Arunava Sengupta

9 Years

53 Years

Manava Bharati India International School


Who is Homi Bhabha?| Essay by Arunava,11, Delhi

Who is Homi Bhabha? 11 year- old Arunava Sengupta from Delhi writes about the great scientist behind India’s nuclear mission.

who is homi bhabha ? kids bookosmia

The new TV serial Rocket Boys was released in SonyLiv recently, and following this release, which is based around Homi Bhabha, I have decided to write about this scientist who was one of the greatest innovators in India, en route to making the first atomic bomb, and the theories regarding his mysterious death. In this essay, let me tell you the story of Homi J. Bhabha.


Homi Jehangir Bhabha was born on 30th October, 1909 in Bombay to Jehangir Bhabha, a renowned lawyer of the time. Jehangir Bhabha wished that his son would grow up to become a mechanical  engineer, and then settle down in India with a job at Tata Steel Productions, one of the leading Indian engineering companies at the time. Homi Bhabha’s mother, Meheran was a housekeeper. Homi attended the Cathedral John and Connon school, and then Elphinstone College in 1924. He was a brilliant student in mathematics and physics, and attended the Royal Institute of Science while also being a member of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. At the insistence of his father and his grandfather Dorarji Bhabha, Homi attended Caius College, a branch of the Cambridge University, to get a degree in mechanical engineering and settle down in India as a metallurgist of the Tata Steel  Production company. It was in this college that Homi developed his initial interest in physics.

Jehangir Bhabha understood his son’s interest in physics and agreed to finance his mathematical  education on the condition that he came back with a first class Mechanical Science Tripos in the examination. Homi gave the exam in 1930 and passed with flying colors. He also worked in the  Cavendish laboratory to get a degree in theoretical physics. This laboratory was famous for supporting major scientific breakthroughs. It was in this laboratory that James Chadwick discovered the neutron, John Cockcroft bombarded lithium with highly-energized protons with the help of a particle accelerator to develop the atomic model of particles, and Patrick Blackett used cloud chambers to produce electron pairs through gamma radiation. It was a haven for scientists who wanted to use technology to change our understanding of the physical world. In the 1931-32 semester, Bhabha was awarded with the Salomons  Studentship in Engineering, and in 1932, he got a first class Mathematical Tripos, and was also awarded  the Rouse Ball travelling studentship in mathematics.

At that time, nuclear physics was an interest for the great minds in those times. The competition of nuclear physics was theoretical physics, however, scientists offered a strong argument of that case,  pointing out that theoretical physics was just about theories and speculation, while nuclear physics relies on experimentation and the  ability to either save or destroy lives. Marie Curie used radioactivity to save  many lives during the First World War, and Piara Singh Gill was also an Indian pioneer in nuclear physics. Homi was intrigued by this science, as it dealt with radioactive elements that decayed to provide clues about the subatomic model, and experimented with it many times. Many other scientists also  switched from theoretical physics to nuclear physics.

In 1933, Bhabha published his first paper, ‘The Absorption of Cosmic Rays’, as part of his PhD in nuclear physics and was also honored with the Isaac Newton Studentship for the same. In 1934, he completed  his doctorate in theoretical physics. During his time at Cambridge, his time was divided between  university and collaboration with Niels Bohr, a famous physicist in Copenhagen. He also published an article on electron-positron scattering in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A. It was renamed Bhabha scattering due to his contribution in the field. These scatterings also helped verify Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Bhabha stayed in London until he went to India for their annual term holiday. As World War II broke out at this point of time, Bhabha could not return to England and stayed back in India.

During his time here, Bhabha received an invitation from the Indian Institution of Sciences by C.V. Raman to head the lectures there. He also managed to convince Congress leaders like Nehru to initiate an ambitious nuclear project as a national agenda. Bhabha set up the Cosmic Ray Research Unit in 1944 to work on this idea, and later in 1945 he set up the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. After
India’s independence, Bhabha set up the Atomic Energy Commision. By this time he was a well-known name in India and was already awarded the Adams Prize in 1942. In 1948, Nehru made Bhabha the head of all nuclear research in India and asked him to start making nuclear weapons. By the 1950s, Bhabha was nominated for the Nobel Prize five times, headed IAEA meetings, and served as the Indian Representative at the UN Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy. However, he continued his development on nuclear weapons, and soon after the Sino-India war, he began to push aggressively towards this huge  power-play. It was during this time that one of his students at the Indian Institute of Science, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, also launched India’s first rocket.

Bhabha received international fame due to his work on electron scattering, also worked in other fields, and made great advancements in nuclear technology. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1954.
Now, after Nehru’s death, Bhabha started his greatest project; making India’s first atomic bomb. India did not have the required amount of uranium for this task, but Bhabha had an idea. India was rich in depleted uranium and thorium. If the depleted uranium is mixed with thorium, it could be used to make plutonium, a mineral that could be used in A-bombs. In 1964, Pakistan declared war on India, but India’s then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, attended peace talks in Tashkent. However, he died in 1966 in Tashkent. By now, Homi had made many enemies by rival nuclear states like the U.S. and its  surveillance agency, the CIA which allegedly wanted to eliminate Homi.
Soon, Homi was attending a meeting in Geneva and travelling via Air India Flight 101 for the same. The aircraft was going over Mont Blanc, when the pilot suddenly went down, and the plane crashed in Mont Blanc, killing all the passengers including Bhabha. He died in the year 1966. Some people claim that it was a deliberate assassination by the CIA.

Even though Bhabha is dead, he is remembered among the Indian masses today as a symbol of genius and righteousness. He remains one of India’s most remarkable personages till date.

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