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Friday, July 05, 2013

Dr. Brahm Prakash - Father Of Nuclear Materials

"The Uranium fuel developed by Brahm Prakash and his team was found to be even better than the Canadian fuel"

The present-day high one experiences upon witnessing the country's validatory display of excellence in the field of STEM provides a fine opportunity to revisit & marvel at the vision & contribution of the proverbial founding fathers of these programmes in India, whose efforts and, more importantly, conviction during those fledgling, uncertain days carved out the path for today's accomplishments.

Dr. Brahm Prakash has been one such towering personality to have rendered his service in establishing & furthering critical programmes. The spectrum of his contributions extends pretty much into every metric for gauging a country's strategic prowess - Scientific Research, Space Programme, Nuclear Technology. Upon appointment, he became the first Indian Head of Department at the Indian Institute of Science's Metallurgy Department, an institution which till today remains at the forefront of cutting edge research in the field of Pure Science in the country. He later became the first Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre [VSSC], that witnessed some of the pioneering work in India's Space programme. The fuels used in the country's Nuclear reactors, including future Thorium-Cycle Fast Breeder Reactors owe their availability to the Hyderabad-based Nuclear Fuel Complex [NFC], that was set up in the late 60s under his Directorship. He was also the first Chairman of the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd [UCIL], which explores & mines the ore in the country.

Not surprisingly, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, in his book 'Wings of Fire', lists him, along with Dr. Vikram Sarabhai & Professor Satish Dhawan as individuals whom he looked up to & learnt a lot from, inspired him. Weighing in his service to the nation, it was, therefore, a tad disappointing to realise there is so little awareness about him in the country.

The May issue of Vigyan Prasar's Dream 2047 includes an essay summarising his work & legacy - concise & nicely written. These words of his wife quite beautifully capture his personality,

"Every moment of his life, he guarded his actions carefully in light of his ultimate values - truthfulness, devotion to worked and kind thoughts for all. This came spontaneously to him. He did not have to fight with himself to pour out such uniform goodness. That I was granted the boon of living with a person whose sight or contact, word or presence brought out the best in others was a divine experience for me"

This article has some more details of his work, especially at I.I.Sc.


Also Read: Professor Dr. Yash Pal - Science for all [weekend viewing & reading]