Homi Jahangir Bhabha

Homi Jahangir Bhabha was born on 8 Oct 1909 and died on 24 Jan 1966. Bhabha was a nuclear physicist, founding Director and professor at Tata institute of fundamental research(TIFR). He is know as Father of Indian Nuclear Program. In independent India, Homi Bhabha, with the support of Jawaharlal Nehru, laid the foundation of a scientific establishment. And was responsible for the creation of two premier institutions, Tata Institute of fundamental Research (TIFR) and Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC). HE was the first chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission. He was also heading the development of Indian nuclear weapons.

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Family and Studies

Homi Jahangir Bhabha was born on October 30, 1909, in Bombay in a rich Parsi family. After graduating from Elphinstone College and the Royal Institute of science in Bombay. Then he went to Cambridge University. He received his doctorate in 1934. During this period he worked with Niels Bohr on the studies that led to quantum theory. Also he worked on the cascade theory of the electron showers, which was of great importance for the understanding of cosmic radiation. He returned to India in 1939 and set up the Cosmic Ray Research Unit at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore under CV Raman. Also in June 1930 his father financed his studies in mathematics provided that he obtained first class in TRIPOS exam. In the year 1931-1932 he was awarded with Salomons Studentship in Engineering.In January 1933, Homi Jahangir Bhabha received his doctorate in nuclear physics.

Work in nuclear physics

For his first scientific paper in “The absorption of Cosmic Radiation”. In the publication, he explained the absorption features and electron shower production in Cosmic rays. Apart from being a great scientist, Homi Jahangir Bhabha, was also a skilled administrator. In 1936, with Walter Heitler, he co-authored a paper,”The Passage of Fast Electrons and the Theory of Cosmic Showers”. Bhabha later observed the properties of such particles would lead to the straight forward experiment verification of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. He established the Atomic Energy Commission of India in 1948. Under his guidance, Indian scientists worked on the development of atomic energy and the first atomic reactor in Asia went into operation near Bombay, in 1956. He became the chairman of the first United Nations Conference on the ‘Peaceful uses of atomic energy’, held in Geneva in 1955. He advocated international control of nuclear energy and the outlawing of atomic bombs by all countries. Then Dorabji accepted Bhabha’s proposal for starting the institute.

Coming back to India

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In September 1939, he came back to India at the time of World War II. Then he came to Indian Institute of Science, and served as the Reader in the Physics Department headed by C.V. Raman. Also he selected few students, including Harsh-Chandra to work with him. On 20 March 1941, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. With the help of Tata he established Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. In March 1944 he send a proposal to the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust for establishing a research in fundamental physics.


In the 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 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.”

On the 24 january 1966 Homi J. Bhabha died in a crash of Air India Flight near Mont Blanc.


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