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Homi Nusserwanji Sethna
Born(1923-08-24)24 August 1923
Died5 September 2010(2010-09-05) (aged 87)
Mumbai, India
Nationality British India (1923-1947)
 India (1947-2010)
Alma materUniversity Department of Chemical Technology
University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Known forIndian nuclear programme
Smiling Buddha
Operation Shakti
AwardsPadma Shri (1959)
Padma Bhushan (1966)
Padma Vibhushan (1975)
Scientific career
FieldsChemical Engineering
InstitutionsAtomic Energy Commission of India
Homi Sethna
Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India
In office
Preceded byVikram Sarabhai
Succeeded byRaja Ramanna
Sheriff of Mumbai
In office
Preceded bySaad Alim Bagban
Succeeded byBakul Rajani Patel

Homi Nusserwanji Sethna (24 August 1923 – 5 September 2010) was an Indian nuclear scientist and a chemical engineer, gaining international fame as the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (India) during the time when the first nuclear test, codename Smiling Buddha in Pokhran Test Range in 1974 was conducted.[1][2] He was the primary and central figure in India's civilian nuclear program as well as the construction of nuclear power plants. In 1991, he was appointed as Sheriff of Mumbai.

He was awarded the second highest civilian award the Padma Vibhushan in 1975, by Government of India.

Earlier in his career, he had full technical responsibility for setting up of the Thorium extraction plant at Alwaye, Kerala India, for separation of rare earth from monazite sands.

Early life and education

Sethna was born to a Parsi family on 24 August 1923 in Bombay (now Mumbai).[3] He did his schooling from St. Xavier's High School, Fort, Bombay.[4] He studied chemical engineering at University Department of Chemical Technology and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Homi Sethna's younger brother was the noted lawyer Rusi Sethna. Incidentally, Rusi Sethna's daughter, Behrouz Mistry, is the wife of Shapoorji Mistry, elder son of Pallonji Mistry and elder brother of Cyrus Mistry.


He was formerly Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, in 1976 he became the first chairman of Maharashtra Academy of Sciences, located in Pune, Maharashtra.

Head of Trombay Nuclear Facility

He completed the construction of the Thorium plant and the plant for the production of nuclear grade uranium metal at Trombay, India. His first major challenging assignment was the setting up of the Plutonium Plant at Trombay in 1959. This was designed and constructed entirely by Indian scientists and engineers under H. N. Sethna as the Project Engineer. The Uranium Mill at Jaduguda, Jharkhand was also constructed under his guidance in 1967. He was also the Project Manager of a 40 MW reactor called Canada-India Reactor in 1956–58.

Indian atomic test of 1974

He was the guiding force behind the first peaceful nuclear explosion, Project Smiling Buddha in India on 18 May 1974,[5] and in 1975, Homi Sethna, then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Raja Ramanna and Basanti Dulal Nagchaudhuri (head of the DRDO) received the Padma Vibhushan.



  1. ^ Laxman, Srinivas (7 September 2010). "Homi Sethna, nuclear legend, passes away". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012.
  2. ^ "Homi Sethna passes away". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 7 September 2010. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010.
  3. ^ "Dr Homi Sethna: The man who powered India's nuclear dream". 6 September 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  4. ^ Notable alumni Archived 3 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine St. Xavier's High School, Fort - Official website.
  5. ^ 'He visualised a lively picture of a powerful India' - Interview/Dr Homi Sethna, 27 January 2006.
  6. ^ a b "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  7. ^ Padma Vishushan Archived 31 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine Official listings.