Abdus Salam, the forgotten Nobel Laureate

Abdus_Salam_Nobel_PrizeOn this day in 1929, a boy was born in the small town of Jhang to Muhammad Hussain, a civil servant in the British India and Hajra. Starting from humble beginnings, this boy went to achieve the highest prize in Physics, the Nobel Prize. He did his early schooling from Jhang in the schools which didn’t even have chairs to sit or desk to write on. His humble beginnings could be realized from the fact that he didn’t see electricity until he was a teenager in Lahore. His academic performance helped him secure a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge from where he got a PhD degree in Theoretical Physics.

That man is Abdus Salam, the theoretical physicist who got the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his contribution to electroweak unification joining the likes of Albert Einstein and other famous physicists. His work helped us understand the basic elements of matter and how basic particles interact with each other. His work led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson for which another Nobel Prize was awarded in 2014. Along with his work on Electroweak unification, he also worked on renormalization theory and Supersymmetry. By 1963 he already had made a name for himself in the field of Physics as he was the youngest member of the Royal Society. President Ayub Khan appointed him as his Scientist advisor. His talent was also recognized by then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who summoned him along with all leading scientists of Pakistan to a meeting where he demanded them to start the atom bomb program. His contributions to the program helped Pakistan become a nuclear power state. He also founded the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy which today is one of the leading institutions for the scientists from the third world countries. In his honour a street has been named in Geneva, Switzerland.

While there are people who laud him for his achievements, there are many who refuse to recognize his achievements due to his religious beliefs. This is due to the fact that Abdus Salam was an Ahmadi and the parliament of Pakistan in 1974 declared all Ahmadis to be non Muslims. It is rather unfortunate that the children of Pakistan don’t get to read about Dr Abdus Samad in the schools while those people are praised in the school books who claim to be the “father of Pakistan’s atom bomb program” and sold nuclear secrets to other countries.

Although I agree Ahmadi beliefs contradict the teachings of Islam, Dr Salam regarded Islam and Quran as the inspiration for his work. He put his motivation for seeking unification of the forces from the concept of Tauheed which is the uniqueness of the God. He believed that he wouldn’t have been able to work on the subject had he not been a Muslim.

Unfortunately in Pakistan most people are debating whether he was a Muslim or not and not highlighting his achievements despite the fact that he was the first Nobel Laureate for Pakistan.

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