Glory of Bharath  »  Scientists of Bharath - Part Nineteen

SatishDhawan (25 September 1920 - 3 January 2002) was an Indian aerospace engineer, widely regarded as father of experimental fluid dynamics research in India. Born in Srinagar, Dhawan was educated in India and further on in the United States. Dhawan was one of the most eminent researchers in the field of turbulence and boundary layers, leading the successful and ingenious development of Indian space programme. He succeeded Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of the Indian space programme, as Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1972.

Dhawan was a graduate of University of the Punjab in Lahore, British India (now Pakistan), where he completed a Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics and Bachelors of Science in Physics, followed by a Master of Arts in Mathematics from the same institution. In 1943, he moved to United States to further his education. He attended University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and completed a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering. In 1947, he completed a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Aeronautical Engineer's Degree from California Institute of Technology (CIT), followed by a double PhD. in Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering under the supervision of his advisor Dr. Hans W. Liepmann 1951.

Chairman of ISRO
He was the Chairman of the Space Commission and Secretary to the Government of India at the Department of Space. In the decade following his appointment, he directed the Indian space programme through a period of extraordinary growth and spectacular achievement.Although he was the head of the Indian space programme, he devoted substantial efforts towards boundary layer research. His most important contributions are presented in the seminal book Boundary Layer Theory by Hermann Schlichting. He was a professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), located in Bangalore, where he set-up the country's first supersonic wind tunnel. He also pioneered research on relaminarization of separated boundary layer flows, three-dimensional boundary layers and trisonic flows.

Space Research
Dhawan carried out pioneering experiments in rural education, remote sensing and satellite communications. His efforts led to operational systems like INSAT, a telecommunications satellite; IRS, the Indian Remote Sensing satellite; and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), that placed India in the league of space faring nations.

Following his death in 2002, the satellite launch centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, located about 100 km north of Chennai in South India, was renamed the SatishDhawan Space Centre.


  • Padma Vibhushan (India's second highest civilian honour), 1981
  • Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration, 1999
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indian Institute of Science Distinguished Alumnus Award, California Insititute of Technology, 1969

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