Born in Mecca where his forefathers had settled during the 1857 Revolt, Abul Kalam Azad came with his parents to India in 1898. Settled in Calcutta, he began participating in the freedom struggle by associating himself with the revolutionaries during the swadeshi uprising.
Through Al Hilal and Al Balagh, weeklies which he began in 1912 and 1915 respectively, he started spreading nationalistic thoughts. He came in contact with Gandhi and began lending support to the non-cooperation agitation. He was made the head of the Khilafat Committee as well. He presided over the Congress' special session at Delhi in 1923 to become the youngest President. He was again elected President of the Congress at its Ramgarh session in 1940. He remained President as no session was held in the five following years. Abdul Kalam Azad headed the Jamiat ul Ulema as President in 1924, and the Nationalist Muslim Conference five years later in the same capacity.
Confined to the Ahmednagar fort after his arrest along with other leaders in 1942, Maulana Azad participated in the Simla Conference after his release. He also negotiated with the British Cabinet Mission in 1946 for India's independence. He was made a member of the Constituent Assembly and became Minister of Education and Arts in the interim government.
After India's independence, he was first appointed minister in charge of education and later given the portfolios of natural resources and scientific research. His many note- Worthy contributions in free India include setting up of the University and the Secondary Education Commission and the University Grants Commission, reorganization of the All India Council for Technical Education, developing the Indian Institute of Science, and setting up the Kharagpur Institute of Technology and many scientific research laboratories.