Dr Brahm Prakash is largely remembered in the country and abroad for his contributions in metallurgy. For ISRO he was the first Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre who inducted a vibrant culture in the Centre.
Prof Brahm Prakash was born on August 21, 1912 in Lahore (now in Pakistan). He did his college education in Chemistry and pursued his doctoral research in Punjab University. For his post-doctoral work, he was associated with the Indian scientist Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar. His brilliant scholastic records gave him the opportunity for advanced academic training from the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. At MIT, Prof Brahm Prakash took his second doctoral degree in the disciplines of Mineral Engineering and Metallurgical Thermodynamics.
On his return to India in 1949, he was chosen by Homi Bhabha to join as a metallurgist in the Atomic Energy Establishment (AEE). In 1951, he was deputed to become the first Indian to head the Department of Metallurgy at IISc, Bangalore. His stint at IISc (1951- 1957) paved the way for expansion of metallurgical education and research in India and perhaps decided his destiny itself. During this tenure, Prof Brahm Prakash was selected as one of the Scientific Secretaries for the first UN Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, held in Geneva in 1955.
From 1957 to 1972, Prof Brahm Prakash was closely associated with the atomic energy programmes of the country. Prof Brahm Prakash and his team achieved the commissioning of the fuel fabrication facility for the Canada-India reactor, CIRUS, in 1959. He made large and diverse contributions to the atomic energy programmes as Project Director, NFC, Hyderabad and Chairman of the Uranium Corporation of India and also to Defence production as Chairman, Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited or MIDHANI for the period from 1980 to 1984.
The first Director of VSSC
Prof Satish Dhawan and Prof Brahm Prakash knew each other closely since the time when they were sponsored students abroad, during 1944-1945. It was Prof Satish Dhawan who persuaded Prof Brahm Prakash to become the Director of VSSC when he had just finished his stay at BARC in 1972, perhaps at a time when the untimely death of the great legend Dr Sarabhai had left a large void in ISRO. Prof Brahm Prakash took over the reins of the Centre in May 1972 and remained as its revered Director till November 1979. When he assumed office of the Director, the Indian Space programme was in the early stages of growth. Several small units of ISRO viz TERLS, RPP, RFF, PFC and the erstwhile SSTC (Space Science and Technology Centre), were functional at Thiruvananthapuram. His scientific acumen, superb administrative and organisational abilities and even more his humane qualities of a consistently unruffled temperament and total composure helped in welding all these amorphous entities together to make VSSC a dynamic structure as it is today. He continued to be a Member of the Space Commission till the day of his demise.
The nation honoured him with Padma Shri in 1961 and with Padma Bhushan in 1968.
He passed away on January 3, 1984 at the age of 72.