In the international world of science, it seems all the great physicists hail from a few select countries, like America, Germany, and Great Britain. Few would think a great scientist could come out of Pakistan. Well, those people would be shocked to learn about Abdus Salam, arguably the greatest Pakistani scientist ever. Salam, a product of Cambridge University, produced many important theories and ideas to modern-day physics. After his Nobel Prize, he became one of Pakistan’s newest celebrity figures.
Abdus Salam was born on January 29, 1926 in Jhang Punjab, Pakistan to an officer in the Department of Education. Salam showed signs of his genius at an early age; at age 14, the Government College in Punjab awarded him a scholarship based on his record-setting exam scores. By the time he was 20, Salam graduated with a master’s degree from the Government College and got accepted into Cambridge University for mathematics and physics. Salam’s name became known throughout academia due to awards he received even before his thesis was complete. In 1951, Salam published his thesis, which established much of today’s quantum electrodynamics.
Pakistan’s Leading Scientist
Salam spent the rest of his life altering his time between teaching at Cambridge and building up Pakistan’s scientific community. Many of Pakistan’s leading scientific organizations, including its space agency, its scientific colleges, and its nuclear program, were either founded or run by Salam. He also set up two international organizations, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and the Third World Academy of Sciences, to increase scientific knowledge among developing nations. Salam believed scientific knowledge would decrease the gap between first world and third world countries. In addition to all this work, Salam worked as a professor at Cambridge and became the youngest member to join the Royal Society (age 33).
Although not the rule, many scientists are either atheist or agnostic. This causes contention between scientists and true religionists, as both sides can’t seem to see side to side. However, this doesn’t hold true with Abdus Salam. Salam was a very devout Muslim who found known contradiction between his scientific research and the Quran. In fact, Salam often wrote that scientific knowledge allowed Allah’s creations to see the world for all its beauty. Salam’s only brisk with religious confrontation came when Pakistan announced his ethnic group was no longer Muslim. In response, Salam moved to London in protest.
In 1996, after struggles with illness in his later life, Abdus Salam passed away at the age of 70. Over 30,000 people attended the funeral of the First Muslim Nobel Laureate. While Salam had been ignored and sometimes scorned by the country he helped so much, other scientists knew he loved Pakistan and they understand how much he benefited the country. In 1998, Pakistan focused Salam on its scientists stamp series. But, overall, Abdus Salam’s greatest legacy passes down to us in his scientific work, including, but not limited to, the electroweak theory, super geometry, and the neutrino theory. It is through these ideas that one of Pakistan’s greatest scientists lives on.