An essay on Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam


Born 15 October 1931


Tamil Nadu, India

Died 27 July 2015 (aged 83)

Shillong, Meghalaya, India

Resting peace Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Desiya Ninaivagam, Pei Karumbu, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India
Alma mater St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli (BEng)Madras Institute of Technology (MEng)
Profession Aerospace ScientistAuthor
Notable works Wings of FireIndia 2020Ignited MindsIndomitable SpiritTranscendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji
Fields Aerospace engineering
Institution Defence Research and Development Organisation

Indian Space Research Organisation

Life History of APJ Abdul Kalam.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on 15 October 1931, to a Tamil Muslim family in the pilgrimage centre of Rameswaram on Pamban Island, then in the Madras Presidency and now in the State of Tamil Nadu. His father Jainulabdeen Marakayar was a boat owner and imam of a local mosque ; his mother Ashiamma was a housewife. His father owned a ferry that took Hindu pilgrims back and forth between Rameswaram and the now uninhabited Dhanushkodi. Kalam was the youngest of four brothers and one sister in his family. His ancestors had been wealthy Marakayar traders and landowners, with numerous properties and large tracts of land. Marakayar are a Muslim ethnic group found in coastal Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka who claim descent from Arab traders and local women. The family business had involved trading groceries between the mainland and to the island from Sri Lanka, as well as ferrying pilgrims between the mainland and Pamban. With the opening of the Pamban Bridge to the mainland in 1914, However,  the businesses failed miserably and the family fortune and properties were lost by the 1920s, apart from the ancestral home. The family was poverty-stricken by the time Kalam was born. As a young boy he had to sell newspapers to add to the family’s meager income. 

In his school years, Kalam had average grades but was described as a bright and hardworking student who had a strong desire to learn. He was driven towards his studies and was passionate about learning. He spent hours on his studies, especially mathematics. After completing his education at the Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram, Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, then affiliated with the University of Madras, from where he graduated in physics in 1954. He moved to Madras in 1955 to study aerospace engineering in Madras Institute of Technology. While Kalam was working on a senior class project, the Dean was dissatisfied with his lack of progress and threatened to revoke his scholarship unless the project was finished within the next three days. Kalam met the deadline, impressing the Dean, who later said to him, “I was putting you under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline.” He narrowly missed achieving his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, as he placed ninth in qualifiers, and only eight positions were available in the IAF.

After graduating from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1960, Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (by Press Information Bureau, Government of India) as a scientist after becoming a member of the Defence Research & Development Service (DRDS). He started his career by designing a small hovercraft, but remained unconvinced by his choice of a job at DRDO.[26] Kalam joined the INCOSPAR, working under Vikram Sarabhai, the renowned space scientist. He was interviewed and recruited into ISRO by H. G. S. Murthy.

In 1963 to 1964, he visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and Wallops Flight Facility.  Between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful.

In the 1970s, Kalam also directed two projects, Project Devil and Project Valiant, which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of the successful SLV programme. Despite the disapproval of the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi allotted secret funds for these aerospace projects through her discretionary powers under Kalam’s directorship.

Kalam served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during this period in which he played an intensive political and technological role. Kalam served as the Chief Project Coordinator, along with Rajagopala Chidambaram, during the testing phase.  Media coverage of Kalam during this period made him the country’s best known nuclear scientist.

Kalam served as the 11th president of India, succeeding K. R. Narayanan. He won the 2002 presidential election with an electoral vote of 922,884, surpassing the 107,366 votes won by Lakshmi Sahgal. His term lasted from 25 July 2002, to 25 July 2007.

During his term as president, he was affectionately known as the People’s President, saying that signing the Office of Profit Bill was the toughest decision he had taken during his tenure. Kalam was criticised for his inaction in deciding the fate of 20 out of the 21 mercy petitions submitted to him during his tenure.

Kalam received 7 honorary doctorates from 40 universities.  The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1981 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1990 for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Government. In 1997, Kalam received India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Von Braun Award from the National Space Society “to recognize excellence in the management and leadership of a space-related project”. 

In 2012, Kalam was ranked number 2 in Outlook India’s poll of the Greatest Indian.

Following his death, Kalam received numerous tributes. The Tamil Nadu state government announced that his birthday, 15 October, would be observed across the state as “Youth Renaissance Day;” the state government further instituted the “Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Award”, constituting an 8-gram gold medal, a certificate and ₹500,000 (US$6,300). The award will be awarded annually on Independence Day, beginning in 2015, to residents of the state with achievements in promoting scientific growth, the humanities or the welfare of students

The following is a list of accolades and honors conferred to A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the Indian aerospace scientist who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007.

Honorary Degrees

  • Distinguished Fellow – Institute of Directors, India, 1994
  • Honorary Fellow – National Academy of Medical Sciences, 1995
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science – University of Wolverhampton, UK, 2007
  • King Charles II Medal – UK, 2007
  • Honorary Doctor of Engineering – Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2008
  • International von Kármán Wings Award – California Institute of Technology, USA, 2009
  • Hoover Medal – American Society of Mechanical Engineers, USA, 2009
  • Doctor of Engineering – University of Waterloo, Canada, 2010
  • IEEE Honorary Membership – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA, 2011
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws – Simon Fraser University, Canada, 2012
  • Honorary Doctor of Science – University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 2014

Awards of Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam

  • 1981: Padma Bhushan – Government of India
  • 1990: Padma Vibhushan – Government of India
  • 1997: Bharat Ratna – Government of India
  • 1997: Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration – Government of India
  • 1998: Veer Savarkar Award – Government of India
  • 2000: SASTRA Ramanujan Prize – Shanmugha Arts,Science,Technology & Research Academy, India
  • 2013: Von Braun Award – National Space Society


  • United Nations declared his birthday as World Students’ Day
  • Government of Tamil Nadu announced that an award will be given in his name Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Award
  • On 4 September 2015, Wheeler Island near the coast of Indian state Orissa has been renamed to honor the late Indian president, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Island.
  • APJ Abdul Kalam with students A file picture of students of St. Aloysius college trying to greet APJ Abdul Kalam when he came to inaugurate the IT building of the college on March 28, 2003.