Homi Bhabha- The Father of Indian Nuclear Programme

Homi Bhabha

Homi Bhabha was an Indian Nuclear Physicist. He was the founding director and professor of physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)

He was considered as the “Father of the Indian Nuclear Programme”.

Bhabha was also the founding director of the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET), which is now called the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in his honor.

He founded two of the most important foundations TIFR and AEET of Indian development of Nuclear weapons which Bhabha supervised himself.

Homi J. Bhabha was awarded the Adams Prize (1942) and Padma Bhushan (1954). He was also nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951 and 1953-1956.

Childhood and Education of Homi Bhabha

Homi Bhabha was born on 30 October 1909 into a prominent wealthy Parsi family.

Homi Bhabha
Homi Bhabha and family

His full name was Homi Jehangir Bhabha. His father was Jehangir Hormusji Bhabha who was a well known lawyer and his mother’s name was Meheren. He was related to businessman Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, the founder of the first textile mills in India.

He received his early studies at Bombay’s Cathedral and John Connon School and entered Elphinstone College at the age of 15 after passing his Senior Cambridge Examination with Honors.

Before joining the Caius College of Cambridge University, he attended the Royal Institute of Science in 1927. He attended these universities due to the insistence of his father and his uncle Dorabji. They planned for Bhabha to obtain a degree in mechanical engineering from Cambridge and then return to India. They wanted Bhabha to join the Tata Steel or Tata steel mills in Jamshedpur as a metallurgist.

Advance Studies of Homi Bhaha

Bhabha’s parents understood their son’s ambition and agreed to finance his studies in mathematics. In June 1930, Bhabha participated in Tripos Exam and passed with first class honors. While he was working towards his Phd degree in theoretical physics he also worked at Cavendish Laboratory. During that time, nuclear physics was attracting the greatest minds. Theoretical Physics was lenient towards theories rather than providing natural phenomena through experiments.

Bhabha had the passion for conducting experiments on particles which also released enormous amounts of radiation. His research and experiments brought great glory to Indian physicists who particularly switched their fields to nuclear physics, one of the most famous ones was Piara Singh Gill.

Bhabha’s efforts in Nuclear Physics

Bhabha received his doctorate in January 1933 in nuclear physics after publishing his first scientific paper “ The Absorption of Cosmic radiation”. In the paper, he offered an explanation of the absorption features and electron shower production in cosmic rays. He won the Issac Newton studentship in 1934 for his scientific paper.

Homi Bhabha

Bhabha published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A, in which he determined the cross section of electron-positron scattering which was later named as Bhabha scattering. In 1937, Bhabha was awarded the Senior Studentship of the 1851 exhibition, allowing him to continue his work at Cambridge until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. 

Bhabha’s return to India

Bhabha returned to India before the start of World War II in September 1939. He accepted the post of reader in physics at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru which was then headed by C.V. Raman. He also convinced Congress party’s leaders to start the ambitious nuclear programme.

Bhabha established the Cosmic Ray Research Unit at the institute, where he began to work on the theory of point particles movement, while independently conducting research on nuclear weapons in 1944. 

In 1945, he established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay, and the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, serving as its first chairman. Nehru appointed Bhabha to develop nuclear weapons in 1948. 

Homi Bhabha

In the 1950s, Bhabha represented India in the IAEA conference. He also served as the president of the United Nations Conference on the peaceful uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, Switzerland in 1955. 

After the Sino-Indo war, Bhabha aggressively and publicly began to call for nuclear weapons. 

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1954. He later served as a member of the Indian Cabinet’s Scientific Advisory Committee and provided a crucial role in establishing the Indian National Committee for Space Research with Vikram Sarabhai.   

Death Of Homi Bhabha

Bhabha died when Air India flight 101 crashed near Mount Blanc on 24 January 1966. 

However there are many possible theories for the assassination of Bhabha. There was a claim that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in the plane crash to stop the advancement of India’s nuclear program. 

Actually, a journalist named Gregory Douglas, had conversations with a former CIA operative Robert Crowly for four years and published a book called “Conversations with the crow”. He claimed that the CIA was responsible for assassinating Bhabha.