7 Facts About Dr Homi Bhabha, Father of Indian Nuclear Programme

Dr. Homi Bhabha is widely regarded as the ‘Father of India’s Nuclear Program’.  He single-handedly revolutionized the world of nuclear energy India, setting the stage for India’s nuclear prowess.

A relative of eminent businessmen Dinshaw Maneckji Petit and Dorabji Tata, he did his schooling at Bombay’s Cathedral and John Connon School and entered Elphinstone College at age 15 after passing his Senior Cambridge Examination with Honors.

As a student of the Cambridge University, he put India on the global map in terms of nuclear power. He also founded the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) which was later renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in his honour.

Much remains to be known about this pioneer nuclear physicist. Here are some fascinating facts about the legend.

 1. Went Against Family’s Wishes to Pursue Physics

This might come as a surprise to many but it isn’t. Dr. Homi Bhabha went to Cambridge to pursue mechanical engineering so that he can work as a metallurgist in the Tata Steel Mills in Jamshedpur. He came from the illustrious Parsi family of Jehangir Hormusji Bhabha, a renowned lawyer at that time. But instead of mechanical engineering, Cambridge opened the world of particle physics and atomic energy to him and he went onto become a nuclear physicist.

2. Homi’s Father Gave A conditional approval to study physics 

Bhabha’s father agreed to finance his studies in mathematics and physics provided he obtain first class on his Mechanical Sciences Tripos exam. Bhabha took the Tripos exam in June 1930 and passed with first class.

He later excelled in his mathematical studies under the guidance of legendary physicist and Noble Laureate Paul Dirac. Meanwhile, he worked at the Cavendish Laboratory while working towards his doctorate in theoretical physics.

3.   Bhabha was grounded in India, as the World War II Broke out

In September 1939, Bhabha was in India for a vacation when World War II broke out. He decided to stay in India for the time being and started working under CV Raman at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

4. He founded India’s Nuclear Programme

A staunch believer in nuclear energy, Bhabha understood it’s potential threat and advocated for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and was against using it for war. He voiced his concerns over nuclear power misuse at many international platforms. Despite his stand, he went on to charter a Nuclear Programme for the country.

He represented India in International Atomic Energy Forums multiple times. He was the President of the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, in Geneva, Switzerland in 1955.

In 1958, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

5. He used Thorium for Nuclear Power Extraction. 

Instead of going with the flow and use uranium for nuclear power extraction like the other countries, Bhabha thought of exploiting the rich repertoire of thorium which was already present in the country. He formulated a strategy of extracting power from Thorium helped to establish the strategic objective of India’s three-stage nuclear power programme.

6. Studied Under Noble Laureate Neils Bohr

He was one of the first Indians to receive the Isaac Newton Studentship in 1933 after publishing his first scientific paper, “The Absorption of Cosmic radiation”.

During his studentship, he split his time working at Cambridge and with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen.

7. He had artistic inclinations

Bhabha developed an interest in painting while studying at Cambridge. He was also a great admirer of music and had a wide collection of artworks from across the world.

In 2014, The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai invited developers and investors interested in purchasing Mehrangir, Bhabha’s bungalow at Malabar Hill. A few artworks in the house were also auctioned.

All these insights shed some light on the man and his psyche.

Source: The Quint