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Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai – Father of the Indian Space Program


Famous Indian Space Researcher, Astronomer, and Physicist Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai is a gem in Indian History.

His uplevel skills, intellectuals, and farsightedness have made India literally land on space. He carved the pace for space in India. That is why he is known to be the Father of the Indian Space Program.

Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai
Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai

Quick Facts about Vikram Sarabhai

    • Full Name: Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai
    • Also Known As: Vikram Sarabhai
    • Famous As: Father of the Indian Space Program
    • Born On: 12 August 1919
    • Died On: 30 December 1971
    • Birthplace: Ahmedabad, British India
    • Education: Tripos Degree, Ph.D. (Cambridge University)
    • Profession: Physicist and Astronomer
    • Parents: Ambalal Sarabhai (father), Sarladevi Sarabhai (mother)
    • Religion: Jainism
    • Spouse: Mrinalini Sarabhai
    • Children: Kartikeya Sarabhai (son), Mallika Sarabhai (daughter)
    • Awards: Padma Bhushan (1966), Padma Vibhushan (1972)

Early Life of the Great Scientist

Vikram Sarabhai was born in the pre-Independence era in 1919 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, to Ambalal Sarabhai and Sarladevi Sarabhai.

His family owned several mills and industries. He was among the eight children his parents had. As he was born in a well-settled family, he could study and pursue his passion. You can say he had a privileged childhood.

Education and College Life

Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai took his early schooling from a private school in Ahmedabad. The love for science started blooming in the school itself.

He later passed out from Gujarat college and later moved to England. For Science, England was considered a hub in those days. He pursued his Tripos degree in Natural Science from Cambridge University in 1940.

Later, when the world was facing World War 2, Vikram Sarabhai returned to India and joined the Indian Institute of Science. Under the guidance of the then great scientist C.V. Raman, he researched Cosmic Rays. He returned to Cambridge university and earned his Doctorate in 1947.

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Marriage and Family Life

Vikram Sarabhai’s personal and married life has been interesting. He first met his wife, Mrinalini, while traveling to Ooty for work. The second meeting after several years in 1941 in Ooty again blew some sparks between them.

Mrinalini was a renowned classical dancer. They both started talking, and Vikram used to go to the theatres to watch her dancing. The following year, 1942, they got married.

They both embraced parenthood and were blessed with a boy, Kartikeya in 1947, and then a beautiful daughter, Mallika in 1954. But soon, the happy ending was about to hit the hard rocks.

Another Woman Angle

Mrinalini’s friend Kamla Chowdhary’s husband was shot dead. Mrinalini asked her to come to stay with them in Ahmedabad. She wanted her mind to be diverted, so she asked her to help her husband in his institutes.

Mrinalini traveled from one country to another for her dance shows, and back in Ahmedabad, sparks flew between Vikram and Kamla. It is said that their love story was up until Vikram Sarabhai took his last breath.

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Career of the Father of the Indian Space Program - Dr. Vikram Sarabhai

The Career of the Father of the Indian Space Program

After receiving his Doctorate, Sarabhai came back to the new Independent India in 1947. For the sake of better Scientific facilities, he opened the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad. He had visioned and opened several science-based research centers across the country. In 1961, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) was formed.

Vikram Sarabhai is also the force behind the Center of Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT University) in Ahmedabad in 1962. The institute offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Arts and Science.

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Contribution to the Science

In 1965, he laid the foundation for social and developmental causes in society, Nehru Foundation for Development (NFD). He also built the Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Center (VASCSC) for stimulating interests in the public at large in Science and Maths.

Dr. Homi Bhabha, who was a renowned scientist, helped Vikram Sarabhai in laying the foundation of the 1st ever Rocket station in Thumba situated on the coast of the Arabian sea. He is the founder of the most advanced space research institute, ISRO, which is now the biggest govt space research agency worldwide. The first Indian satellite, Aryabhatta, was launched under the guidance of Vikram Sarabhai.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai | Achievements and Honors - Postal Stamp issued by the Indian Postal Department

Achievements and Honors

Vikram Sarabhai’s contribution to Science and research in India has been unmatchable. He had a visionary approach and could see science taking advancements in the near future. He indeed launched India in the so-called Space Age.

Vikram Sarabhai was awarded India’s most esteemed and honorary awards:

    • Padma Bhushan in 1966 and
    • Padma Vibhushan in 1972 (posthumously)

Honors received by the Father of the Indian Space Program:

    • He was also awarded Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Medal in the year 1962.
    • The First death Anniversary of Sarabhai had his Commemorative Postal Stamp issued by the Indian Postal Department.
    • The Lander of Chandrayaan II was named Vikram in his honor.

Lesser-Known Facts about Vikram Sarabhai

    • IIM Ahmedabad was established because of his efforts. It is also said the management institute was founded out of love to keep Kamla Chowdhary (his love interest) in Ahmedabad near him.
    • Vikram Sarabhai and his wife opened a Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, which is now lead by their daughter, Mallika Sarabhai, in Ahmedabad.
    • Vikram and Kamla’s love story was for around 20 years till Vikram Sarbhai breathed his last.
    • You can say his only hobby was SCIENCE. He served all his life for research in the field.

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Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai - The Brainchild behind Institutes in India

The Brainchild behind Institutes in India

    • Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad
    • Darpana Academy for Performing Arts in Ahmedabad
    • Indian Institute of Management (IIMA) in Ahmedabad
    • Community Science Centre (VASCSC) in Ahmedabad
    • Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram
    • Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad
    • Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad
    • Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Calcutta
    • Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), Jaduguda in Jharkhand
    • Faster Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) in Kalpakkam

Death of the Man of Dreams

Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai can be termed as Dreamer. He always dreamt of a better and more scientific India. His vision only now has landed India to the moon.

This great scientist breathed his last on 30th December 1971 due to heart attack. He was visiting Thiruvananthapuram for laying the foundation stone of Thumba lauching station. He died in Halcyon castle in Kovalam in Kerela.

Quotes by Vikram Sarabhai

Quotes by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai

“No great importance is to be given to mere experience.”

“Technology is not an objective to be aimed at, but a tool to be used for the benefit of the common man.”

“He who can listen to the music in the midst of noise can achieve great things.”

“A leader has to be a cultivator rather than a manufacturer. He has to provide the soil and the overall climate and the environment in which the seed can grow.”

“One wants permissive individuals who do not have a compelling need to reassure themselves that they are leaders.”

“It is necessary in creative work to be able to see squirrels and birds.”

“‘Experience’ is less relevant than ‘knowledge’ and the ‘ability to learn and to innovate’.”

“India will not have to look abroad for its experts, but will find them ready at hand.”

“It is important to assess the critical minimum efforts required to produce a permanent change, for it is not as if with small effort we can produce a small change.”

“We look down on our scientists if they engage in outside consultation. We implicitly promote the ivory tower.”

“An authoritative regime can inhibit the divergent human function, but only at the cost of inhibiting development itself.”

“Trust cannot be taken for granted. It has to be continually created and built up.”

“The development of the nation is intimately linked with understanding and application of science and technology by its people.”

“In implementing change, we need to apply ourselves to people before we can apply ourselves to problems.”

“There is a totality about modernization, and in order to gain confidence, we must experiment with our resources even at the risk of failure.”

“It seems to me that a broad understanding of the physical and social environment in which man lives is the most urgent task which faces all humanity.”

“Absolute right and wrong do not exist in the values of those who have understood the Upanishads or those who have followed the concepts of relativity.”

“We need a system which permits an infinite number of micro-control loops spread through the fabric of society.”

“In nature, left to itself, control is maintained through an ecological balance. Order is not imposed from above, but arises through interaction of each unit with its environment in a dynamic equilibrium.”

“If in a given situation we are content to live all environmental conditions unchanged, we can at best achieve an evolutionary changes though the natural course of survival and growth.”

“To create conditions for the application of Science and Scientist to the real problems of society, we have to encourage scientist to interest themselves in problems outside their fields of specialization.”

“Scientists who have relied on the experimental method and the powerful tool of observation, have a particularly valuable contribution to make in providing education through the acquisition of insights by experience rather than by hearing or reading.”

“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society…”



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Hetal Kabra

Staying positive is what makes you feel good. When such positiveness can be enthralled via Writings, you can inspire many people. I believe in spreading happiness and positivity and this is why through this platform I am able to share my thoughts and views to the readers.

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