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Distinguished Lecture at the IIIT, Hyderabad
IIIT, Hyderabad, Oct 20 2008
Updated on Oct 20 2008
Published bywww.abdulkalam.com
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Great Minds that enriched the World

"Past meets the present
and creates the future"

I am delighted to address the audience on the distinguished lectures series organized by IIIT-Hyderabad. My greetings to the Director, Faculty members, distinguished guests, intellectuals, academicians, industrialists, societal reformers and students. When I see you all, I am thinking of what thoughts I can share with you. Hence, I would like to talk on the topic "Great Minds that enriched the World".

Science is the foundation for societal transformation

Most important ingredient for realizing a happy, prosperous , safe and peaceful society is the ignited minds of the youth who can use science and technology as a powerful tool. I realize Science is linked to technology through applications. Technology is linked to economy and environment. Economy and environment are linked to technology, which promotes prosperity to the society.

Dear young friends, I would like to share the uniqueness of five great minds, all of them Nobel Laureates, each one having unique traits which symbolize Value of Science; Science as a Life time mission; Science is Borderless; Birth of creativity in difficult circumstances and Scientific Magnanimity. Friends, if you acquire any of one of them or few of them or all of the traits, you will be heading towards becoming a Nobel Laureate or you will make a difference to our Planet. Let us go into details.

The traits of Nobel minds

Value to Science: Since I am in the midst of Scientists, Technologists, research scholars and students, I thought of sharing with you an incident about Sir CV Raman ?a Nobel Laureate in Physics for discovering Raman Effect. Raman gives the view that the color of sky is blue due to molecular diffraction which determines the observed luminosity and in great measures also its color. This led to the birth of the Raman Effect. Raman was in the first batch of Bharat Ratna Award winners. The award ceremony was to take place in the last week of January, soon after the Republic Day celebrations of 1954. The then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote to Raman inviting him to be the personal guest in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, when Raman came to Delhi for the award ceremony. Sir CV Raman wrote a polite letter, regretting his inability to go. Raman had a noble reason for his inability to attend the investiture ceremony. He explained to the President that he was guiding a Ph.D. student and that thesis was positively due by the last day of January. The student was valiantly trying to wrap it all up and Raman felt, he had to be by the side of the research student, see that the thesis was finished, sign the thesis as the guide and then have it submitted. Here was a scientist who gave up the pomp of a glittering ceremony associated with the highest honour, because he felt that his duty required him to be by the side of the student. It is this unique trait of giving value to science that builds science. Next, let me highlight how science becomes a life time mission for Chandrasekhar Subramanyan.

Science as a Life time mission: Chandrasekhar Subramanyan?s most famous discovery was the astrophysical Chandrasekhar limit. The limit describes the maximum mass (~1.44 solar masses) of a white dwarf star, or equivalently, the minimum mass for which a star will ultimately collapse into a neutron star or black hole following a supernova. The limit was first calculated by Chandrasekhar while on a ship from India to Cambridge, England. The Chandrasekhar Limit led to the determination of how long a star like sun of particular mass will shine. In 1983, Chandrasekhar Subramanyan got the Nobel Price for this discovery.

Two of Chandrasekhar's students in 1947 were the doctoral candidates Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang in Particle Physics research. Even though Chandrasekhar Subramanyan maintained his office at the Yerkes Observatory in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, he would regularly drive the one hundred miles to Chicago to guide and teach Lee and Yang and others many a times in difficult weather conditions. In 1957, these two of his students won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in particle physics research. His students got the Nobel prize three decades before he got. This also brings out Chandrasekhar Subramanyan?s commitment to science and there by to his students. Science indeed is a life time mission for Chandrasekhar. It is this characteristic which makes youth to become passionate towards science.

Science is Borderless: Prof. Bert Sakmann - a German medical doctor and a research scientist who in 1991, together with German Physicist won the Nobel Prize for medicine for research into basic cell function and for their development of the patch-clamp technique. This technique conclusively established the existence of characteristic set of ion (+ve and ?ve) channels in cell membranes, that in turn established the role it plays in diseases like diabetes, cardiac, epilepsy and certain neuromuscular disorder.

Prof Bert Sakmann who did his elementary education in a rural background had a passion for Physics and Engineering in school days. He got interested in Cybernetics in the final year school, since he realized that living organisms could be understood in engineering terms. Thus, the seed of inter-disciplinary research was firmly rooted in him in a very young age. He enrolled himself for medical education. After foundation courses in bio-chemistry and physiology, he did his doctoral thesis in electro physiology. He attended medical schools in Freiburg, Berlin and Paris. As a doctoral student, he worked on electro-physiological basis of pattern recognition. For this, he closely worked with electrical and computer scientists. He learnt the basic mechanism of vision. Later, he ran his own laboratory in physiology in close collaboration with physio-chemical and bio-chemical departments. In his own words, he enjoyed working with fellow scientists on scientific adventures. Now, here we can find a doctor and a researcher with the capability of working in multiple laboratories simultaneously and becoming a team scientist, sharing the research, sharing the work and sharing the rewards too. He is the real example for working in the multiple disciplines "Science is borderless".

Birth of Creativity in a difficult situation : Mario Capecchi had a difficult and challenging childhood. For nearly four years, Capecchi lived with his mother in a chalet in the Italian Alps. When World War II broke out, his mother, along with other Bohemians, was sent to Dachau as a political prisoner. Anticipating her arrest by the Gestapo, she had sold all her possessions and given the money to friends to help raise her son on their farm. In the farm, he had to grow own wheat, harvest; take it to miller to be ground. Then, the money which his mother left for him ran out and at the age of four and half years, he started sometimes living in the streets, sometimes joining gangs of other homeless children, sometimes living in orphanages and most of the time hungry. He spent the last year in the city of Reggio Emelia, hospitalized for malnutrition where his mother found him on his ninth birthday after a year of searching. Within weeks, the Capecchi and his mother sailed to America to join his uncle and aunt.

He started his 3rd grade schooling afresh over there and started his education, interested in sports, studied political science. But he didn?t find interesting and changed into science, became a mathematics graduate in 1961 with a double major in Physics and Chemistry. Although he really liked Physics, its elegance and simplicity, he switched to molecular biology in graduate school, on the advice of James D Watson, who advised him that he should not be bothered about small things, since such pursuits are likely to produce only small answers.

His objective was to do gene targeting. The experiments started in 1980 and by 1984, Capecchi had clear success. Three years later, he applied the technology to mice. In 1989, he developed the first mice with targeted mutations. The technology created by Doctor Capecchi allows researchers to create specific gene mutations anywhere they choose in the genetic code of a mouse. By manipulating gene sequences in this way, researchers are able to mimic human disease conditions on animal subjects. What the research of Mario Capecchi means for human health is nothing short of amazing, his work with mice could lead to cures for Alzheimer?s disease or even Cancer. The innovations in genetics that Mario Capecchi achieved won him the Nobel Prize in 2007. Noble laureate Capecchi life indeed reveals: -
"When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are"

Scientific Magnanimity: Now, I would like to narrate an incident which took place during a function conferring Nobel Laureate Prof. Norman E Borlaug, a well known agricultural scientist and a partner in India?s first Green revolution, with Dr. M S Swaminathan Award, at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi on the 15th of March 2005. Prof. Borlaug, at the age of 91, was in the midst of all the praise showered on him from everybody gathered there. When his turn came, he got up and highlighted India?s advancement in the agricultural science and production and said that the political visionary Shri C. Subramaniam and Dr. M S Swaminathan, pioneer in agricultural science were the prime architects of First Green Revolution in India. Even though Prof Norman Borlaug was himself a partner in the first green revolution, he did not make a point on this. He recalled with pride, Dr. Verghese Kurien who ushered White Revolution in India. Then the surprise came. He turned to scientists sitting in the third row, fifth row and eighth row of the audience. He identified Dr. Raja Ram, a wheat specialist, Dr S K Vasal, a maize specialist, Dr. B. R. Barwale, a seed specialist. He said, all these scientists had contributed for India?s and Asia?s agricultural science. Dr. Borlaug introduced them to the audience by asking them to stand and ensured that the audience cheered and greeted the scientists with great enthusiasm.

This action of Dr. Norman Borlaug, I call it as "Scientific Magnanimity". Friends, if we aspire to achieve great things in life, we need Scientific Magnanimity to focus the young achievers. It is my experience that great mind and great heart go together. This Scientific Magnanimity will motivate the scientific community and nurture team spirit.

With this background of unique traits of great minds, dear young friends, now it is time to have a great dream in life, dream transform into thoughts, thoughts results into action. To further, what can be the challenges in front of you, let me share with you some of our national missions. We have a roadmap for becoming an economically developed nation for fulfilling the aspiration of a billion democratic people of multi-religion, multi-language and multi-culture. Our human resources particularly the 540 million youth will make this mission a reality using science and technology as a tool with the available bio-diversity and natural resources.

Nation is on the path of prosperity

Indian Economy was showing an ascent phase till recently. This growth was possible in the manufacturing and service sectors. Still our major population who are living in the rural sector have not realized the benefits of the economic growth. Nearly 220 million people have to be lifted by upgrading their quality of life in both rural and urban areas. Even though the GDP growth indicates our economic growth, people?s participation is essential for achieving the required targets, focusing the growth of national prosperity index. It is essential to ensure that the citizens are empowered with good quality of life encompassing nutritious food, good habitat, clean environment, affordable healthcare, quality education and productive employment, integrated with our value system drawn from civilizational heritage leading to the comprehensive development of the nation that will bring smiles in one billion people. These are indicators for the growth of the National Prosperity Index. To achieve this, we have a vision of transforming India into a developed nation before 2020, energizing and igniting the minds of all Indians. Scientist and technologists have an important role in realizing the missions of Developed India.

To realize this vision, we need excellent minds for basic science, research, teaching and converting the results of research into applications for national development. The S&T is also about networking of people who have the same dream in their eyes with ignited minds.

Global Human Resources Cadre

Presently our university education system in India is contributing 3 million graduates and post graduates every year and school system is contributing around 7 million per year. In the 21st century, India needs large number of talented youth with higher education for the task of knowledge acquisition, knowledge imparting, knowledge creation and knowledge sharing. At present India has five hundred and forty million youth under the age of 25. This will continuously be growing till the year 2050. Keeping this resource in mind, the Universities and educational systems should create two cadres of personnel: (1) a global cadre of skilled youth with specific knowledge of special skills (2) another global cadre of youth with higher education. These two cadres will be required not only for powering the manufacturing and services sector of India but also will be needed for fulfilling the human resource requirements of various countries in specialized areas in science, technology, humanities and management.

Thus, the education system will have to work towards increasing the through put of the higher education system from the existing 11% to 15% by the year 2015, 20% by the year 2020 and 30% by the year 2030. No Indian youth should be without either a world class higher education or without world class skill sets. This is an important mission in which all universities, academic specialists, colleges, vocational training institutions have to work together. The system of education must be able to maintain the required output quality.


Any scientific task, any path breaking scientific mission as you would have heard from the great scientific minds today accompanies challenging the problems and succeeding. The challenges in S & T will be increasing and would require the best minds to work. There are many leaders in S & T who are our achievers today and I wish that the youth derive encouragement and get stimulated from these achievers and become the ACHIEVERS OF TOMORROW. Besides everything, to succeed in S & T, you need to have dream and have courage to realize it. I have an oath for youth on courage.

Courage to think different,
Courage to invent,
Courage to discover the impossible,
Courage to travel into an unexplored path,
Courage to share the knowledge
Courage to remove the pain
Courage to reach the unreached
Courage to combat the problems
And Succeed, Are the unique qualities of the youth.
As a youth of my nation, I will work and work with courage to achieve success in all my scientific missions.

My best wishes to all of you for success in your mission of generating quality ICT professionals who will make an important mark in the development of the country.

May God Bless you.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam,

By, Dr. APJ Abdulkalam

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1   Raj KumarPosted OnAug 04 2012 12:16:14
Sir..i really inspire you...i want become scientist like u.

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