Born in 1933 in Pune, Gowariker completed his graduation from Kolhapur. After completing his post-graduation in science as an external student, he took his PhD from Birmingham University in the UK.
It was Sarabhai who brought him back to India to join a small team of scientists involved in space research at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala way back in 1965.
Gowariker has narrated a number of times about the adverse conditions in Thumba in the initial days, and how the young scientists there used to share a small cattle shed there as a temporary shelter. He later became the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Center and was lauded by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi for his leadership in the successful launch of SLV III in 1983.
After becoming the science and technology secretary, Gowariker initiated the campaign for bringing scientists of Indian origin back to India. He also spearheaded the success story of India's monsoon model based on 16 parameters which helped predict monsoon accurately for a decade.
And while everyone else was complaining about India's growing population, Gowariker said that if the billion plus population was utilised judiciously, that would prove to be a great asset for the country. The present day buzz word – skill development – originated from one of Gowariker's initiatives. He served as president of Marathi Vidyan Parishad and was also president of Rajiv Gandhi Science and Technology Commission of the state government. He also served as scientific adviser to the prime minister between 1991 and 1993.
Gowarikar was awarded Padma Shri in 1984 and Padma Bhushan in 2008. He also received the Fie Foundation Award