Born in 1931 in Rameshwaram, a quiet coastal fishing village in the south India into a fisherman family, he pursued his studies in physics and aerospace engineering. Thereon, he joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian organisation under the defence ministry. He later went on to join the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)- the Indian equivalent of NASA, where he became the project director of India's first satellite launch vehicle (SLV III).
Kalam in the 1970s oversaw the development of India's ballistic missile technology. He went on to head India's guided missile programme over the years and was the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of India. In the 1990s, he was the main scientist in charge of India's thermonuclear bomb project- the Pokhran II that saw nuclear tests in May 1998, a role he was so popular in that he was called the 'Missile Man of India'.
He was elected President of India in 2002 when he revolutionized the office making it more open to the public, thus earning the nickname the 'People's President'. He stepped down in 2007 not wishing to be elected for a second term but rather wishing to return to civilian life. He was popular among young children and the youth and made ways to reach out to them by way of lectures and visits.
In his post presidential years he was a visiting professor across various academic and research institutions across India. He penned many books including his bestseller autobiography 'Wings of Fire'. He believed his work on India's nuclear programme was in India's interest to assert its position as a future superpower. Kalam was awarded many other medals including the King Charles II medal, the Von Braun award and honorary doctorates from many universities.
A seven day mourning has been declared by the Government of India on the occasion of passing away of Dr. Abdul Kalam.