Pakistan’s only Nobel Laureate Dr Abdus Salam’s 15th death anniversary on Monday was not commemorated in the country.
The Physics genius was born in a small town Jhang on January 29, 1926, a little over 85 years ago.
In 1979, Salam shared the Nobel Prize with Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow for the historic unification of the weak nuclear force with the electromagnetic force.
He faced discrimination in Pakistan because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya community, to the extent that the word ‘Muslim’ was erased from his tombstone on court orders. Pakistan did not give its only Nobel laureate a state funeral and the media too abstained from it.
He researched in elementary particle physics for more than 40 years and 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.
Dr Salam returned to Pakistan in 1951 for teaching mathematics at Government College Lahore. In 1954, Salam left his native country for a lectureship at Cambridge University, and since then visited Pakistan as adviser on science policy.
He founded the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy in 1964.The aim of the institute has been to provide expertise to scientists in the developing world. He used his share of the Nobel Prize entirely for scientists from developing countries and did not spend a penny of it on himself or his family. The money he received from the Atoms for Peace Medal was spent on setting up a fund for young Pakistani physicists to visit the ICTP.
United Nations assignments
He was also the Scientific Secretary Geneva Conferences on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (1955 and 1958), Elected Member of the Board of Governors, TAEA, Vienna (1962-63), Member, UN Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (1964-75), Elected Chairman UN Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (1971-1972), Member UN Panel and Foundation Committee for the UN University (1970-73), Member UN University Advisory Committee (1981-83), Member Council University of Peace (Costa Rica) (1981-86) and Elected Chairman Unesco Advisory Panel on Science, Technology and Society (1988).
In Pakistan, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz (1959), Pride of Performance Award (1959) and the Order of Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1979).
He died on November 21, 1996 at the age of 70 in Oxford after a long illness.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2011.