Homi Jehangir Bhabha
HOMI Jehangir Bhabha, the main architect of Indian Atomic Energy Programme, was born in a rich Parsi family on October 30, 1909 in Mumbai. He received his early education at Mumbai’s Cathedral Grammar School and did his college at Elphinstone College. He went to the Cambridge University, forced by his father and his uncle Dorabji Tata, who waned him to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering so that on his return to India he can join the Tata Mills in Jamshedpur as a Metallurgist.
Bhabha’s illustrious family background had a long tradition of learning and service to the country. The family, both on his father’s and his mother’s side was close to the house of Tatas, who had pioneered projects in the fields of metallurgy, power generation, and science and engineering education, in the early part of the twentieth century. The family was imbued with a strong nationalistic spirit, under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehru family. The family also had cultivated interest in the fine arts—particularly Western classical music and painting—that aroused Bhabha’s aesthetic sensibilities, and remained as a dominant influence in all the creative works he undertook during his life time.
Bhabha, after completion of his engineering, switched over to Physics. During the period 1930-1939, Bhabha carried out outstanding original research relating to cosmic radiation. This earned him a Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1940, at the young age of 31. Bhabha returned to India in 1939, and had to stay back on account of the outbreak of the Second World War. He decided to work at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, where Sir CV Raman, India’s first Nobel laureate in Science, was at the time Head of the Department of Physics. Initially appointed as a Reader, Bhabha was soon designated as professor of Cosmic Ray Research.
Bhabha’s leadership of the atomic energy programme spanned 22 years, from 1944 till 1966. The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research was formally inaugurated in December 1945 in ‘Kenilworth’ building which was Bhabha’s ancestral home. In January 1966, Bhabha died in a plane crash near Mont Blanc while heading to Viena, Austria to attend a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.