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Waman Dattatreya Patwardhan: India’s Nuclear Genius


Waman Dattatreya Patwardhan

Quick Facts

  • Name: Waman Dattatreya Patwardhan
  • Famous As: Nuclear Chemist, Defence Scientist
  • Nationality: Indian
  • Birth Date: 30 January 1917 (Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh)
  • Died On: 27 July 2007
  • Awards: Padma Shri (1974)


One of the premier nuclear chemists produced by India, Waman Dattatreya Patwardhan has been one of the pioneering figures responsible for the nuclear advancement of this country. India owes a lot to Patwardhan for his contributions to the field of rocket science and nuclear science that led to pathbreaking developments in the sector.

Early Life and Achievements

Patwardhan was at the crux of important projects like The Indian Nuclear Program, Indian Space Program, with undisputed expertise in rocket propellants and nuclear chemistry. He graduated from Sir Parshurambhau College, University of Mumbai and his extensive work on Military explosives, missile and rocket programs in India and popular programs including the Smiling Buddha Project set a niche for him making him one of the most revered and experienced scientists that led India to become one of the emerging superpowers in South Asia.

He was one of the scientists on board at the Defence Research and Development Organisation working intensively in the fields of Explosives Engineering and Nuclear Chemistry. He also went on to work for Indian Space Research Organisation and lent his exemplary wisdom and prowess in the fields of rocket propulsion, missile development, and explosive technology.

Patwardhan was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1974 for his exemplary contributions to the field of nuclear and rocket science and his association with the premier institutions of science and technology has created a chain reaction of breakthroughs and discoveries that changed the fate of the Indian subcontinent.

His Creations and Contributions

Waman Dattatreya Patwardhan was one of those scientists who was senior even to the missile man of India, former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He served as the founder director of the Explosives Research and Development Laboratory which was renamed later as the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)) of India. He spearheaded the first space rocket launch for India at Thumba and was also instrumental in developing the solid rocket propellant for the same. He in fact developed the first detonation system for India’s first ever nuclear device which came to be known as Operation Smiling Buddha.

It was his sheer attention to detail and determination to think out of the box that caused him to create state of the art defence machinery for India and take India from a vulnerable nation to an emerging global superpower. From missile launches to rocket propulsion, his discoveries have provided a shining example to emerging scientists and chemists who want to make a difference to the world around them with their inventions and discoveries.

His Career Path: A Beacon of Light for New India

A very few people are able to think extraordinarily towards the direction of unbelievable discovery and Patwardhan was just one of those odd people who decide to walk a path others have never walked before to achieve unprecedented heights not just for themselves but for the entire nation. The feats that Patwardhan achieved in his entire career graph were reaped by the entire nation. In post independence India, when we were reeling under the repercussions of British rule, Patwardhan laid the foundation stone of a country that was beaming with scientific advancement, was self sufficient in terms of defence and security, and had innovative and new age mechanisms for science, technology and combat. From explosives to rocket propulsion, there was no domain untouched by Patwardhan. He in fact was the author of a pathbreaking book on Hydroponics and also devised an economical mechanism for production of parabolic mirrors that would constitute astronomical telescopes.


Written By: Aishwarya Sharma


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