Vikram Sarabhai

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Vikram Sarabhai
Vikram Sarabhai.jpg
Vikram Sarabhai
Born (1919-08-12)12 August 1919[1][2]
Ahmedabad, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died 30 December 1971(1971-12-30) (aged 52)
Halcyon Castle, Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Residence India
Nationality Indian
Fields Physics
Institutions Indian Space Research Organisation
Physical Research Laboratory
Alma mater Gujarat College, University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor Sir C. V. Raman
Known for Indian space program
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
Notable awards Padma Bhushan (1966)
Padma Vibhushan (posthumously) (1972)
Spouse Mrinalini Sarabhai (Hindi: मृणालिनी साराभाई) (classical dancer)

Mallika Sarabhai[3][4][5][6]

Kartikeya Sarabhai[7]

Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai (12 August 1919 – 30 December 1971[8]) was an Indian scientist and innovator widely regarded as the father of India's space programme.

Sarabhai received the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Medal in 1962. The nation honoured him awarding Padma Bhushan in 1966 and Padma Vibhushan (posthumously) in 1972.[9]

Personal life[edit]

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 Sarabhai too became an active person in science.[7]

Physical Research Laboratory[edit]

Known as the cradle of space sciences in India, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) was founded on 11 November 1947 by Vikram Sarabhai. 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, 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.

Today PRL is actively involved in research, related to five major fields of science. PRL is also instrumental in the PLANEX planetary science and exploration programme.

Looking at the needs of the country, he persuaded charitable trusts controlled by his family and friends to endow a research institution near his home in Ahmedabad. This led to the creation of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1947.

Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre[edit]

Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC) established in the 1960s by the eminent space scientist, Vikram A. Sarabhai is working towards popularizing science and mathematics education among students, teachers and the laypublic. Its mandate is to stimulate interest, encourage and expose the principles of science and scientific method and also to improve and find innovative methods of science education.[10]

Indian Space Research Organization[edit]

Sarabhai was convinced and envisioned that the resources in space have the potential to address the real problems of man and society. As Director, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) located in Ahmedabad, Sarabhai convened an army of able and brilliant scientists, anthropologists, communicators and social scientists from all corners of the country to spearhead the Indian space programme.[11]

Darpan Academy for Performing Arts, Ahmedabad[edit]

Darpana was established as a dance academy by Mrinalini and Vikram Sarabhai in 1949. For nearly two decades it taught classical dance. With Mrinalini as the lead dancer, and ChatunniPanicker as her partner, the Darpana dance company toured across the world. A few years later the great Kuchipudi guru, c R Acharyelu joined the faculty.[12]

Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad[edit]

The decade following independence in 1947 was witness to a surge of innovative ideas to build a fledgling independent nation into a model democratic state committed to growth with equity in the development of its people. The establishment of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) was the outcome of one such innovative initiative.

Led by Vikram Sarabhai, Shri. Kasturbhai Lalbhai and proactively supported by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Jivraj Mehta, a group of enlightened individuals set up IIMA. This group ably wove together a coalition of five actors - the governments at the centre and the state, the local industrialists, the Ford Foundation and the Harvard Business School, in a true spirit of public private partnership to establish the Institute.[13]

Later life[edit]

Sarabhai was visiting Thiruvananthapuram to review the SLV (satellite launch vehicle) design, attend the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Thumba railway station being built to service the newly created Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station.

He emphasized the importance of a space programme:

"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."

Homi Jehangir Bhabha, widely regarded as the father of India's nuclear science program, supported 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. After a remarkable effort in setting up the infrastructure, personnel, communication links, and launch pads, the inaugural flight was launched on November 21, 1963 with a sodium vapour payload. As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian Cosmodrome.

He led the Sarabhai family's diverse business conglomerate. His interests varied from science to sports to statistics. He set up Operations Research Group (ORG), the first market research organization in the country. Most notable among them are the Nehru Foundation for Development in Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), which is considered a world class management institute. Also, he helped establish the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), which is doing a commendable job[14][15] in R&D in physics. Sarabhai set up Ahmedabad Textiles Industrial Research Association (ATIRA), which helped the booming textiles business in Ahmedabad. He also set up the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT). Not stopping with all these, he went ahead and set up the Blind Men Association (BMA) which helps visually-challenged people with the necessary skills and support. Along with his wife Mrinalini Sarabhai, he founded the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. Other well-known institutions established by him include the Faster 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.

Distinguished Positions[edit]

  • President of the Physics section, Indian Science Congress (1962)
  • President of the General Conference of the I.A.E.A., Viennaa (1970)
  • Vice-President, Fourth U.N. Conference on 'Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy' (1971)



  1. ^ [1] on Vikram Sarabhai
  2. ^ [2] on Vikram Sarabhai
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Vikram Sarabhai: A Life by Amrita Shah, 2007, Penguin Viking ISBN 0-670-99951-2
  7. ^ a b [3] The famous people - Vikram Sarabhai
  8. ^ [4] The Visionary- Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai
  9. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ [5] ISRO - Genesis Page
  12. ^ [6] Darpan Academy History
  13. ^ [7] IIMA - Aboutus
  14. ^ "Vigyan Prasar, Dr. Vikram Sarbhai". 
  15. ^ "ISRO Dr. Vikram Sarabhai". 
  16. ^ Antonín Rükl: Atlas Měsíce, Aventinum (Praha 1991), chapter Bessel, page 74, ISBN 80-85277-10-7 (Czech)
  17. ^ Crater Sarabhai on Moon Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, IAU, USGS, NASA

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Position created
ISRO Chairman
Succeeded by
M. G. K. Menon