Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen commonly known by name “APJ Abdul Kalam” was the former 11th President of free India from the time period 2002 to 2007. He is well known as the “Missile man of India” due to his contribution on the development of ballistic missile and space rocket technology. He was born on 15th October 1931 at Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu and he was specialized in Aero engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.

Dr. Kalam has spent his four decades as a scientist and science administrator at various prestigious and reputed organizations like DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and ISRO (Indian Space and Research Organization). Kalam also played an impeccable role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998.



Dr Abdul Kalam was born in a  Muslim family who were Tamilians, on 15th October 1931 in Rameswaram, the pilgrimage centre. His father named Jainulabudeen was the owner of a boat and the imam of a local mosque. His mother named Ashiamma was a homemaker. Kalam was the youngest among the four brothers and one sister in his family. Kalam belongs to the family background of wealthy traders and land owners. Their business involved trading between the mainland and the island and to and from Sri Lanka. The family acquired the title of “Mara kalam iyakkivar” which means wooden boat-steerers, this was shortened to the word “Marakier” over the years. After the opening of Pamban bridge to the mainland in 1914, their businesses failed and the family business was lost. Therefore, by the early childhood of Kalam his family had become poor. Hence, Kalam at an early age started selling newspapers in order to support the income of his family.

Kalam was noted for his  his simple lifestyle and integral nature. He never had a television in his home, and was in the habit of waking up at 6:30 or 7 a.m and sleeping by 2 a.m

During his school time, Kalam scored average grades but he was described as hardworking and bright student who had a strong wish and wish to learn. He spent many hours in his studies, mathematics was amongst his favourite subjects. Kalam completed his early education at Schwartz higher secondary school, Ramanathapuram. Then he moved to Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, affiliated to Madras University and completed his graduation in Physics in the year 1954. He studied Aerospace Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology, Madras in 1955.



Kalam completed his graduation from Madras Institute of Technology in the year 1960, after that he  joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) as a Scientist.


Dr. Kalam started his career by designing a small Hovercraft, but he was not satisfied with doing job as a scientist in DRDO.

Kalam also worked under a well-renowned scientist name Vikram Sarabhai in INCOSPAR committee.

 He was transferred to Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO), where he worked as the Project Director of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV – III) which successfully positioned the Rohini Satellite in the near orbit of the earth in July 1980.

Kalam directed in developing two projects in the year 1970 which were named as “Project Devil” and “Project Valiant” that were sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology’s  the successfully accomplished SLV programme.

The project was not approved by the Union Cabinet but the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi allotted secret funds for these two projects through her discretionary powers under the directorship of Kalam.

Kalam played an impeccable role in developing many missiles under the mission including Agni which was a  ballistic missile of intermediate range and Prithvi which was tactical surface to surface missile

Dr.Kalam acted as Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of DRDO from July 1992 – December 1999.

The Pokhran – II nuclear tests were conducted during this period from July 1992 – December 1999, during this period Kalam played an integral and technological role. Kalam along with Rajagopala Chidambaram acted as the Chief Project Coordinator during this testing phase.

During this period according to the media coverage, Kalam was considered as the country’s best Nuclear Scientist.

Dr.Kalam  with cardiologist Soma Raju developed a low-cost coronary stent named as “kalam – Raju stent”.

In 2012, both Kalam and Soma Raju designed a rough tablet computer for health care in rural areas named as “Kalam – Raju tablet”


kalam as president

  • Kalam served the chair as the 11th President of India after K.R Narayan from 25th July 2002 – 25th July 2007.
  • Kalam who was honoured with a Bharat Ratna, hence he became the third president of India being awarded with India’s highest civilian honour, prior to becoming the President. He was also the first scientist and the first bachelor to occupy “Rashtrapati Bhawan”.
  • During his presidential tenure, Kalam was affectionately known as the People’s President, he used to say that signing the Office of Profit Bill was the most tough decision he had taken during his tenure.
  • In September 2003, during a interactive session in PGI Chandigarh, Dr Kalam supported the obligation of Uniform Civil Code in India, keeping in view the population of the country


  • After leaving office as President, Kalam became a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, the IIM (Indian Institute of Management), Ahmedabad, and the Indian Institute of Management Indore.
  • He was also honoured as a fellow of honour at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University; chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram;  and an adjunct at many other academic and research institutions across India.
  • He used to teach information technology at IIT Hyderabad, Anna University and Banaras Hindu University.
  • In May 2012, Kalam launched a programme for the young generation of India called “What Can I Give Movement” with an effort to eradicate the problem of corruption.



On 27 July 2015, Kalam went to Shillong for delivering a lecture on “Creating a Livable Planet Earth” at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong.

While climbing the stairs, he experienced some discomfort, and at around 6:35 p.m. IST, only five minutes into his lecture, he collapsed due to a Cardiac arrest.  His last words, to his assistant Srijan Pal Singh, was: “Funny guy! Are you doing well?”

After his death, Kalam’s body was airlifted in an Indian Air Force helicopter from Shillong to Guwahati, from where it was flown to New Delhi on the morning of 28 July in C-130J Hercules, an air force . The flight landed at Palam Air Base that afternoon and was received by the President, the Prime Minister and Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi the three service chiefs of the Indian Armed Forces, who laid laurel on Kalam’s body.

Then his body was placed on a gun carriage draped with the Indian flag and taken to his residence at Delhi, 10 Rajaji Marg; the public and various dignitaries paid homage, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi (Congress President) and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

On 30 July 2015, the former President was laid to rest in peace at Rameswaram’s Pei Karumbu Ground with great honours. More than 350,000 people attended the last rites, including the Prime Minister, the governor of Tamil Nadu and the chief ministers of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.


Kalam received honorary doctorates from almost 40 universities. Some of them are listed below :

  • Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan – In 1981, Kalam was honoured with Padma Bhushan and with Padma Vibhushan in 1990 by the Government of India for his contributory role in ISRO and DRDO and his role as scientific advisor to the Government of India.
  • Bharat Ratna – Kalam received the highest Civilian award the “Bharat Ratna” for his impeccable contribution to the scientific research and modernization of defence technology in India.
  • Von Braun Award – In 2013, he was awarded with “Von Braun Award” from the National Space Society to recognise excellence in the management and leadership of space-related projects
  • Youth Renaissance Day – After his death, Kalam received numerous tributes. The Tamil Nadu state government announced that his birthday, 15th October, would be observed across the state as “Youth Renaissance Day”
  • Commemorative Postal stamps – The Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi released the commemorative postal stamps on the former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on his 84th birth day celebrations, at DRDO Bhawan, in New Delhi on October 15, 2015.
  • Doctor of Science – Kalam was awarded with “Doctor of Science” by Edinburgh University in the year 2014.
  • Honoris Causa – Dr. Kalam was the recipient of the award “Honoris Causa” i.e. Doctor of Laws by Simon Fraser University

KALAM : Books and documentaries

  • Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technologyby APJ Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha; Indian Academy of Sciences, 1988
  • India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium by APJ Abdul Kalam,  Y.S.Rajan”Rajan; New York, 1998.
  • Wings of Fire: An Autobiography by APJ Abdul Kalam, Arun Tiwari; 1999
  • Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India by APJ Abdul Kalam; Viking, 2002.
  • The Luminous Sparks by APJ Abdul Kalam, 2004.
  • Mission Indiaby APJ Abdul Kalam,2005.
  • Inspiring Thoughtsby APJ Abdul Kalam 2007
  • Indomitable Spiritby APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Envisioning an Empowered Nationby APJ Abdul Kalam with A Sivathanu Pillai
  • You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond by APJ Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari
  • Turning Points: A journey through challenges by APJ Abdul Kalam, 2012
  • Target 3 Billionby APJ Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh, December 2011.
  • My Journey: (Tamil) Transforming Dreams into Actions by APJ Abdul Kalam; August 2013
  • A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 by APJ Abdul Kalam and V Ponraj; July 2014
  • Forge your Future: Candid, Forthright, Inspiring by APJ Abdul Kalam, 29 October 2014.
  • Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future by APJ Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh, 14 May 2015.
  • Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji” by APJ Abdul Kalam with Arun Tiwari, June 2015

Biographies on APJ Abdul Kalam :

  • Eternal Quest: Life and Times of Dr Kalam by S Chandra, 2002.
  • President APJ Abdul Kalam by R K Pruthi, 2002.
  • APJ Abdul Kalam: The Visionary of India by K Bhushan, G Katyal, 2002.
  • A Little Dream (documentary film) by P. Dhanapal, 2008.
  • The Kalam Effect: My Years with the President by P M Nair, 2008.
  • My Days With Mahatma Abdul Kalam by Fr A K George, 2009.


apj-abdul-kalam quotes

  • You have to dream before your dreams can come true.
  • Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.
  • Life is a difficult game. You can win it only by retaining your birthright to be a person.
  • Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.
  • We will be remembered only if we give to our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with civilizational heritage.
  • Those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half-hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.
  • Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model.
  • Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.
  • If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.
  • My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.

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