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Remembering Dr Vikram Sarabhai on his 95th birth anniversary

On the 95th birth anniversary of Indian physicist Dr Vikram Sarabhai today, here are some interesting and lesser known facts on the life of the visionary scientist

Dr Vikram Sarabhai with family
Dr Vikram Sarabhai with wife, the renowned dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and their son Kartikeya Sarabhai. File pic/AFP

Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who was considered the Father of Indian space program, was born on 12th August 1919 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. His father Ambalal Sarabhai was an affluent industrialist and owned many mills in Gujarat.

He matriculated from the Gujarat College in Ahmedabad and later moved to England and joined St. John's College, University of Cambridge.

After returning from Cambridge to an independent India, he persuaded charitable trusts controlled by his family and friends and founded a research institution, the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1947. He joined the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and began research in cosmic rays under the guidance of Sir C. V. Raman, a Nobel Prize winner.

Dr Sarabhai, who placed India on the international map in the field of space research, was the co-founder of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, which is ISRO’s lead facility for launch vehicle development located in Thiruvananthapuram, is named in his memory.

In 1942, Dr Sarabhai married Mrinalini Sarabhai, a celebrated classical dancer. The renowned danseuse and activist Mallika Sarabhai is his daughter and the noted educationist and environmentalist Kartikeya Sarabhai is his son.

His interest in solar physics and cosmic ray led him to set up many observation stations around the country. He was also the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Dr Homi Bhabha, regarded as the father of India's nuclear science program, supported Dr Sarabhai in setting up the first rocket launching station in India. This center was established at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram on the coast of the Arabian Sea, primarily because of its proximity to the equator. The first rocket with sodium vapour payload was launched on November 21, 1963.

Dr Sarabhai started a project for the launch of an Indian Satellite, as a result the first Indian satellite Aryabhata was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian Cosmodrome.

He has been pivotal in establishing many institutes of international repute like the Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), which is considered a world class management institute. He set up Ahmedabad Textiles Industrial Research Association (ATIRA), which helped the booming textiles business in Ahmedabad and the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT).

In 1966, Dr Sarabhai was awarded Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan (posthumous) in the year 1972. He passed away on 31st December 1971 at Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

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