The Info List - Homi J. Bhabha

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Homi Jehangir 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
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
(TIFR).[2] Colloquially known as "father of the Indian nuclear programme",[3] Bhabha was also the founding director of the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) which is now named the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
in his honor. TIFR and AEET were the cornerstone of Indian development of nuclear weapons which Bhabha also supervised as director.[3]


1 Early life 2 Studies and research at University of Cambridge

2.1 Work in nuclear physics

3 Return to India 4 Career 5 Atomic Energy in India 6 Visionary behind India's Three Stage Nuclear Power Programme 7 Death

7.1 Assassination theories

8 Legacy 9 Trivia 10 See also 11 References 12 External links

Early life[edit] Homi Jehangir Bhabha was born into a wealthy and prominent industrial Parsi
family, through which he was related to businessmen Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, and Dorabji Tata. He was born on 30 October 1909, in an illustrious family with a long tradition of learning and service to the country. His father was Jehangir Hormusji Bhabha, a well known lawyer and his mother was Meheren.[4] He received his early studies at Bombay's Cathedral and John Connon School
Cathedral and John Connon School
and entered Elphinstone College at age 15 after passing his Senior Cambridge Examination with Honors. He then attended the Royal Institute of Science until 1927 before joining Caius College of Cambridge University. This was due to the insistence of his father and his uncle Dorab Tata, who planned for Bhabha to obtain a degree in mechanical engineering from Cambridge and then return to India, where he would join the Tata Steel or Tata Steel Mills in Jamshedpur as a metallurgist. Studies and research at University of Cambridge[edit] Bhabha's father understood his son's predicament, and he agreed to finance his studies in mathematics provided that he obtain first class on his Mechanical Sciences Tripos
exam. Bhabha took the Tripos
exam in June 1930 and passed with first class. Afterwards, he excelled in his mathematical studies under Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
to complete the Mathematics Tripos. Meanwhile, he worked at the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
while working towards his doctorate in theoretical physics. At the time, the laboratory was the center of a number of scientific breakthroughs. James Chadwick
James Chadwick
had discovered the neutron, John Cockcroft
John Cockcroft
and Ernest Walton transmuted lithium with high-energy protons, and Patrick Blackett and Giuseppe Occhialini
Giuseppe Occhialini
used cloud chambers to demonstrate the production of electron pairs and showers by gamma radiation. During the 1931–1932 academic year, Bhabha was awarded the Salomons Studentship in Engineering. In 1932, he obtained first class on his Mathematical Tripos
and was awarded the Rouse Ball traveling studentship in mathematics. During this time, nuclear physics was attracting the greatest minds and it was one of the most significantly emerging fields as compared to theoretical physics, the opposition towards theoretical physics attacked the field because it was lenient towards theories rather than proving natural phenomenon through experiments. Conducting experiments on particles which also released enormous amounts of radiation, was a lifelong passion of Bhabha, and his leading edge research and experiments brought great laurels to Indian physicists who particularly switched their fields to nuclear physics, one of the most notable being Piara Singh Gill. Work in nuclear physics[edit] In January 1933, Bhabha received his doctorate in nuclear physics after publishing his first scientific paper, "The Absorption of Cosmic radiation". In the publication, Bhabha offered an explanation of the absorption features and electron shower production in cosmic rays. The paper helped him win the Isaac Newton Studentship in 1934, which he held for the next three years. The following year, he completed his doctoral studies in theoretical physics under Ralph H. Fowler. During his studentship, he split his time working at Cambridge and with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. In 1935, Bhabha published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A, in which he performed the first calculation to determine the cross section of electron-positron scattering. Electron-positron scattering was later named Bhabha scattering, in honor of his contributions in the field. In 1936, with Walter Heitler, he co-authored a paper, "The Passage of Fast Electrons and the Theory of Cosmic Showers"[5] in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A, in which they used their theory to describe how primary cosmic rays from outer space interact with the upper atmosphere to produce particles observed at the ground level. Bhabha and Heitler then made numerical estimates of the number of electrons in the cascade process at different altitudes for different electron initiation energies. The calculations agreed with the experimental observations of cosmic ray showers made by Bruno Rossi and Pierre Victor Auger
Pierre Victor Auger
a few years before. Bhabha later concluded that observations of the properties of such particles would lead to the straightforward experimental verification of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. In 1937, Bhabha was awarded the Senior Studentship of the 1851 exhibition, which helped him continue his work at Cambridge until the outbreak of World War II
World War II
in 1939. Return to India[edit] In September 1939, Bhabha was in India for a brief holiday when World War II started, and he decided not to return to England for the time being. He accepted an offer to serve as the Reader in the Physics Department of the Indian Institute of Science, then headed by renowned physicist C. V. Raman. He received a special research grant from the Sir Dorab Tata
Dorab Tata
Trust, which he used to establish the Cosmic Ray Research Unit at the Institute. Bhabha selected a few students, including Harish-Chandra, to work with him. Later, on 20 March 1941, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. With the help of J. R. D. Tata, he played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
in Mumbai. Career[edit] Starting his nuclear physics career in Britain, Bhabha had returned to India for his annual vacation before the start of World War II
World War II
in September 1939. War prompted him to remain in India and accepted a post of reader in physics at the Indian Institute of Science
Indian Institute of Science
in Bengaluru, headed by Nobel laureate C.V. Raman.[6] During this time, Bhabha played a key role in convincing the Congress Party's senior leaders, most notably Jawaharlal Nehru
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 point particles movement, while independently conducting research on nuclear weapons in 1944.[3] In 1945, he established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay, and the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, serving as its first chairman.[3] In 1948, Nehru led the appointment of Bhabha as the director of the nuclear program and tasked Bhabha to develop the nuclear weapons soon after.[3] 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 the development of nuclear weapons. Soon after the Sino-Indo war, Bhabha aggressively and publicly began to call for the nuclear weapons.[6] 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
Padma Bhushan
by Government of India in 1954.[7] He later served as the member of the Indian Cabinet's Scientific Advisory Committee and provided the pivotal role to Vikram Sarabhai
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.[6] Atomic Energy in India[edit]

Bhabha (right) at the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, Switzerland, 20 August 1955

When Homi Jehangir 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 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.[8]

The trustees of Sir Dorabji Jamsetji. Tata Trust decided to accept Bhabha's proposal and financial responsibility for starting the Institute in April 1944. Bombay
was chosen as the location for the prosed Institute as the Government of Bombay
showed interest in becoming a joint founder of the proposed institute. The institute, named Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, was inaugurated in 1945 in 540 square meters of hired space in an existing building. In 1948 the Institute was moved into the old buildings of the Royal Yacht club. When Bhabha realized that technology development for the atomic energy programme could no longer be carried out within TIFR he proposed to the government to build a new laboratory entirely devoted to this purpose. For this purpose, 1200 acres of land was acquired at Trombay from the Bombay
Government. Thus the Atomic Energy Establishment Trombay (AEET) started functioning in 1954. The same year the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was also established.[9] He represented India in International Atomic Energy Forums, and as President of the United Nations
United Nations
Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, in Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva, Switzerland
in 1955. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958.[10] Visionary behind India's Three Stage Nuclear Power Programme[edit] Bhabha is generally acknowledged as the father of Indian nuclear power. Moreover, he is credited with formulating a strategy of focussing on extracting power from the country's vast thorium reserves rather than its meagre uranium reserves.[11][12] This thorium focused strategy was in marked contrast to all other countries in the world. The approach proposed by Bhabha to achieve this strategic objective became India's three stage nuclear power programme. Bhabha paraphrased the three-stage approach as follows:

“ The total reserves of thorium in India amount to over 500,000 tons in the readily extractable form, while the known reserves of uranium are less than a tenth of this. The aim of long range atomic power programme in India must therefore be to base the nuclear power generation as soon as possible on thorium rather than uranium... The first generation of atomic power stations based on natural uranium can only be used to start off an atomic power programme... The plutonium produced by the first generation power stations can be used in a second generation of power stations designed to produce electric power and convert thorium into U-233, or depleted uranium into more plutonium with breeding gain... The second generation of power stations may be regarded as an intermediate step for the breeder power stations of the third generation all of which would produce more U-238 than they burn in the course of producing power.[13] ”

Death[edit] Homi J. Bhabha
Homi J. Bhabha
died when Air India Flight 101
Air India Flight 101
crashed near Mont Blanc on 24 January 1966.[14] Misunderstanding between Geneva
Airport and the pilot about the aircraft position near the mountain is the official reason of the crash. Assassination theories[edit] Many possible theories have been advanced for the air crash, including a conspiracy theory in which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is involved in order to paralyze India's nuclear program.[15] When an Indian diplomatic bag containing newspapers, calendars and a personal letter was recovered near the crash site in 2012, it was a "Type C" diplomatic bag containing no important documents.[16][17] Legacy[edit]

Bust of Homi Bhabha which is placed in the garden of Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Kolkata

After his death, the Atomic Energy Establishment at Bombay
was renamed as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
in his honour. In addition to being an able scientist and administrator, Bhabha was also a painter and a classical music and opera enthusiast, besides being an amateur botanist.[citation needed]He is one of the most prominent scientists that India has ever had. Bhabha also encouraged research in electronics, space science, radio astronomy and microbiology.[citation needed] The famed radio telescope at Ooty, India was his initiative, and it became a reality in 1970. The Homi Bhabha Fellowship Council has been giving the Homi Bhabha Fellowships since 1967 Other noted institutions in his name are the Homi Bhabha National Institute, an Indian deemed university and the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai, India. Trivia[edit] On 13 March 2014, The Times of India
The Times of India
reported that The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) had issued a public notice inviting developers and investors interested in purchasing Mehrangir, the sprawling colonial bungalow at Malabar Hill
Malabar Hill
where Bhabha, spent most of his life. The bungalow has a builtup area of 13,963 sq feet and a plot measuring 17,150 sq feet. After Bhabha died in 1966, his brother Jamshed became the custodian of the Bhabha estate. Being an avid patron of arts and culture, Jamshed Bhabha, who died in 2007, aged 93, had willed the property along with paintings, jewellery, artefacts and furniture to the NCPA, which he had established. Located at a stone's throw from Hanging Gardens, the property is estimated to be valued at over Rs 250 crore (as of March 2014)[18] and was sold to Godrej family for Rs 372 crore[19] by the NCPA on 18 June 2014. The employees and scientists working for Department of Atomic Energy and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, which Bhabha founded, have protested against the sale of the bungalow to private developers as they believe that the bungalow should be preserved as a memorial.[20] However NCPA chairman K N Suntook said that such sentiments "were misplaced". He said that Homi Bhabha, the architect of India’s nuclear power programme, was only a part owner of the property and after his demise, the property "devolved solely upon his brother Jamshed, who bequeathed it absolutely to the NCPA by his will, which has since been probated". Suntook said he was sad that eminent scientists were supporting this movement and that BARC has lot of funds and they could have used to bid for the bungalow. While there were eight bidders originally, three turned up for the auction. Suntook added that Homi Bhabha was a great lover of culture himself and both brothers would have been disappointed with the opposition to the auction. The present owner of Mehrangir (Smita-Crishna Godrej, Godrej family) who had purchased the home, had it demolished during the first week of June 2016. As per eminent scientists opposed to auction, the central or state governments could have saved Mehrangir by compensating the NCPA with a reasonable amount. However, this did not happen. The bungalow was auctioned off in 2014 and demolished in June 2016, bringing much dismay to those who wanted it declared a heritage structure.[21] See also[edit]

India's three stage nuclear power programme


^ Penney, L. (1967). "Homi Jehangir Bhabha 1909-1966". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 13: 35–55. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1967.0002.  ^ "Homi Jehangir Bhabha". Physics Today. 19 (3): 108. 1966. doi:10.1063/1.3048089.  ^ a b c d e Richelson, Jeffrey Richelson. "U.S. Intelligence and the Indian Bomb". The National Security Archive, The George Washington University. Published through National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 187. Retrieved 24 January 2012.  ^ <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013. > ^ Bhabha, Homi J.; Walther Heitler (1937). "The passage of fast electrons and the theory of cosmic showers". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences. 159 (898): 432–458. Bibcode:1937RSPSA.159..432B. doi:10.1098/rspa.1937.0082.  ^ a b c Sublette, Carey. "Dr. Homi J. Bhabha: Indian Oppenheimer". nuclear weapon archive. nuclear weapon archive (Indian nuclear program). Retrieved 24 January 2012.  ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015.  ^ Homi Jehangir Bhabha Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Vigyanprasar.gov.in. Retrieved on 2015-06-30. ^ Guha, Ramachandra (2008). India After Gandhi. Harper Perennial. p. 216. ISBN 0060958588.  ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 25 June 2011.  ^ Rahman, Maseeh (1 November 2011). "How Homi Bhabha's vision turned India into a nuclear R&D leader". Mumbai: Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2012.  ^ "A future energy giant? India's thorium-based nuclear plans". Physorg.com. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2012.  ^ Venkataraman, Ganesan (1994). Bhabha and his magnificent obsessions. Universities Press. p. 157. ISBN 8173710074.  ^ Haine, Edgar A. (2000). Disaster in the Air. Associated University Presses. pp. 146–147. ISBN 978-0-8453-4777-5.  ^ Homi Bhabha: The physicist with a difference. News.in.msn.com (23 June 2015). Retrieved on 30 June 2015. ^ "BBC News – India diplomatic bag found in French Alps after 46 years". Bbc.co.uk. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.  ^ "BBC News – Diplomatic bag contents revealed". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2012.  ^ Mehta, Rajshri (13 March 2014) Homi Bhabha's Malabar Hill
Malabar Hill
bungalow up for sale. Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved on 30 June 2015. ^ "Godrej Family Buys Bhabha Bungalow For Rs. 372 Cr". Bloomberg TV India.  ^ "Protesting in Memoriam". Open Magazine. 23 April 2014. Archived from the original on 20 April 2014.  ^ Parthasarathy, K.S. (2016-06-25). "A Wreath of White Roses Over the Ruins of Mehrangir, Homi Bhabha's Home". Retrieved 2016-06-26. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Homi Jehangir Bhabha.

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Homi J. Bhabha

Annotated Bibliography for Homi J. Bhabha
Homi J. Bhabha
from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues. The Woodrow Wilson Center's Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. NPIHP has a series of primary source documents about and by Homi Bhabha.

v t e

Padma Bhushan
Padma Bhushan
award recipients (1954–1959)


Homi J. Bhabha Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Mahadeva Iyer Ganapati Jnan Chandra Ghosh Maithili Sharan Gupt Amarnath Jha Ajudhiya Nath Khosla Kariamanickam Srinivasa Krishnan Husain Ahmad Madani Josh Malihabadi Vaikunthbhai Mehta Vallathol Narayana Menon A. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar Palden Thondup Namgyal V. Narahari Rao Jamini Roy Sukumar Sen M. S. Subbulakshmi Kodandera Subayya Thimayya


Fateh Chand Badhwar Lalit Mohan Banerjee Suniti Kumar Chatterji Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay V. R. Khanolkar Sunder Das Khungar Rameshwari Nehru Prana Krushna Parija Madapati Hanumantha Rao Maneklal Sankalchand Thacker


Rukmini Devi Arundale Rajshekhar Basu Dhyan Chand Nawab Alam yar jung Bahadur C. K. Nayudu Muthulakshmi Reddi Kanwar Sen Vir Singh K. Srinivasan Mahadevi Varma


Bhikhan Lal Atreya Balasaraswati Alagappa Chettiar Hazari Prasad Dwivedi Abid Hussain Mushtaq Hussain Khan Lakshmi N. Menon Radha Kumud Mukherjee Andal Venkatasubba Rao Shrikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar Shyam Nandan Sahay Govind Sakharam Sardesai K. A. Nilakanta Sastri Basiswar Sen Siddheshwar Varma


Salim Ali Vijaya Anand D. P. Roy Choudhury Jeahangir Ghandy N. S. Hardikar Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar Allauddin Khan K. P. S. Menon A. C. N. Nambiar Kuvempu Poola Tirupati Raju Kamalendumati Shah Rao Raja Hanut Singh Rustom Jal Vakil Surya Narayan Vyas Darashaw Nosherwan Wadia


Sisir Bhaduri Ramdhari Singh Dinkar Ali Yavar Jung Hansa Jivraj Mehta Pammal Sambandha Mudaliar Tiruppattur R. Venkatachala Murthi Tenzing Norgay Bhaurao Patil Dhanvanthi Rama Rau Nirmal Kumar Sidhanta Mysore Vasudevachar Bhargavaram Viththal Varerkar Ghulam Yazdani

# Posthumous conferral

1954–1959 1960–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 54888169 LCCN: n50011154 ISNI: 0000 0001 1571 0070 GND: 115861106 SUDOC: 09265939X BNF: cb10843263j (data) MGP: 91587 NLA: 35018