Homi Jehangir Bhabha

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was born in an aristocratic family in Bombay on October 30, 1909.  As the son of a barrister he grew up in an environment where education held great importance. He passed the Senior Cambridge Examination when he was sixteen, and went to Cambridge to attain a degree in Mechanical Engineering in Gonvile and Caius College. He was greatly influenced by his mathematics teacher, Paul Dirac, and was initiated into the fascinating world of mathematics and theoretical physics. Armed with a honours degree in 1930, he began research at the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge. His first paper was published in 1933 which was followed by many more. He received his PhD in 1935 and continued to stay in Cambridge until 1939.

During this period, he travelled to Europe and met scientists like Neil Bohr, Pauli and Fermi among others. Bhabha was in India, when the war broke out in Europe and this marked the beginning of his career in India. In 1940, on the behest of C V Raman, head of the Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, Bhabha joined the institute as a Reader in Physics. He was elected as a member of the Royal Society in 1942. Later he was elected a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, and in 1943, became the President of the Physics section of the Indian Science Congress.

Bhabha, aware of the importance of translating theory into experiments, began putting his knowledge in the practical study of Cosmic Rays. Realising the need for an institute fully devoted to fundamental research, he, helped with funds from J R D Tata, established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Bombay in 1945.

Bhabha was soon a force to reckon with in the international science circles as his studies in the field of Atomic Energy were considered of great importance. He served as the President of the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, in Geneva in 1955 and as President of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics from 1960-1963.

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was the visionary who conceptualised the Indian Nuclear Programme and along with a handful of Scientists initiated the nuclear science research in India in March,1944. He envisaged the vast potential of nuclear energy and its possible successful utilization in the field of power generation and allied areas. Dr. Bhabha started working with the goal of achieving self-reliance in the fields of nuclear science and engineering.

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, realising the immense potential of nuclear energy as a viable alternative source for electric power generation, launched the Indian Nuclear Programme in March 1944. It was the farsightedness of Dr. Bhabha to start nuclear research in India at a time following the discovery of nuclear fission phenomena by Otto Haln and Fritz Strassman and soon after Enrico Fermi and his team from Chicago reporting the feasibility of sustained nuclear chain reactions. At that time very little information was available to the outside world about nuclear fission and sustained chain reactions and nobody was willing to subscribe to the concept of power generation based on nuclear energy.

The Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India, which is a consortium of different and diversified fields of science and engineering is the final outcome of the farsighted planning of Dr. Bhabha. In his own word “When Nuclear Energy has been successfully applied for power production in, say a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts but will find them ready at hand".

Dr. Bhabha was an astute scientist and committed engineer, a dedicated architect, a meticulous planner and a perfect executive. An ardent follower of fine arts and music, he was a philanthropist also. The path to perfection paved by Dr. Bhabha has taken the Indian Atomic Energy Programme to one amongst the best in the world. The family members of the Department of Atomic Energy and also the whole country salute the great scientist of our country- Dr. Homi Bhabha and rededicate ourselves in the pursuit of perfection set forth by him through the coming years.

Dr. Bhabha approached Sir Dorabji Tata Trust for starting nuclear research in India leading to the establishment of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, which was inaugurated on December 19, 1945. Atomic Energy Act was passed on April 15, 1948 and Atomic Energy Commission was constituted on August 10, 1948 in order to intensify the studies related to the exploitation of nuclear energy for the benefit of the nation. Exhaustive survey for rare minerals and Uranium deposits started by Atomic Minerals Division and on August 18, 1959 Indian Rare Earths Ltd was set up for the chemical processing and recovery of rare earth compounds and Thorium-Uranium deposits. Atomic Energy Commission started Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay on January 3, 1954. Atomic Energy Commission functioning under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Scientific Research was brought under the Department of Atomic Energy from August 3, 1954 with Dr. Homi Bhabha as the Secretary to the Government of India for the department. Department of Atomic Energy functioned under the direct control of the Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and continued to remain under the direct charge of successive prime ministers since then. All scientists and engineers engaged in the fields of reactor design and development, instrumentation, metallurgy and material science and related fields were transferred along with their respective programme from TIFR to the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) to become an integral part of the newly created AEET. TIFR has become an institution fully dedicated to carry out fundamental research in Nuclear Science and related fields.

The Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) was formally dedicated to the nation by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on January 20, 1957. Later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi renamed AEET as Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) on January 12, 1967 as a fitting tribute to Dr. Homi Bhabha who died in an air crash on January 24, 1966. Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay has already made its impressions in the world of science as one of the unique nuclear research institution where high quality research and development is taking place in the areas of nuclear reactor design and installation, fuel fabrication, chemical processing of depleted fuel and also acquired sufficient expertise in the development of radioisotope application techniques in medicine, agriculture and industries. Basic and advanced research investigations were in full progress in nuclear physics, spectroscopy, solid state physics, chemical and life sciences, reactor engineering, instrumentation, radiation safety and nuclear medicine and other fields.

In a nutshell, BARC provides a broad spectrum of scientific and technological activities extending from basic laboratory bench scale research to scaled up plant level operations and its functional domain covers all walks of science and technology stretching from classical school of thoughts to the emerging novel fields of interest. The core mandate of this institution is to provide Research and Development support required to sustain one of the major peaceful applications of nuclear energy viz. power generation. This includes conceptualization of the programme, finalisation of the design of the reactor and the peripheral components, preparation of computer generated working models and their evaluation studies under simulated reactor running conditions, identification, selection and testing of materials and components for their risk analysis under extreme conditions of reactor operating environments, development and testing of new reactor fuel materials etc. Besides, BARC also extends its expertise to chemical processing of spent fuels, safe disposal of nuclear waste besides developing new isotope application techniques in industries, medicine, agriculture etc. Advanced frontline research in physical, chemical and biological sciences are intensely being pursued in BARC in order to give the nation a cutting edge in the fields of science and technology at the international levels. Thus, BARC is a multifaceted institution wherein the in house research findings were further translated into the development stage and finally through successful demonstration phase is taken for deployment in the respective fields. Advanced equipment and instruments, well set laboratories, vibrant ambience, an active work culture and availability of expertise from all fields of science and engineering are the unique features of BARC committed in taking the nation to the new horizons of knowledge and development.