Grate Scientist Homi Jahangir Bhabha
(Birth Anniversary Special)
Homi Jahangir Bhabha,( 30 October 1909 – 24 January 1966) was an Indian Nuclear Physicist, Founding director, and professor of physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Colloquially known as “father of Indian nuclear programme”. Bhabha was the founding director of two well-known research institutions, namely the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment; both sites were the cornerstone of Indian development of nuclear weapons which Bhabha also supervised as its director.
Starting his scientific career in Nuclear Physics from Great Britain, Bhabha returned to India for his annual vacation prior to start of the World War II in September 1939, prompting Bhabha to remain in India, and accepted a post of reader in physics at the Indian Institute of Science in Banglore, headed by Nobel Laureate C.V. Raman During this time, Bhabha played a key role in convincing the Congress Party’s senior leaders, most notable Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru who later served as India’s first Prime Minister, to start the ambitious nuclear programme. As part of this vision, Bhabha established the Cosmic Ray Research Unit at the institute, began to work on the theory of the movement of point particles, while independently conduct research on nuclear weapons in 1944. In 1945, he established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay, and the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, serving its first chairman. In 1948, Nehru led the appointment of Bhabha as the director of the nuclear programme and tasked Bhabha to develop the nuclear weapons soon after. In the 1950s, Bhabha represented India in IAEA conferences, and served as President of the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, Switzerland in 1955. During this time, he intensified his lobbying for developing the nuclear weapons, and soon after the Sino-Indo war, Bhabha aggressively and publicly began to call for the nuclear weapons.
Bhabha gained international prominence after deriving a correct expression for the probability of scattering positrons by electrons, a process now known as Bhabha Scattering. His major contribution included his work on Compton Scattering R-Process, , and furthermore the advancement of nuclear physics. He was awarded Padma Bhushan by Government of India in 1954. He later served as the member of the Indian Cabinet’s Scientific Advisory Committee and provided the pivotal role to Vikram Sarabhai to set up the Indian National Committee for Space Research. In January 1966, Bhabha died in a Plane Crash near Mont Blanc, while heading to Vienna, Austria to attend a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency ‘s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Atomic Energy in India
When Bhabha was working at the India Institute of Science, there was no institute in India which had the necessary facilities for original work in nuclear physics, cosmic rays, high energy physics, and other frontiers of knowledge in physics. This prompted him to send a proposal in March 1944 to the Sir Dorabji Jamesetji Tata . Tata Trust for establishing ‘a vigorous school of research in fundamental physics’. In his proposal he wrote :
“There is at the moment in India no big school of research in the fundamental problems of physics, both theoretical and experimental. There are, however, scattered all over India competent workers who are not doing as good work as they would do if brought together in one place under proper direction. It is absolutely in the interest of India to have a vigorous school of research in fundamental physics, for such a school forms the spearhead of research not only in less advanced branches of physics but also in problems of immediate practical application in industry. If much of the applied research done in India today is disappointing or of very inferior quality it is entirely due to the absence of sufficient number of outstanding pure research workers who would set the standard of good research and act on the directing boards in an advisory capacity … Moreover, 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. I do not think that anyone acquainted with scientific development in other countries would deny the need in India for such a school as I propose.
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. It is neither possible nor desirable to separate nuclear physics from cosmic rays since the two are closely connected theoretically”.