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Old Saturday, November 22, 2008
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Remembering Dr Salam

Nov 21 was Dr Abdus Salam’s 12th death anniversary. It is a pity that as a nation we do not give him the respect and honour that he deserves.

Prof M S Khalid
Jhang



The unsung Prof Salam
by Farhatullah Babar

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twelve years ago Pakistan’s only and the Muslim world’s first Nobel laureate Professor Abdus Salam passed into eternity on November 21, 1996. Salam was chased and hounded both in life and in death. Even when dead and buried the pious ones could not tolerate the tombstone inscription that read, "Abdus Salam the First Muslim Nobel Laureate". A brigade of the pious performed the holy task of rubbing off 'Muslim’ from the tombstone as a magistrate dutifully looked on.

When alive he was shunned and his achievements ridiculed. His admirers had organized a function in Islamabad to honour him on his seventieth birthday as he lay on his deathbed in London. The pious ones protested. "Any function held to honour Salam would amount to defaming Pakistan", the Aalmi Majlis-i -Tahaffuz-i-Khatm-i-Nabbuwat warned. They also demanded that a case be instituted against Salam for 'ridiculing Pakistan’.

When the press clippings were put up to the then prime minister, Shaheed Mohtarma Bhutto, she simply wrote on it 'rubbish’ and asked that the function be held. Not only that, she also wrote a personal letter to Salam on his 70th birthday recalling his services to science and Pakistan and the honour he had brought to the country, which 'will never be forgotten’ and asked the then high commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, to personally deliver the letter with a flower bouquet from her.

The custodians of morality also greeted with contempt the Nobel Prize that was awarded to him in 1979. In the Eid sermon that year the imam of the Lal Masjid in the federal capital, said that Salam had been honoured by the Jews and the enemies of Islam because he was a non-Muslim.

After the Nobel Award the Physics department of the Quaid-i-Azam University wanted to invite him but was not allowed by the administration fearing extremists’ reaction. He gave the lecture at the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) far away from the reach of detractors. The special convocation for awarding him doctorate degree was also not held in the university campus, but in the old parliament building in Islamabad. Islamic expressions in his address were deleted from the reports by the official media as that was the norm under Zia’s bigoted dispensation.

After a long period during which extremists played bluff and bluster a commemorative stamp has finally been issued and a department in his alma mater, the Government College Lahore, now a university, is also named after him.’

Professor Salam took all criticism of the fanatics in normal stride. "If you consider me to be a non-Muslim, it is your problem", he once said. "But permit me to lay a brick in the mosque you want to build." But they did not want him to lay even a brick.

Salam’s most impressive contribution for the promotion of science in developing countries has been the setting up of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste in Italy in 1964. He wanted to set up the Centre in Pakistan but Ayub Khan’s financial advisors rejected the idea forcing him to set it up in Italy.

Unsung in his own country, Professor Salam was widely acclaimed worldwide. The Centre he established in Italy was named after him. A moving eulogy was read out on his first death anniversary that said:

"On the occasion of the first year anniversary of the death of Abdus Salam, let us celebrate the accomplishments of this extraordinary man and let us honour his memory by renaming the Institution to which he devoted so much of his intelligence and energy, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics. It’s the right thing to do for both the man and the institution."

When he received the Nobel Prize in 1979, Indira Gandhi immediately invited him but he declined to visit India before first visiting his home country. He spurned offers to become a British or Italian national. Later he visited India but only to seek his primary school mathematics teacher who was still alive. Reverently Salam put his Nobel gold medal around the neck of his maths teacher.

During his visit to Beijing, the Chinese Academy hosted a dinner in his honour. Breaking all protocol the Chinese president also came to attend the dinner to honour Salam.

Until 1979 scientists believed that there were four fundamental forces that drove every thing in the universe. Salam’s work proved that two of these four forces were actually one and the same. The number of fundamental forces was thus reduced to three. Salam believed that actually one single force drove the universe and that some day someone will be able to prove that the three remaining fundamental forces were one and the same.

When asked as to what he thought was the inspiration behind the great idea, which had earned him the Nobel Prize, Salam said, "Whenever faced with two competing theories for the same set of observation I have always found that the theory which was more aesthetically satisfying is also the correct one". He said he drew inspiration from this verse of the Quran, which says,

"Thou will see not in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection,

Return thy gaze; Do you see thou any fissure?

Then return thy gaze again, and again,

And thy gaze comes back to thee dazzled and weary".


Towards the end, Salam was afflicted with a rare disease of the nerves that gradually took its toll. Finally he was unable to talk even as he fully understood what was being said to him.

May his soul rest in eternal peace!



The writer, a former senator, is spokesperson for the PPP.

Email: drkhshan@isb.comsats.net.pk


Source: The News

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Abdus Salam - The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979

Abdus Salam was born in Jhang, a small town in what is now Pakistan, in 1926. His father was an official in the Department of Education in a poor farming district. His family has a long tradition of piety and learning.

When he cycled home from Lahore, at the age of 14, after gaining the highest marks ever recorded for the Matriculation Examination at the University of the Punjab, the whole town turned out to welcome him. He won a scholarship to Government College, University of the Punjab, and took his MA in 1946. In the same year he was awarded a scholarship to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took a BA (honours) with a double First in mathematics and physics in 1949. In 1950 he received the Smith's Prize from Cambridge University for the most outstanding pre-doctoral contribution to physics. He also obtained a PhD in theoretical physics at Cambridge; his thesis, published in 1951, contained fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics which had already gained him an international reputation.

Salam returned to Pakistan in 1951 to teach mathematics at Government College, Lahore, and in 1952 became head of the Mathematics Department of the Punjab University. He had come back with the intention of founding a school of research, but it soon became clear that this was impossible. To pursue a career of research in theoretical physics he had no alternative at that time but to leave his own country and work abroad. Many years later he succeeded in finding a way to solve the heartbreaking dilemma faced by many young and gifted theoretical physicists from developing countries. At the ICTP, Trieste, which he created, he instituted the famous "Associateships" which allowed deserving young physicists to spend their vacations there in an invigorating atmosphere, in close touch with their peers in research and with the leaders in their own field, losing their sense of isolation and returning to their own country for nine months of the academic year refreshed and recharged.

In 1954 Salam left his native country for a lectureship at Cambridge, and since then has visited Pakistan as adviser on science policy. His work for Pakistan has, however, been far-reaching and influential. He was a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a member of the Scientific Commission of Pakistan and was Chief Scientific Adviser to the President from 1961 to 1974.

Since 1957 he has been Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London, and since 1964 has combined this position with that of Director of the ICTP, Trieste.

For more than forty years he has been a prolific researcher in theoretical elementary particle physics. He has either pioneered or been associated with all the important developments in this field, maintaining a constant and fertile flow of brilliant ideas. For the past thirty years he has used his academic reputation to add weight to his active and influential participation in international scientific affairs. He has served on a number of United Nations committees concerned with the advancement of science and technology in developing countries.

To accommodate the astonishing volume of activity that he undertakes, Professor Salam cuts out such inessentials as holidays, parties and entertainments. Faced with such an example, the staff of the Centre find it very difficult to complain that they are overworked.

He has a way of keeping his administrative staff at the ICTP fully alive to the real aim of the Centre - the fostering through training and research of the advancement of theoretical physics, with special regard to the needs of developing countries. Inspired by their personal regard for him and encouraged by the fact that he works harder than any of them, the staff cheerfully submit to working conditions that would be unthinkable here at the (International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (IAEA). The money he received from the Atoms for Peace Medal and Award he spent on setting up a fund for young Pakistani physicists to visit the ICTP. He uses his share of the Nobel Prize entirely for the benefit of physicists from developing countries and does not spend a penny of it on himself or his family.

Abdus Salam is known to be a devout Muslim, whose religion does not occupy a separate compartment of his life; it is inseparable from his work and family life. He once wrote: "The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah's created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart."

The biography was written by Miriam Lewis, now at IAEA, Vienna, who was at one time on the staff of ICTP (International Centre For Theoretical Physics, Trieste).

Source: Nobelprize.org

------------------------------------------------

Who says PAKISTAN is a failed nation? May Allah rest his soul in peace & bless him in the world hereafter, Ameen!

Any criticism will be deleted. Share your feelings towards Dr. Abdus Salam & and give him the tribute that he deserves.

Proud to be a PAKISTANI!
__________________
P.R.

Last edited by Princess Royal; Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 05:37 AM.
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