He would have ended up being a mechanical engineer had he chosen to go along with what his father wanted. But Homi Jehangir Bhabha, who had a keen interest in physics as a young student, had other ideas.
Another turn of events, after he had completed his studies, ensured that he established cutting-edge research facilities in India.
On his birth anniversary, here’s a look at the key phases in the life of the man who is known as the father of India’s nuclear energy programme.
World War 2 And Homi Jehangir Bhabha
Homi Jehangir Bhabha received a doctorate in theoretical physics from Cambridge University in 1935. Over the next few years, he went on to participate in path-breaking research with some of the leading names in nuclear physics at the time.
He was in India for his annual vacation when World War 2 broke out in 1939. This meant that he had to delay his return to England, indefinitely as it turned out to be, and look for challenges to take on closer home.
He accepted an invitation from Nobel Prize winner Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman to join as a reader of physics at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (Bengaluru) in 1940; he set up the Cosmic Ray Research Centre there.
He went on to establish the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) with the support of the Tata Trust, becoming its director in 1945.
Three years later, Bhabha was appointed the first chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
He set up the Atomic Energy Establishment at Trombay in Bombay (Mumbai). Most of the scientists conducting research at the TIFR moved here.
This is where Apsara, India’s first nuclear reactor that had been conceptualised by Bhabha, came up in August 1956. The reactor resumed operations in a new avatar in September 2018.
Interesting Facts About Homi Jehangir Bhabha
Born – 30 October 1909, Bombay (Mumbai)
Died – 24 January 1966, Mont Blanc (France)
Positions – Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister.
Honours – Padma Bhushan (1954)
- Homi J Bhabha was a strong advocate of the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the power that it could produce. He presided over the first UN conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1955.
- He studied under Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr in Copenhagen, Denmark, while he was at the University of Cambridge.
- Bhabha developed an interest in paintings while at Cambridge. He was also an ardent music lover.
- He died in an air crash in Mont Blanc in France while on his way to attend a meeting in Vienna.
- The Atomic Energy Establishment at Trombay was renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) after his death.
Early Years And Academics
He was born into a wealthy and influential Parsi family in Bombay (now Mumbai). His father Jehangir Hormusji Bhabha was a lawyer. His aunt Meherbai was married to Dorabji Tata, son of legendary industrialist Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata.
He finished his schooling and college in Bombay before going to Cambridge University for a course in mechanical engineering. His father wanted him to join the Tata Iron and Steel Company in Jamshedpur after he graduated.
But Homi Jehangir Bhabha had begun developing an interest in physics. His father reluctantly agreed to let him pursue his passion, but on one condition. He would have to obtain a first class in the Mechanical Sciences Tripos examination.
Homi Bhabha fulfilled this condition and went on to receive a doctorate in physics from Cambridge University in 1935.