By Mahjabeen Malik
Father of Pakistan’s school of Theoretical Physics and Science, Professor Doctor Abdus Salam was born on 29 January in 1926 in a Jhang Pakistan. His father Chaudhry Muhammad Husain was working in the Department of Education at time of Salam’s birth. His family was so traditional and religion-bound. He was Ahmadiyya according to his religious beliefs. His father Chaudhry Muhammad Husain was a school teacher and mother Hajira Husain was a simple housewife. He composed Holy Qur’an and often he quoted the verses of Holy Qur’an during his speech.
Abdus Salam was a brilliant student from his early childhood. His early education started from Jhang (a city in Punjab Pakistan). He always stood 1st in his class. When he got a distinction in his matriculation examination at the University of Punjab, the whole town came to greet him. He did BA honours with double 1st in physics and mathematics in 1949. He achieved a scholarship in his master degree class. He got the Smith’s Prize from Cambridge University for the stupendous pre-doctoral contribution to physics. He achieved a PhD in theoretical physics at Cambridge. He acquired international recognition on his work in quantum electrodynamics.
Professor doctor Abdus Salam got two marriages and he had six children (three daughters and a son from his first spouse and a son and a daughter from the second spouse). His first wife was his cousin Amtul Hafeez who was the sister of col.G.M Iqbal. He married his cousin on 19th August 1949 and he married to Louis Johnson in a Muslim wedding in London in 1968.
Dr Abdus Salam had joined Government College Lahore in 1951; just after one year, he became the head of the Mathematics Department of the Punjab University in 1952. He wanted to build a school of research but he soon realized that it was not possible. To achieve his goal in theoretical physics he had to leave his country and went abroad for the sake of his research work. In an interview Salam said,
“I returned to Cambridge in 1954 as a lecturer and Fellow of St. John’s College. Three years later, I accepted a professorship at Imperial College, London, where I succeeded in establishing one of the best theoretical physics groups in the world”
Ultimately, he succeeded in finding the solution to the dilemma faced by a number of students and theoretical physicists from developing countries. He developed a popular and effective “Associateships” for the students and young physicists so that they could spend their vacations there in a vigorous environment.
He went for a lectureship at Cambridge in 1954 but he had been paying visits to Pakistan and also worked for his dear homeland. He had been an active member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and a member of Scientific Commission of Pakistan and was Chief Scientific Advisor to the President from 1961 to 1974. He had offered his services as a professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London for many years. He had also been working with the director of the ICTP, Trieste. In 1970, Salam assisted setting up Pakistan’s first nuclear power plant in Karachi with the help of Canadian and Pakistani engineers.
A Prolific Researcher
Abdus Salam was an inexhaustible researcher in theoretical elementary particle physics. More than forty years, he had been a researcher. He was the excellent researcher of physics and mathematics who introduced many brilliant ideas. He had also served for the development of science and technology in developing countries on various committees of the United Nation. On winning the prize in 1974 Salam said,
“The pinnacle of my physics career came in 1979 when I shared the Nobel Physics Prize with Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg for our unification of electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force in the ‘electroweak’ (a word which I invented in 1978) theory, one of the major achievements of twentieth-century physics. This theory had made predictions that could be verified by experiment. The most revealing of these was that a new particle exists at extreme energies. To test this theory we had to convince the experimental physicists working on the great particle accelerators to build new equipment: To create, in principle, conditions that would be similar to those first few moments in the birth of the universe”
Administrative Qualities and Donation
Professor doctor Abdus Salam had good administrative qualities. He managed to keep his administrative staff at the ICTP- developing through training and research on the improvement of theoretical physics. He donated all his money, received from the Atoms for Peace Medal and Award, for the betterment of young Pakistani physicists. He did a great job for the young physicists of all developing countries.
Abdus Salam expired at the age of seventy. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and had become frail and weak towards the end of his life. He kicked the bucket on November 21, 1996. He was buried in Bahishti Maqbara established by Ahmadiyya community at Rabwah, Punjab Pakistan. Salam’s journey from Jhang to the peripheries of scientific knowledge is a marvel in itself. He will be remembered fondly by the global scientific community at large.