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Death of a genius

DAWN, Friday 22 November 1996, Karachi, Pakistan 10 Rajab 1417

Omar R. Quraishi

KARACHI, Nov. 21: Dr Abdus Salam, Pakistan's internationally renowned scientist and scholar, died early on Thursday morning at his home in Oxford, England after a prolonged illness. He was the country's only Nobel Prize laureate having won the world's most prestigious award honouring scholarly achievement which he won in 1979.

His relatives in Karachi said he would have been 70 years old this coming Jan 29.

Dr Salam's sister told Dawn that contrary to what had been popularly thought, Dr Salam was born in the small village of Santok Das in Sahiwal district, and not in Jhang. She said they were seven brothers and she was the only sister.

Dr Salam is survived by a Pakistani wife by whom he had three daughters and a son, and an English wife by whom he had one son and one daughter.

Dr Salam's body will arrive in Lahore early Sunday morning and will be taken by relatives to Faisalabad and then onwards to Rabwah for burial. His sister said it was in his will that he be buried in Rabwah where their parents lay to rest.

Dr Salam's brilliant academic and scholarly career was capped in 1979 when he won the Nobel Prize for Physics for work in particle physics for "the prediction of the unification of the electromagnetic with the weak nuclear force."

Dr Salam was chief scientific advisor to the president of Pakistan from 1961 to 1974 and was the founder-chairman of the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Committee (SUPARCO). He was awarded Sitara-i-Pakistan and the Pride of Performance Medal in 1959, and the Order of Nishan-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan's highest civilian honour, in 1979.

In 1957, Dr Salam founded and headed the Theoretical Physics Department at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London and stayed in that position till 1993. Before that, at the age of 25, he became head of the department of mathematics at Punjab University, from 1951 to 1954.

In 1964, Dr Salam founded and became director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (established with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency of UNESCO and of the Italian government).

Dr Salam was a brilliant student throughout his academic life earning the top position in every exam at Punjab University. In 1946 he won the prestigious Foundation Scholarship to the University of Cambridge where he studied mathematics and physics at St John's College. He achieved a Double first in both subjects, winning the Wrangler Prize in Mathematics. He got a PhD in Theoretical Physics and did much of his research at the university's Cavendish Laboratories. In 1950, he was awarded Smith's Prize by Cambridge for "the most outstanding pre-doctoral contribution to Physics."

From 1954 to 1956 he lectured at Cambridge and was elected Fellow of St John's College from 1951 to 1956. In 1958, Dr Salam won the Hopkins Prize and the Adams Prize. In 1961 he became the first recipient of the Maxwell Medal and Award of the Physical Society, London. Three years later, he was awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society, London. In 1965, Dr Salam gave the prestigious Scott Lectures at Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge. In 1971 he won the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Medal and Prize from the University of Miami and in 1976 the Guthrie Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics in London.

In a short seven-year period from 1977 to 1983, Dr Salam won awards from the Calcutta University, the Accademia Nazionale di XL in Rome, the American Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, the Einstein Medal from UNESCO, from the Indian Physics Association, from the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.

Dr Salam also received awards from Italy, Bangladesh and from the Charles University in Prague for his efforts for the promotion of world peace. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, London, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and an honorary fellow of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. In 1983 Dr Salam founded the Third World Academy of Sciences and in 1986 he was elected Honorary Life Fellow of the London Physical Society.

He was one of the few foreign members of the influential American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Accademia Nazionale de Lincei in Rome, the European Academy of Science, Art and Humanities, and several other such organisations in Iraq, South Korea, Morocco, Bangladesh, Portugal, Poland, Ghana, Guatemala, Sweden and Venezuela.

Dr Salam was awarded honorary Doctor of Science degrees by 36 universities in 23 different countries. These institutions included his alma mater the Cambridge and Punjab Universities, as well as the University of Goteborg in Sweden, the University of Exeter, the University of Peking, University of Glasgow and the Punjab University.

Several foundations were created by Dr Salam using the monetary benefits that accrued to him as part of these awards.


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