Satish Satish Dhawan, the man who shaped India’s space program was born in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir. Dhawan, who oversaw the successful and homegrown development of the Indian space program, was one of the most renowned researchers in the field of turbulence and boundary layers, recognized as the "Father of Experimental Fluid Dynamics Research." On this day of remembrance for his passing, let's explore his life, invention, contributions, and more.
The date of Satish Dhawan's birth was September 25, 1920. He earned a Bachelor of Science in physics and mathematics, a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, and a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of Punjab in Lahore, British India (now in Pakistan). He earned a Master of Science in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1947. He then went on to earn a degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and in 1951, under the guidance of his advisor Hans W. Liepmann, he earned a dual Ph.D. in mathematics and aerospace engineering.
He was married to cytogeneticist Nalini Dhawan. His daughter Jyotsna Dhawan is a Senior Principal Scientist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.
What is the role of Satish Dhawan in ISRO?
Dhawan began working at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, in 1951 as a faculty member and rose to the position of director in 1962. Even though he was in charge of the Indian space program, he made significant contributions to boundary layer research. The ground-breaking book Boundary Layer Theory by Hermann Schlichting contains a summary of his most significant contributions. At IISc, he built the nation's first supersonic wind tunnel. Additionally, he was a pioneer in the study of trisonic flows, three-dimensional boundary layers, and separated boundary layer flows.
Later in 1972, Dr. Dhawan was appointed secretary to the Government of India at the Department of Space and chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In the past, he is said to have solely accepted responsibility for the failure of the Satellite Launch Vehicle mission in 1979. But when the team was successful, he gave credit to his team, portraying himself as the perfect team leader.
Dhawan conducted groundbreaking studies in satellite communications, remote sensing, and rural education. His work produced functioning systems such as the Indian Remote Sensing satellite (IRS), the INSAT communications satellite, and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which elevated India to the ranks of spacefaring countries.
What did Satish Dhawan invent or his contributions?
The most significant contributions made by Satish Dhawan are summarised in Hermann Schlichting's seminal work, Boundary Layer Theory. At IISc, he built the nation's first supersonic wind tunnel. Additionally, he was a pioneer in the study of trisonic flows, three-dimensional boundary layers, and separated boundary layer flows. His other notable accomplishments include the following:
- 1953: "Direct measurements of skin friction", Technical Report 1121, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Washington DC.
- 1958; "Some properties of boundary layer flow during the transition from laminar to turbulent motion", Journal of Fluid Mechanics
- 1967: "Aeronautical Research in India", (22nd British Commonwealth Lecture), Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
- 1982: "A glimpse of fluid mechanics research in Bangalore 25 years ago", in India: Surveys in fluid mechanics, Indian Academy of Sciences
- 1988: Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology, Indian Academy of Sciences.
- 1991: "Bird flight", Sadhana Proceedings in Engineering Sciences, Indian Academy of Sciences.
- 2000: Special Section on Instabilities, transitions, and turbulence, Current Science
Awards & Recognition
- Padma Vibhushan (India's second highest civilian honor), 1981
- Padma Bhushan (India's third highest civilian honor), 1971
- Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration, 1999
- Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indian Institute of Science
- Distinguished Alumnus Award, California Institute of Technology, 1969
Dhawan passed away on January 3, 2002, in Bangalore. The Satish Dhawan Space Centre was renamed in his honor after he passed away, located in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, about 100 kilometers north of Chennai in South India. He has a college named after him in Ludhiana called Satish Chander Dhawan Government College for Boys. He is also honored with the Satish Dhawan Block, IIT Ropar moniker for the Department of Mechanical Engineering Building at the institute. In 2019, the Uttar Pradesh Textile Technology Institute in Kanpur was also named after him as Prof. SATISH Dhavan Computer Centre.