Prof. Satish Dhawan (1972-1984)

Prof. Satish Dhawan (25 September 1920–3 January 2002) was an Indian rocket scientist who was born in Srinagar, India and educated in India and the United States. He is considered by the Indian scientific community to be the father of experimental fluid dynamics research in India and one of the most eminent researchers in the field of turbulence and boundary layers.

He succeeded Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of the Indian space programme, as Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1972. He was also the Chairman of the Space Commission and Secretary to the Government of India in 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..

Even while 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 popular professor at the Indian Institute of Science, (IISc) located in Bangalore. He is credited for setting up the first supersonic wind tunnel in India at IISc. He also pioneered research on relaminarization of separated boundary layer flows, three-dimensional boundary layers and trisonic flows.

Prof. Satish 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 Indian satellite launch centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, located about 100 km north of Chennai in South India was renamed as the Prof. Satish Dhawan Space Centre.



University of the Punjab in Lahore (undivided India at that time and now in Pakistan)

BA in Mathematics and Physics, 

MA in English Literature 

BE in Mechanical Engineering, 1945 

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

MS in Aeronautical Engineering,1947 

California Institute of Technology,

Aeronautical Engineer’s Degree, 1949 

PhD in Aeronautics and Mathematics,1951, (with Prof Hans W. Liepmann as his advisor)

Date of birth

25 September 1920(1920-09-25) Srinagar, India

National Recognition:

Padma Vibhushan, Indira Gandhi Award


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Indian Space Research Organization, Indian Institute of Science,California Institute of Technology, National Aerospace laboratories, Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian Space Commission.

Doctoral advisor:

Dr.Hans W. Liepmann.

Known for

Indian space program.


Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

  • Senior Scientific Officer, 1951
  • Professor and Head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering, 1955
  • Director, 1962-1981

California Insititute of Technology, USA

  • Visiting Professor, 1971-72

National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore, India

  • Chairman,Research council, 1984-93

Indian Academy of Sciences

  • President, 1977-1979

Indian Space Research Organisation

  • Chairman, 1972-1984

Indian Space Commission

  • Chairman, 1972-1984


  • 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