New Delhi, Jul 27: Popularly called the "Missile Man" of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam rose from humble beginnings and earned the reputation of being the "people's President" who endeared himself to all all sections, especially the young.
A devout Muslim and son of a boatowner, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, who assumed office as the 11th President on July 18, 2002, was seen as a figurehead who could help heal some of the scars of the communal riots which broke out in Gujarat just a few months before. [Abdul Kalam no more: Nation mourns death of its beloved 'Missile Man']
The country's first bachelor President, Kalam, whose flowing grey hair is seen as being at odds with what Indians thought a president ought to look like, was one amongst the most respected people of the country who contributed immensely both as a scientist and as a president. [APJ Abdul Kalam passes away: What happened at IIM Shillong?]
Acknowledged as the driving force behind India's quest for cutting-edge defence technologies, Kalam's contributions to India's satellite programmes, guided and ballistic missiles project, nuclear weapons programme and the Light Combat Aircraft(LCA) project made him a household name.
Born and raised in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu on October 15, 1931, Kalam, who is known for having a unique style, joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) after studying physics and aerospace engineering after graduating from Madras Institute of Technology.
Mainly focusing on research in defence and space arena, he later involved himself in the India's missile programme. His contribution to the ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology earned him the named as the "Missile Man of India".
Kalam, who received seveeral prestigious awards including Bharat Ratna, played a crucial role when India tested its nuclear weapons at Pokhran in 1998 when the Vajpayee government was in power.
A vegetarian bachelor, Kalam was quoted as saying that like most of the technology he spearheaded, he himself was "Made in India", having never been trained abroad.
Kalam succeeded K R Narayanan and served a full five-year term from 2002 until 2007 after he won the Presidential elections which was a highly one-sided contest with Lakshmi Sahgal, a revolutionary of the Indian Independence movement, as his rival.
He secured the backing of all political parties. With his appointment, Kalam became the first scientist and first ever bachelor to occupy the Rastrapati Bhawan.