Indian Scientist Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha Biography

Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha was an Indian nuclear physicist. Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha, the architect of Nuclear Science in Modern India, proved to the world that Indian scientists could reach great heights

Homi Jehnagir Bhabha was a famous Indian atomic scientist and a nuclear physicist. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha is popularly considered as the father of nuclear programme of the country. He laid the foundation of a scientific establishment in India with the help of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha was also responsible for the creation of two leading institutions namely Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

Early Life of Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha

Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha, an Indian nuclear physicist of Parsi-Zoroastrian heritage was born on 30th of October, 1909 in Mumbai. His father Jahangir Bhabha was an ex-Oxford University student and a reputed advocate who served the Tata Enterprises. His mother`s name was Meheran and she belonged to the petit family.

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha grandfather served as an officer in the Education Department of Mysore State. Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha with his super active brain and rapid flow of thoughts at the age of 15 was capable of understanding Einstein`s book on `Relativity`. Bhabha was educated at the Cathedral and John Cannon High School.

At the age of 15, Bhabha passed the Senior Cambridge Examination. Later he entered Elphinstone College and the Royal Institute of Science, Mumbai. He was very interested in studying Physics. But to respect his father`s wish he left India for Cambridge to study Engineering. Bhabha passed the Mechanical Engineering in the first class in 1930.

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha then pursued his studies in Theoretical Physics as a Research Scholar. Dr. Bhabha was an exceptionally bright student. Even as a student, he made some fundamental discoveries in electricity, magnetism, quantum theory and the cosmic rays.

Higher Education and Research of Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha  had secured many scholarships. In 1932, Dr. Bhabha was awarded the Rouse Ball Travelling Studentship for two years. He worked with W. Pouli in Zurich and Enrico Fermi in Rome.

During this period he was awarded the Isaac Newton Fellowship in 1934 and the1851-Exhibition Studentship in 1936. Bhabha also came into close contact with famous scientists like Rutherford, Dirac, Niels Bohr and Heitler.

Paul Dirac greatly influenced Bhabha during his study of Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge; to pursue an education in theoretical physics. This association greatly influenced his research and way of life.

Contributions of Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha

Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha enriched the world of Physics with his unique contribution `Bhabha-Heitler Cascade Theory`. With Heitler Bhabha presented the `Cascade Theory of Electron Showers`, in 1937. It explains the course of electron showers in cosmic rays. This research brought fame to Bhabha. Cosmic rays are primary rays, which are fast moving and sub-microscopic particles.

They comprise protons, electrons and gamma rays. When some of them happen to approach the earth and enter its atmosphere, they collide with atoms in the air. They then raise new nuclear particles. Bhabha`s new theory explains clearly the processes and effects of the mutual reaction. It throws light on one of the most puzzling mysteries of cosmic rays.

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha recognised heavy electron particles in cosmic rays and called them `Meson`. Bhabha`s mastery of mathematics can be seen in the `Classical Theory of Spinning Particles`. The significance of his work received wide recognition. Bhabha`s original contributions to Physics lie in the fields of cosmic radiation, theory of elementary particles and quantum theory.

Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha returned to India for a holiday in 1939 during the time of the Second World War. Bhabha did not return to England and this was indeed fortunate for India. Bhabha decided to devote his life to the service of his motherland. In 1940 Bhabha joined the Indian Institute of Science as Reader in Theoretical Physics.

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha ushered the responsibility of building a new department to undertake research on cosmic rays. In 1941 he was elected a member of the Royal Society when he was only 31. Bhabha became a professor in the Indian Institute of Science in 1942. The University of Cambridge also awarded the `Adams Prize` to him.

Bhabha was invited to join the staff of Oxford University. But he did not accept the invitation as his desire to build an excellent institution of research in India. He dreamt of building a modern India. Analyzing the socio- economic problems of the country he was quite convinced that science was the only means for the progress of India.

However, equipments and facilities needed for research in Atomic Physics were not available in the country in those days. Bhabha wrote a letter to the Dorabji Tata Trust on March 13, 1944. Bhabha`s plan was a basic stage from which a school of physics was born. His letter clearly illustrates his far-sightedness and patriotism as it was written almost a year before the atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Tata Trust founded the – `Tata Institute of Fundamental Research` in 1945. The Government of India gave financial support to the Institute. Dr. Bhabha was appointed its first Director, and he took the responsibility of shaping the institute. India thus took the first step on the journey of nuclear science.

J. R. D Tata and Jawaharlal Nehru gave support and encouragement to Dr. Bhabha in his work. Pandit Nehru appreciated his efficiency, farsightedness and patriotism. One of his greatest achievements was that he persuaded the government to take greater interest in technology. He established the Atomic Energy Commission of India in the year 1948.
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It was largely due to his efforts that the nation`s first Atomic research Centre, now known Bhabha Atomic Research Center, was established at Trombay, near Mumbai.

In Geneva in the year 1955, Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha represented the country in International Atomic Energy Forums, and as President of United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. The conference was another step in international cooperation. Bhabha was the first to advocate, from international forums, the peaceful uses of atomic energy. He realised that the consumption of energy was rapidly increasing.

On the other hand, naturally available resources of energy were on the decrease. Added to this, there is shortage of hydel energy in certain places. Realizing this, Bhabha declared that atomic energy is the only foundation for the progress of industries in India. He suggested that producing electricity could affect economy by nuclear methods.

The construction of India`s first atomic power plant began at Tarapur, Maharashtra in 1963. Two years later a plutonium plant was installed. On May 18, 1974, India conducted its first nuclear explosion for peaceful purposes, at Pokran in, Rajasthan and joined the galaxy of nations with atomic energy. India`s explosion of a nuclear device is a great milestone in the path of technological progress. This achievement was based entirely on Indian effort.

In 1963 Dr. Bhabha was elected as the President of the National Institute of Sciences of India. Bhabha was a member of many scientific advisory committees of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. He also served as the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to advise the Government of India.

Awards for Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha

Laurels came to Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha from all corners of the world throughout his lifetime. He was awarded honorary doctorates by several Indian and foreign universities. Among these universities are London, Cambridge, Padova, Perth, Banaras, Agra, Patna, Lucknow, Allahabad, Andhra Pradesh and Aligarh.

In 1948 he received the Hopkins Prize of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. He was elected the President of the Indian Science Congress in 1951. In 1954, he was conferred with the prestigious Padma Bhushan Award for his outstanding contribution to nuclear science. He was an honorary fellow of many earned institutions.

During his stay in England and Europe, painting became his hobby, which reflects his inborn taste and a creative urge for art. He visited many art galleries, museums, palaces and gardens. He never missed a good musical concert. Many of his paintings now grace the walls of art galleries in England.

Bhabha`s love for classical music, dance and sculpture was also deep. Devotion to art and the study of science went hand in hand in his life. In the death of Dr. Bhabha India lost an eminent scientist. Bhabha was going to attend an international conference. The Air India flight in which Bhabha was travelling crashed on January 24, 1966 at Mount Blanc. Bhabha thus met with a tragic end.

As a practical person Dr. Homi Jehnagir Bhabha believed in planning and in executing the plans. His far sightedness, powers of organisation, and the encouragement and guidance young scientists received from him these built up an invaluable asset for scientific work in India. Science and art both enriched his mind and life.

As a tribute to Dr. Bhabha, the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay, was renamed as the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, on 12th of January, 1967.

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