role in the creation of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). With the aid of Dr. Homi Bhabha, he also founded India's first rocket launching station at Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram. As a result, he is known as the "Father of the Indian Space Program."
He also served as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (which was founded on August 3, 1954) and was instrumental in the establishment of numerous educational institutions in India. His contributions to India's growth in terms of education and science were evident even after his death, as The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was launched in 1976 based on his dialogue with NASA.
In every way, he has made a significant contribution to the Indian Space Centre. He was also involved in business and manufacturing, in addition to science and space. He founded the Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association and served as its president until 1956.
In the 1960s, he created the Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC) to encourage science and math among students and the general public. In the fourth United Nations Conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy,' he was named Vice President.
Vikram Sarabhai was primarily responsible for the establishment and construction of nuclear power plants in India after Homi Bhabha's death. He was heavily interested in using satellite communication to educate children in remote areas of the world and worked to advance satellite-based natural resource remote sensing.
INSTITUTES ESTABLISHED BY VIKRAM SARABHAI
• Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
• Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA)
• Operations Research Group (ORG) – India’s first market research organization
• Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA)
• Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT)
• Faster Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam
• Blind Men Association (BMA)
• Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) at Hyderabad
• Variable Energy Cyclotron Project at Calcutta
• Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) at Jharkhand.
• Darpana Academy of Performing Arts (along with his wife, dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai)
AWARDS AND HONOURS CONFERRED
• President of the Physics section, Indian Science Congress (1962)
• Vice-President, Fourth U.N. Conference on ‘Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy’ (1971)
• President of the General Conference of the I.A.E.A., Vienna (1970)
• The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, (VSSC) which conducts research in the field of rocket propellants in Thiruvananthapuram is named after him.
• A crater on the moon ‘BESSEL A’ has been named the Sarabhai crater by the International Astronomical Union in 1973.
• Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award (1962)
• Padma Bhushan (1966)
• Padma Vibhushan, posthumous (1972)