Father of Indian Nuclear Programme, Homi Bhabha Remembered

Father of Indian Nuclear Programme, Homi Bhabha Remembered
Homi Jehangir Bhabha, father of Indian nuclear programme, was very fond of physics and expressed his desire to pursue his carrier in it even though he was a student of engineering Tripos and Mathematics Tripos in UK, one of Bhabha's close associate has said.

Bhabha, who studied at Gonville and Caius college at Cambridge in UK during late 1920s, wrote a letter to his parents expressing his passion for Physics, Prof B V Sreekantan, also the former director of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) said while delivering a lecture on 'Homi Bhabha as a Physicist : Personal Reminiscences' at BARC yesterday.

The Research Centre is celebrating the centenary year of Bhabha by conducting various activities.

Bhabha, in his letter which he wrote from Cambridge in 1932 said, "I seriously say to you that business or job as an engineer is not the thing for me. It is totally foreign to my nature and radically opposed to my temperament, and opinions. Physics is my line. I know I shall do great things here."

"My success will not depend on what A or B thinks of me. My success will be what I make of my work. Besides India is not a land where science cannot be carried on," he said.

Bhabha further wrote, "I am burning with a desire to do physics. I will and must do it some time. It is my only ambition. I have no desire to be a successful man or the head of a big firm. There are intelligent people who like that and let them do it."

Sreekantan said that Bhabha specialised in Cosmic Ray physics and even published 64 scientific papers in reputed international journals during his lifetime besides establishing Nuclear Power empire.

Talking about how Bhabha came back to India on a short holiday after taking Physics as his career in 1939 and since the World War II broke then, Sreekantan said that he could not return to UK to pursue Physics but instead joined the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore at the invitation of India's one of the leading scientist late Sir C V Raman.

But the Indian experience at IISc had made him write a letter to Sir Dorabji Tata Trust to make his for a world class institute for Physics in India for Indians.

After two year's of experience in IISc, Bhabha felt that with enough financial support India can have institutions like those in Cambridge and Princeton. So, he wrote a letter to Sir Doarab Saklatvala, Chairman of the trust on March 12, 1944.

The TIFR was the result of the funds received from the trust, which became the cradle of India's Cosmic Ray programme as well nuclear programme.

The subjects on which research and advanced teaching would be done would be theoretical physics, especially on fundamental problems and with special reference to Cosmic Rays and Nuclear Physics, and Experimental research on Cosmic Rays, the letter stated.

Sreekantan also told the BARC scientists that although there were rumours in those days that C V Raman and Bhabha never had good relations, it was Raman who recommended and nominated Bhabha for the 'Fellow of Royal Society'.

Sreekantan also said that as a director of TIFR he was delighted to receive a gift --- sketch of beggar ---- done by Bhabha from the Manhatten Project famous Australian scientist Mark Oliphant.

Oliphant asked Bhabha to sketch a beggar who was at Gateway of India during an evening walk when both did not have a piece of paper but Bhabha did the sketch on an empty envelope which he found in his pocket and now it is in the art collections at TIFR, Sreekantan said.

Sreekantan, who is currently associated with National Institute of advanced Sciences (NIAS) recalled Bhabha's abilities to select scientific talents through personal interaction sometimes even in a casual manner for the country's ambitious nuclear programme as well as for the fundamental research.

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