Homi Jehangir Bhabha: Father of the Indian Nuclear Program | AtomsTalk

Padma Bhushan Homi Jehangir Bhabha was an Indian nuclear physicist and is often considered the “father of the Indian nuclear power program”.

Early life

Bhabha was born on 30 October 1909 to a very wealthy and polished Parsi family in Bombay (now Mumbai).

He was the son of Jehangir Hormusji Bhabha, a well-known Parsi lawyer. Hormusji studied at Oxford University, England. After completing his studies as a lawyer, he joined the judiciary in the state of Mysore.

Homi Bhabha's father got married Meherbaidaughter Bhikaji Framji Pandey and grandson of the famous philanthropist, Dinshaw Petit of Mumbai.

(L to R) Homi Bhabha, Jehangir Bhabha, Meherbai Bhabha and Jamshed Bhabha (sitting on floor).
(L to R) Homi Bhabha, Jehangir Bhabha, Meherbai Bhabha and Jamshed Bhabha (sitting on floor). Credit: TIFR Archives

Homi Bhabha was named after her grandfather, Hormusji Bhabha who served as Inspector General of Education in Mysore.


He finished his early schooling at Bombay's Cathedral and John Connon School and completed his degree from Elphinstone College having passed his Senior Cambridge Examination with honours.

He also studied at the Royal Institute of Science in 1927. Later he joined Cambridge University, England as per the wishes of his father and his uncle Dorabji Tata and later he graduated in mechanical engineering and joined Tata Industries.

Since Bhaba started studying engineering as per the wishes of his father and his uncle Dorabji Tata, therefore he soon felt that engineering no longer interests him so turn to physics.

“I tell you seriously that business or the job of an engineer is not for me,” Bhabha wrote to his father in 1928.

“It is completely alien to my nature and radically opposed to my temperament and views. Physics is my line. I know I will do great things here.”

In another letter, Bhabha expressed to his father how much he loves physics and his passion for this subject can be felt.

“I burn with a desire to do physics. I will and must do it someday. That is my only ambition. I have no desire to be a “successful” man or the head of a large company.

There are intelligent people who like it and let them do it… It is no use saying to Beethoven, ‘You must be a scientist, because it is a great thing' when he did not care about science; or for Socrates: “Be an engineer: that is the work of an intelligent man.” It is not in the nature of things.

I therefore earnestly beg you to let me do physics.”
– Homi Jehangir Bhabha

Later, Bhabha received with the first class his doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Cambridge in 1934.


  • In 1933 he was awarded a doctorate in nuclear physics. His doctoral thesis was entitled ‘The absorption of cosmic rayswhich gave him the Newton studentship for three years. He completed his thesis under the mentorship of Ralph Fowler.
  • Homi J. Bhabha was the discoverer of ‘Bhabha spread‘. In 1935 he published a paper on electron-positron scattering which was highly appreciated by the scientific community and this phenomenon was later renamed Bhabha spread.
  • Homi Bhabha was the first to perform an accurate calculation of the process of electron-positron annihilation and the creation of the basic processes in quantum electrodynamics using Dirac's theory.
  • On his return to India in 1939, he became a Reader in the Physics Department of the Indian Institute of Science. Prominent scientist and Nobel laureate Dr CV Raman was head of the Department of Physics at the time.
  • Bhabha played a very important role in the development of Cosmic Research Unit at IISC and the establishment of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.
  • Bhabha was the first person to understand the coming significance of Nuclear power so he wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to convey that possession of few bombs will have no military significance and nuclear testing is imperative for India and asked him to start nuclear program in India.
  • After asking the Prime Minister to start a nuclear power program in India. He began his research on nuclear weapons to improve our country's military strength in 1944.
  • Bhabha set up Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in [1945[1945 and also set Atomic Energy Commission in 1948. He was also the first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Bhabha (right) at the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva
Bhabha (right) at the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva (Credits: Wikipedia)
  • In 1955, Homi J Bhabha represented India in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)as President of the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • He was an aggressive promoter and significant researcher of nuclear weapons for the country's defense.
  • He was a pioneer in use of Thorium and he began extracting uranium from thorium instead of relying on the limited reserves of uranium in India.
    Bhabha was the one behind India's nuclear power program in three stages.
  • Many educational institutions have been named after this prominent physicist, such as Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), Homi Bhabha National Institute and Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education.
    BARC (formerly known as Atomic Energy Establishment) is India's leading nuclear research facility in Bombay.
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Awards and recognitions

In 1942 he got Adam's Prizefrom Cambridge for a thesis on “The Theory of the Elementary Physical Particles and their Interactions.”

In 1948 he got Hopkins Prize from the Cambridge Philosophical Society.

It was in 1954 when he received the prestigious Padma Bhushan Award for his efforts in the field of science.

He was elected President of the First International Conference on the Peaceful Use of nuclear energy, held under the UN organization in 1955.

He was also chairman of International Union of Pure and Applied Physics from 1960 to 1963.

Homi Bhabha received honorary scholarship from various colleges names are as follows:

  • Gonville and Caius College 1957
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh in the same year 1957
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1959
  • National Academy of Science in the United States in 1963.

He also received an honorary doctorate in natural sciences from Patna in 1944, Fortunately in 1949, Banaras in 1950, Agra in 1952, Perth 1954, Allahabad 1958, Cambridge in 1959, London in 1960, Padova in 1961.


Homi Jehangir Bhabha passed away in one plane crash on Monday, January 24, 1966. Air India's Boeing 707 crashes on the Mont Blanc mountains in the Alps, unfortunately no one survived the crash. Homi was on his way to attend a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

It was a great loss to the scientific community of the world and our nation lost a pure gem.

Soon after his demise, legendary businessman JRD Tata paid tribute to this visionary by writing,

“Homi was one of those who made me believe that some men in human history are born with the stamp of predestination on them that leads them to achievements beyond ordinary human capabilities. Some of them and Homi, unfortunately, were also destined to die young, a unconscious premonition that drives them to the superhuman effort to complete their task in the short time allotted to them.”
—JRD Tata

Homi J. Bhabha within two decades he changed the scientific landscape of our nation. His great leadership and innovation will continue to inspire the young minds of this nation generation after generation. He embraced the vision of a new India.

Today our nation is one of the few nations around the world that can handle nuclear power and this would surely have been impossible without it Homi Jehangir Bhabha.

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