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Vikram Sarabhai Biography - A Great Indian Scientist of India


At Ahmedabad, Gujarat on August 12th in the year 1919, Vikram Sarabhai was born to Shri Ambalal Sarabhai and Smt. Sarladevi Sarabhai in a family of industrialists. His father Ambalal Sarabhai is a well known famous industrialist who one of the most respectable people in Gujarat owning many mills. A strange fact to note that one person out of all his siblings stood first in holding the greatest degree of respect in India is that Vikram Sarabhai is one of the eight children to his parents Ambalal and Sarladevi. He was blessed by the all time greatest multi faceted legendary Rabindranath Tagore and he predicted that his boy would become a great celebrity in near future. This acted as a seed to make him show love on science. In his childhood days, Sarabhai has developed an intense and extreme passion on science. What he first thought was an obsession turned out to be his passion on science.


Vikram Sarabhai Biography and History of Great Scientist of IndaiIn order to educate her eight children, Sarla Devi herself established a private school by following the procedure of Montessori Method, which actually aims for the fullest possible development of the complete child, and ultimately it prepares the child to beautify the life with many rich experiences. Sarla Devi decided to give her children that kind of education which not only teaches the elements printed in the text books, but also wanted to make education a beautiful experience. It is all about being practical while following the theory is what she always had in her mind. Apart from this, since the Sarabhai family was involved in the freedom fight and the struggle for independence, many of the eminent leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Motilal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore etc used to visit their house and this helped Sarabhai to have real education from their life time experiences. Every legendary person seemed to be like a book to him and hence their visits helped him mould himself well in his childhood. After passing the intermediate science exam, Sarabhai matriculated from the Gujarat College in Ahmedabad and he moved to England for joining St John’s college belonging to the University of Cambridge in Cambridge. His intense love for science took its shape in the year 1940 when he returned to India after the graduation for the St John’s College in the University of Cambridge.

Stepping stones to Profession

During the outbreak of World War II, Sarabhai returned to India from Cambridge and on the advice of Sri C.V.Raman and Homi Bhaba, Sarabhai joined the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore to carry out experiments on “Time variations of cosmic rays”. In the year 1942, “Proceedings of the Indian Academy of the Sciences” published Sarabhai’s first scientific research papers “Time distribution of cosmic rays” which was barely two years after he started the research. After three years, in 1945 he went back to Cambridge to continue his studies on Scientific research and his investigations on cosmic rays and photo fission. He received a PhD degree in that stream and returned to India to carry out the implementation of what he studied in the year 1947 where India got Independence and a new government was formed. He received PhD degree on his study of “Cosmic ray investigations in Tropical Latitudes”.

Marriage and Children

Vikram Sarabhai married a renowned and celebrated classical dancer Mrinalni Sarabhai in the year 1942. Because of the ongoing Quit India movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and Sarabhai’s family were active participants in that movement, no one from his side had attended his wedding. The wedding happened in Chennai. Vikram and Mrinalni had two children Karthikeya and Mallika. Unfortunately his marriage life with Mrinalni did not go smooth. He had additional long affair with Dr. Kamala Choudhary.

Physical Research Laboratory

As soon as he came back to the motherland India, he started executing his plan of establishing a Physical Research Laboratory in the country (PRL). Apart from that, he also had the credit of establishing The Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association (ATIRA) in the same year. For the dedication of fundamental research in cosmic rays, aeronomy and space sciences, the Physical Research Laboratory turned out to be an outstanding institution under the founder and direction of Mr. Ramanathan and a small group of young enthusiasts interested in being research students. Under Sarabhai’s guidance, the Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association acted as the first of many institutions he built during the next two decades was taken as a great deal of standard and bench mark for the development of textile industry in the country. The Ahmedabad Education Society provided a small plot of land to carry out the establishment of facilities for the Physical Research Laboratory while the M G College of Science was still under construction and two small rooms in the M G College of Science was accommodated to carry out the research work which made the Physical Research Laboratory to start its work off immediately as soon as it was planned. Continuing the work in the available space, after collecting sufficient funds, Sarabhai requested C V Raman to lay the foundation stone for the building of Physical Research Laboratory building in the year 1952 which was done in the beautiful presence of Homi Bhaba for his blessings, S S Bharatnagar and many other eminent scholars and luminaries in the field of science. The total number of research activities was carefully shifted from the M G College of Science to the Physical Research Laboratory building campus in the year 1954. After that, the great Jawaharlal Nehru declared this to be an open campus.

The evolution of scientist

The kind of interest that Sarabhai has shown in science and his implementation of research works in time variation mechanism in cosmic rays required a lot of instrumentation to observe the changing trends. Sarabhai with his group of students started constructing and setting up a huge number of cosmic ray telescopes for an undisturbed continuous observation of changing trends in the cosmic radiation and the intensity of the ray using the Geiger Muller counter telescopes in different places like Kodaikanal, Gulmarg and Trivendrum apart from Ahmedabad. In the year 1957, the deep driving desire and his great interest in science naturally led him to take out the initiation for the dynamic space program in India which was in the evolving phase of space studies and research in the world and in this process the PLR was made the cradle of Indian space programming. He died on 31st December 1971 of a heart attack due to heavy stress.