Bharat Ratna Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam born October 15, 1931, Tamil Nadu, India, usually referred to as Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, was the eleventh President of India, serving from 2002 to 2007. During his term as The President, he was popularly known as the People's President. Before his term as India's president, he worked as an engineer with DRDO and ISRO and was awarded India's highest civilian honor Bharat Ratna in 1997 for his work with ISRO and DRDO and his role as a scientific advisor to the Indian government. He is popularly known as the Missile Man of India for his work on development of ballistic missile and space rocket technology. In India he is highly respected as a Statist and as an Engineer. Kalam played a pivotal organizational, technical and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974. He is a professor at Anna University (Chennai) and adjunct/visiting faculty at many other academic and research institutions across India. Although he is an engineer he has received many honorary doctorate degrees. With the death of R. Venkataraman on January 27, 2009, Kalam became the only surviving former President of India. Kalam's father was a devout Muslim, who owned boats which he rented out to local fishermen and was a good friend of Hindu religious leaders and the school teachers at Rameshwaram. APJ Abdul Kalam mentions in his biography that to support his studies, he started his career as a newspaper vendor. This was also told in the book, A Boy and His Dream: Three Stories from the Childhood of Abdul Kalam by Vinita Krishna. The house Kalam was born in can still be found on the Mosque street in Rameshwaram, and his brother's curio shop abuts it. This has become a point-of-call for tourists who seek out the place. Kalam grew up in an intimate relationship with nature, and he says in Wings of Fire that he never could imagine that water could be so powerful a destroying force as that he witnessed when he was thirty three. That was in 1964 when a cyclonic storm swept away the Pamban bridge and a trainload of passengers with it and also Kalam's native village, Dhanushkodi. Kalam observes strict personal discipline, vegetarianism, teetotalism and celibacy. Kalam is a scholar of Thirukkural; in most of his speeches, he quotes at least one kural. Kalam has written several inspirational books, most notably his autobiography Wings of Fire, aimed at motivating Indian youth. Another of his books, Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose of Life reveals his spiritual side. He has written poems in Tamil as well. It has been reported that there is considerable demand in South Korea for translated versions of books authored by him. Dr. Kalam received an honorary doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University.
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