In the world of making big bombs, this Indian scientist Dr. Raja Ramanna stayed loyal to his own country, saying no to powerful leaders who wanted his help.
This story is about Dr. Raja Ramanna, who played a crucial role in setting up the Department of Atomic Energy and training people for India’s nuclear science program. He also led the way for India’s first nuclear test in 1974 and significantly advanced the nuclear power program by setting a high target of 10,000 MWe.
He was born in a rich Hindu family in Bangalore, went to Bishop Cotton boys’ school in the city, and finished his science degree from Madras Christian College. He got his PhD in physics from King’s College London. When he came back to India in 1949, he was chosen to be part of the Indian nuclear science program, led by Dr. Homi Bhadha.
He later became the head of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, holding this position not only once but twice,from 1972 to 1978 and from 1981 to 1983. He also served as the chairman of the India Atomic Energy Commission and the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy from 1983 to 1987.
Ramanna’s significant career milestone occurred during India’s first nuclear test at Pokhran in May 1974. He communicated the success of the test to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through the coded message “The Buddha is smiling.”
He was appointed as the secretary of defense research and scientific advisor to the Ministry of Defense. He was then reappointed as the director of BARC. Ramanna proposed the construction and testing of two weapon designs, the fusion-boosted device, and the compact pure fission device.
Aside from his nuclear endeavors, Ramanna had a noteworthy encounter with Saddam Hussein in 1978, who had approached him for assistance in building an Iraqi nuclear bomb. Ramanna declined the offer, choosing to return to India.
This highlights Ramanna’s commitment to his own country and his ethical stance against aiding the development of nuclear weapons in other nations.
After facing numerous struggles, he remained the director emeritus of the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore until his passing.
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