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Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Father of Indian Nuclear Research Programme
The father of India's nuclear research programs, the founder-director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the founder-chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, the moving spirit behind India's space and nuclear weapons programs and the founder of the country's first nuclear reactor and power station, Homi Jehangir Bhabha (1909-1966) is one of the visionary leaders of India's creditable progress in science and technology. Born (1909) into a Bombay family of fame and wealth, he had his higher studies at the Royal Institute of Science, and took first class degrees in engineering and mathematics. His father wanted him to be a mechanical engineer, but he was after mathematics and fundamental physics. The father said, all right, you can go for higher studies in any area of your liking provided you pass out with a first class degree in mechanical engineering. Bhabha's answered his father's wish with a first class degree not only in mechanical engineering, but in Mathematics also. And later he obtained his doctorate in theoretical physics (1935) from Cambridge University. During his days of research, he won the Isaac Newton Studentship and had opportunity to work at the Bohr Institute of Copenhagen, with Wolfgang Pauli at Zurich, and with Enrico Fermi at Rome.
It was the time when nuclear physics was in its developmental stage, and Bhabha concentrated his research on cosmic rays and fundamental particles. This resulted in his first dissertation on the absorption of cosmic rays and electron shower production, followed by a series of highly valued articles on cosmic rays and nuclear physics. He introduced remarkable theories with his mathematical interpretations of the theory of relativity and quantum physics. Though he was doing research in all these profound areas, it was noticeable right from those days that his scientific genius was tempered with the arts of painting and music. He turned out to be a humanist too.
When the World War broke out he was in India and he accepted an invitation from Dr. C.V. Raman, Nobel Laureate, to join the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, founded and headed by him. Dr. Bhabha accepted the invitation of the great scientist and joined the Institute as the head of its newly formed Cosmic Ray Research Unit (1939). TIFR came into being in 1945, and the Atomic energy Commission of India was set up in 1948. Dr. Bhabha represented India in International Atomic Energy Forums, and was President of the UN Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic energy in Geneva, Switzerland in 1955. He served as member of the Indian Cabinet of Ministers' Scientific Advisory Committee and set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research. It was Dr. Bhabha who asked Dr. Vikram Sarabhai to take over the responsibility of the country's space research-related activities.
He died in a plane crash near Mont Blanc on January 24, 1966, while flying to Vienna, Austria, to represent India in the International Atomic Energy Agency's Scientific Advisory Committee. There were several allegations about this air crash including one of a conspiracy. The Government of India renamed the Atomic Energy Center in Trombay as Bhabha Atomic Research Center in honor of the pioneering legendary nuclear scientist.