Kailasavadivoo Sivan is known as ‘sleepless scientist’ among his peers. On Saturday, Indians had lump in their throats as they watched Prime Minister Narendra Modi consoling a teary-eyed ISRO chief in an extremely emotional moment after Chandrayaan-2 heartbreak. The setback of missing the lunar touchdown by Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander is being seen as the brave attempt by India’s space agency. Social media is flooded with beautiful messages for ISRO and its scientists. On a day when India stands united with ISRO, we bring you the awe-inspiring journey of K Sivan. From paddy farms to the top of ISRO, his career is pure example of grit and determination.
Born on April 14, 1957 in a family of paddy farmer, Sivan spent his childhood years in studying and helping his father in fields. According to NDTV, Sivan reportedly said that he didn’t have sandals till he went to college. He never had trousers and used to wear dhotis. What helped him to get on path of science was his brilliance in mathematics. As his father was not able to pay high fees of engineering course, Sivan went on to pursue a Bachelors in mathematics at ST Hindu college in Nagercoil. His exceptional success helped him to get scholarship at the Madras Institute of Technology.
His father had to sell part of his agricultural land to fund his education at MIT. Sivan took up the study of aeronautical engineering at MIT. It was the same course, which was studied by former President APJ Abdul Kalam. “He (Kalam) was batch number four and I was batch number 29. Same subject but 25 years apart," Sivan was quoted as saying by a Mint report. He then went on to complete his ME in aerospace engineering from Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in 1980 and joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1982. Sivan completed his PhD in Aerospace engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 2006.
Nearly four decades after working at the space agency, Sivan was named as the ISRO chief in January, 2018. During his tenure at ISRO and affiliate organisations, Sivan has contributed to multiple programmes including the development of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project— called the workhorse of ISRO—and contributed towards mission planning, mission design, mission integration and analysis.