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.

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

Distinguished positions

  • President of the Physics section, Indian Science Congress (1962)
  • President of the General Conference of the I.A.E.A., Vienna (1970)
  • Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India (1966–1971)
  • Vice-President, Fourth UN Conference on 'Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy' (1971)
  • Founder and Chairman (1963–1971), Space Applications Centre

Legacy

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On 12 August 2019, Google's Doodle for India commemorated Sarabhai's 100th birth anniversary.