Vikram Sarabhai

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Vikram Sarabhai
Vikram Sarabhai.jpg
Sarabhai in 1971
Chairman of Indian National Committee for Space Research and Indian Space Research Organisation
In office
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byM.G.K.Menon
Personal details
Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai

(1919-08-12)12 August 1919[1]
Bombay Presidency,
British India
(now in Gujarat, India)
Died30 December 1971(1971-12-30) (aged 52)
Halcyon Castle, Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram), Kerala, India
SpouseMrinalini Sarabhai
ChildrenMallika Sarabhai (daughter)
Kartikeya Sarabhai (son)
Parent(s)Ambalal Sarabhai (father)
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Known forIndian space program
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
AwardsPadma Bhushan (1966)
Padma Vibhushan (posthumously) (1972)
Scientific career
InstitutionsIndian Space Research Organisation
Physical Research Laboratory
Doctoral advisorC. V. Raman
Doctoral studentsUdupi Ramachandra Rao

Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai (12 August 1919 – 30 December 1971) was an Indian physicist and astronomer who initiated space research and helped develop nuclear power in India. He was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1966 and the Padma Vibhushan (posthumously) in 1972. He is internationally regarded as the Father of the Indian Space Program.[2][3][4][5]

Personal life[edit]

Vikram and Mrinalini Sarabhai (1948)

Son of Ambalal Sarabhai, he came from the famous Sarabhai family from India who were major industrialists committed to the Indian independence movement. Vikram Sarabhai married the classical dancer Mrinalini in 1942. The couple had two children. His daughter Mallika gained prominence as an actress and activist, and his son Kartikeya too became an active person in science. During his lifetime, he practiced Jainism.[6] He attended Gujarat College, Ahmedabad, but later moved to the University of Cambridge, England, where he took his tripos in natural sciences in 1940.[7] In 1945 he returned to Cambridge to pursue PhD and wrote a thesis, “Cosmic Ray Investigations in Tropical Latitudes,” in 1947.[7]

Professional life[edit]

Dr. Vikram A. Sarabhai, (left) Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and head of India's Department of Atomic Energy and Dr. Thomas O. Paine, NASA Administrator, sign an agreement to cooperate in an unprecedented experiment using a space satellite to bring instructional television programs to some 5,000 Indian villages.

Known as the cradle of space sciences in India, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) was founded in 1947 by Vikram Sarabhai.[8] PRL had a modest beginning at his residence, the "RETREAT", with research on cosmic rays.

The institute was formally established at the M.G. Science Institute, Ahmedabad, on 11 November 1947[9] with support from the Karmkshetra Educational Foundation and the Ahmedabad Education Society. Prof. Kalpathi Ramakrishna Ramanathan was the first Director of the institute. The initial focus was research on cosmic rays and the properties of the upper atmosphere. Research areas were expanded to include theoretical physics and radio physics later with grants from the Atomic Energy Commission. He led the Sarabhai family-owned business conglomerate.

His interests varied from science to sports to statistics. He set up the Operations Research Group (ORG), the first market research organization in the country. Most notable among the many institutes he helped set up are the Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), the Ahmedabad Textile Industry's Research Association (ATIRA) and the (CEPT). Along with his wife Mrinalini Sarabhai, he founded the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. Other projects and institutions initiated or established by him include the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) in Kalpakkam, Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Calcutta, Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in Jaduguda, Jharkhand. Sarabhai started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian satellite. As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian cosmodrome.[8] He was the founder of Indian Space Research Organisation.


On 30 December 1971, Sarabhai was to review the SLV design before his departure for Bombay the same night. He had spoken to A. P. J. Abdul Kalam on the telephone. Within an hour of the conversation, Sarabhai died at the age of 52 due to cardiac arrest in Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram). His body was cremated in Ahmedabad.

Distinguished positions[edit]


Sarabhai on a 1972 Indian stamp
  • The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, (VSSC), which is the Indian Space Research Organization's lead facility for launch vehicle development located in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), capital of Kerala state, is named in his memory.
  • Along with other Ahmedabad-based industrialists, he played a major role in setting up of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
  • Indian Postal Department released a commemorative Postal Stamp On his first death anniversary (30 December 1972)
  • In 1973, the International Astronomical Union decided that a lunar crater, Bessel A, in the Sea of Serenity will be known as the Sarabhai crater.[13][14]
  • The lander on India's moon mission Chandrayaan-2 which was to land near the South Pole of the moon on Sep 20, 2019 was named Vikram in his honour.
  • Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC) located in Ahmedabad, Gujarat is named after him. Vikram Sarabhai established this institute around the 1960s.
  • Former World Quiz Champion Vikram Joshi was named after him.
  • A Space Museum was dedicated to him at B M Birla Science Centre, Hyderabad on 26 July 2019. The museum was curated by Pranav Sharma.[15][16]
  • ISRO's Vikas (rocket engine) is named after him.
  • On his 100th birthday on 12 August 2019, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced an award in the name of Vikram Sarabhai. The Vikram Sarabhai Journalism award in Space Science Technology and Research will be given to those journalists who have contributed to the fields of space science, applications, and research.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

On 12 August 2019, Google's Doodle for India commemorated Sarabhai's 100th birth anniversary.[18] On 30 September 2020, ACK Media along with ISRO released a book namely, Vikram Sarabhai: Pioneering India's Space Programme. It was released in Amar Chitra Katha's digital platform and merchandise, ACK Comics.[citation needed]

A 2022 web-series Rocket Boys was based on the fictionalized lives of Sarabhai and Homi J. Bhabha, played by Ishwak Singh and Jim Sarbh respectively

In the 2022 film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect based on Nambi Narayanan's life, Sarabhai was played by Rajit Kapur in the Hindi version and by Ravi Raghavendra in the Tamil version.[19][20][21][22]


  1. ^ Shah 2016, Chapter 1.
  2. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2013)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 14 August 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Mystery behind Vikram Sarabhai's death". The Times of India. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Unnithan, Chitra (8 January 2014). "Vikram Sarabhai's love affair gave birth to IIM-A". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 July 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Singh, Khushwant (14 January 2006). "Witness to persecution". The Tribune (Sunday Extra). Retrieved 22 July 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Jains steal the show with 7 Padmas". The times of India. Times of India. 9 April 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. The Jain community has always nurtured exceptional talent whether it is eminent scientist Vikram Sarabhai, who is considered the father of the country's space program, or poet, thinker and spiritual leader Banarsidas who composed the magnum opus Ardhakathanaka, the first-ever autobiography in Hindi literature.
  7. ^ a b Goyal, Shikha (12 August 2019). "Vikram Sarabhai founder of ISRO 100th Birthday: All you need to know". Jagran Josh. Retrieved 12 August 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b R., Parthasarathy (3 April 2003). "Vikram Sarabhai (1919-1971): Architect of Indian space programme". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 18 May 2003. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  9. ^ "BRIEF HISTORY". Physical Research Laboratory, Department of Space, Government of India. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  10. ^ "From the Archives (May 23, 1969): Sarabhai assails faltering nuclear policy". The Hindu. 23 May 2019. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Former Chairmen of Atomic Energy Commission" (PDF). Government of India Department of Atomic Energy. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Space Applications Centre". Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  13. ^ Antonín Rükl: Atlas Měsíce, Aventinum (Praha 1991), chapter Bessel, page 74, ISBN 80-85277-10-7 (in Czech)
  14. ^ Sarabhai (crater)"Planetary Names: Sarabhai on Moon;". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, IAU, USGS, NASA. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Space Museum opened at Hyderabad with ISRO Collaboration - ISRO". Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  16. ^ & (6 December 2019). "Birla Science Centre's Pranav Sharma gets REX Karmaveer Award". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 22 September 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "ISRO announces Vikram Sarabhai awards for journalism in the fields of space science, applications, and research". Firstpost. 8 August 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Vikram Sarabhai's 100th Birthday".
  19. ^ "'Rocket Boys' gets Vikram Sarabhai wrong". The Indian Express. 2 March 2022. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  20. ^ "Why Rocket Boys didn't need to take so many creative liberties". Mintlounge. 24 February 2022. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  21. ^ "As a Historian of the Nuclear Program, I Can Only Laugh at the Howlers in Rocket Boys". The Wire. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  22. ^ "'Rocket Boys' Begins Well, Then Turns Into Hagiography With a Blatantly Communal Touch". The Wire. Retrieved 4 March 2022.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Position created
ISRO Chairman
Succeeded by