GK Update – Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Early Life

Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam (full name:- Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam) was born on 15 October 1931 to a Tamil Muslim family in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. His father was a boat owner as well as an imam of a local mosque. Kalam’s mother Ashiamma was a housewife.

Due to the poor financial condition of his family, Kalam used to sell newspapers at an early age.


Kalam completed his matriculation from Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram. Then, he studied aerospace engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology.

Career as a scientist

After completing graduation from the Madras Institute of Technology 1960, Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist.

Kalam started working on an expandable rocket project at DRDO in 1965, after his visit to NASA’s Langley Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Wallops Flight Facility between 1963 to 1964.

Kalam was transferred to ISRO from DRDO in 1969 as the Project Director of India’s first indigenously designed and produced Satellite Launch Vehicle SLV-III which successfully injected the Rohini satellite in July 1980.

Abdul Kalam returned to DRDO as Chief Executive of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) in 1983. The project led to the development of four missiles under leadership of Dr. Kalam, i.e. (1) Prithvi (short-range surface-to-surface missile), (2) Trishul (short-range low-level surface-to-air missile), (3) Akash (medium-range surface-to-air missile) and (4) Nag (third-generation anti-tank missile).

Due to his contribution to the success of IGMDP, Kalam became famous as “Missile Man of India”.

Dr. Kalam was appointed as the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister from July 1992 to December 1999.

During this period he played a major role in conducting the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in May 1998 in collaboration with the Department of Atomic Energy.

He was appointed as the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India which holds the rank of Cabinet Minister, from November 1999 to November 2001.

Kalam as President of India

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government proposed name of Dr. Kalam for the post of the President of India on 10 June 2002, and this proposal was supported by Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party.

Kalam defeated Lakshmi Sehgal and served as the 11th President of India from 25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007.

Kalam as Professor

 After leaving the Rashtrapati Bhavan,  Dr. Kalam chose the academic field and became a visiting professor at various institutes such as the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, the Indian Institute of Management Indore and became honorary fellow of the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore.

Why we use Dr. before the name of Abdul Kalam?

In his lifetime, Dr. Kalam has received doctorates from 48 universities and institutions including Anna University Chennai, IIT Kanpur, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Nyenrode Business University Breukelen, Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, University of Kentucky, University of Wolverhampton London, Queen’s University United Kingdome, University of Waterloo Toronto, University of Edinburgh UK, etc.


Dr. Kalam was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1981, the Padma Vibhushan in 1990, and the highest civilian award of India “Bharat Ratna” in 1997.


Dr. Abdul Kalam died of cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015 at IIM Shillong where he was delivering a lecture.

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