Bhabha, Homi

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BHABHA, HOMI (1909–1966), physicist, first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India Born in Mumbai (Bombay) as the son of a distinguished Parsi family, Homi Jehangir Bhabha proved to be exceptionally talented, reading Albert Einstein's theory of relativity at the age of fifteen. At Cambridge University, he first completed studies in the mechanical sciences in 1930, then switched to physics. He did research on cosmic rays and became known for the Bhabha-Heitler cascade theory of electron showers (1937) and for his classical theory of spinning particles. In 1939 he returned to India for a holiday but was prevented from returning to England by the outbreak of World War II. He was appointed to a professorship of cosmic rays research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, where he worked with Nobel laureate C. V. Raman. In 1940 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society. In 1944 he approached the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and asked for support for an institute of fundamental research, which was established in Mumbai as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in 1945. In his letter to the Tata Trust, he had already referred to the importance of nuclear energy. His talent and vision attracted the attention of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru; Bhabha became the first chairman of the newly created Atomic Energy Commission and started building reactors at Trombay near Mumbai. The first one, called Apsara, was started in 1955, soon to be joined by Cirus, a Canadian-Indian joint venture. The Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment was thus already in operation before it was formally inaugurated in 1957. It was renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 1967.

Bhabha was not an advocate of the atom bomb, influenced perhaps by Mahatma M. K. Gandhi's strong aversion to the bomb. He suggested to Nehru in 1955 that India should unilaterally renounce the production of atom bombs. Nehru replied that India should first have the ability to make a bomb—otherwise the renunciation would not be very convincing. Ten years later, Nehru's successor Lal Bahadur Shastri asked Bhabha, in view of the Chinese tests of 1964, whether Indian scientists could manage an underground test. Bhabha did not live to see any further development in this field; he was killed in an air crash in 1966 in Mont Blanc, Switzerland.

Dietmar Rothermund


Cockroft, John, and M. G. K. Menon. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, 1909–1966. London: Royal Institution of Great Britain, 1967.

Deshmukh, Cintamani. Homi Bhabha. Mumbai: Granthali, 1994.

"Homi Jehangir Bhabha." Available at <>

Kulkarni, R. P., and V. Sarma. Homi Bhabha: Father of Nuclear Science in India. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1969.