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A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
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Scientist
    (October 15, 1931-July 27, 2015)
    Born in Rameswaram, India
    Birth name was Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
    Physicist and aerospace engineer
    Worked for the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
    Played a technical and organizational role in the Indian space program, the development of ballistic missiles, and the 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear weapons tests
    Scientific advisor to the Prime Minister
    President of India (2002-07)
    Wrote 'India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium' (1998), 'Wings of Fire: An Autobiography' (1999) and 'Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India' (20002)
    Nicknamed 'the Missile Man of India'
    He originally wanted to be a fighter pilot, but was eliminated in the final round of qualifying interviews.
    His initial work on ballistic missiles was secretly funded by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after the cabinet rejected the proposal.
    He was so gung-ho for the Pokhran-II nuclear bomb tests that he threatened to resign when the government considered postponing them.
    After leaving the presidency, he declared his opposition to capital punishment, but as president he exercised his clemency powers in only one of 21 death row mercy petitions submitted to him.
    He grew up poor and delivered newspapers after school to contribute to the family finances.
    Although the 1998 nuclear tests were condemned by the rest of the world, they made him a national hero in India.
    As president, he set a goal of having one-on-one meetings with 100,000 students each year.
    He and cardiologist Soma Raju developed a low-cost coronary stent (1998) and a rugged tablet computer for health care workers in rural areas (2012).
    Upon his death, the Indian government declared seven days of mourning.

Credit: C. Fishel


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