Birth of Nuclear Power in India
In the 1940s, when the sun went down over India, most of the country was dark. Power plants were few and far between, and most people living in India did not have access to electricity. However, things were about to change. A visionary scientist named Homi Jehangir Bhabha thought that providing India with nuclear power was one way to help relieve some of the suffering of Indian citizens, many of whom lived in extreme poverty.
He set out to make his dream a reality, and within three decades, it had been accomplished. In 1969, the first nuclear power plant in India, known as the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, began providing power to the area around Mumbai, and it's still operating today. This would never have been possible without the man known as the ''Father of the Indian Nuclear Program,'' Homi J Bhabha.
Early Life and Education
Homi J Bhabha was born in 1909 into a wealthy and intellectual family that lived in the western part of India. After graduating from the Royal Institute of Science, he moved to England and enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University. He originally planned to study engineering and return to India to work in his family's steel mills.
However, once Bhabha was at Cambridge, he decided to pursue a degree in nuclear physics instead. While in graduate school, he also spent a lot of time working with the legendary scientist Niels Bohr. He graduated with a Ph.D. in 1933, just after publishing a groundbreaking paper on ''The Absorption of Cosmic Rays,'' which explained how cosmic rays produced showers of electrons and described some of the absorption features of cosmic rays. His work was considered so outstanding that he was awarded the Isaac Newton Studentship in 1934, which he held for three years.
In 1935, he would also make another important scientific discovery. Working with Niels Bohr, he was able to determine the properties of electron-positron scattering. This was later renamed Bhabha scattering in his honor.
He continued working at Cambridge for several years, but in 1939, he decided to return to India to visit his family for a few weeks. While he was in India, World War II broke out in Europe. Afraid that he would not be able to return to England, Bhabha decided to remain in India for the duration of the war. He took a job as a professor of physics at the Indian Institute of Science and founded a new research unit dedicated to the study of cosmic rays.
Bhabha's Work in India
After his return to India, Bhabha realized that there were no research institutes in the whole country that were equipped to study cutting-edge topics in physics. He wanted to change that, so in 1945, he founded the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. In 1948, he became the head of the new Indian Atomic Energy Commission. He was very much opposed to India devoting its resources to making an atomic bomb. Instead, he wanted to see his country use its natural resources to provide affordable energy to the public.
To this end, he devised a way to extract energy from thorium rather than uranium, which was the radioactive element used in nuclear energy research in much of the world. India had very little uranium, but a lot of thorium, so he thought it would be a better option for the country to pursue.
Over the next twenty years, Bhabha became a well known advocate for nuclear energy throughout the world. In 1955, he directed the first UN Conference dedicated to promoting peaceful uses of atomic energy, and then, in 1958, he was elected as a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was even offered a position in India's government as a cabinet minister, but he turned this down, choosing to serve as a science adviser instead.
Death and Legacy
In 1966, Bhabha was on his way to Vienna, Austria, for a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Scientific Advisory Committee. His plane was traveling over the Alps when it suddenly crashed. No one really knows what caused the plane to crash, and as a result, there are still a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding the circumstances of his death. Some people believe that he was killed on purpose to prevent the rise of India as a nuclear power, but of course, this has never been proven.
At the time of Bhabha death, India's very first nuclear power plant was already being constructed, and it began operating in 1969. Today, Bhabha is remembered as the father of India's nuclear program, and India is one of the world's top producers of nuclear power.
Homi Jehangir Bhabha , who lived from 1909 to 1966, was an Indian physicist who is considered the father of the Indian nuclear program. He studied nuclear physics at Cambridge, where he published groundbreaking papers on cosmic rays and electron-positron scattering, a phenomenon now called Bhabha scattering.
When World War II began in Europe, Bhabha was visiting India, and he decided to stay instead of returning to England. He founded an important physics research institute and served as the first head of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission. He devised India's strategy of producing nuclear power using thorium instead of uranium and was an advocate for peaceful uses of nuclear power throughout the world.
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Homi Jehangir Bhabha: Further Exploration
This lesson introduced you to the work of Homi Jehangir Bhabha, a famous Indian scientist. The following prompts will give you the opportunity to learn more about Bhabha and his work.
Did something in this lesson catch your eye? Perhaps you are interested in Bhabha's life and experiences. Maybe the physics behind his discoveries are the things that you think are the most important. Choose one aspect of what was covered in this lesson and research it in greater detail. Write an essay detailing your findings.
Be the Teacher
You know a lot about Homi Jehangir Bhabha's life after working your way through this lesson. Find a family member or friend and pretend that you are their teacher and they are your student. Explain as much as you can to them about Bhabha's life, making reference to this lesson only if you get stuck. Do some of your own research to make sure that you are prepared to answer their questions about Bhabha.
Compare and Contrast
Homi Jehangir Bhabha is just one of many important scientists who have worked on nuclear energy over the years. Do some research into the life of another nuclear physicist. Compare and contrast that person's goals and achievements with Bhabha's inventions. Write a detailed list or paragraph explaining the comparison between the two scientists.
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