Mohammad Abdus Salam

Mohammad Abdus Salam NI, SPk, KBE[3] (Punjabi, Urdu: محمد عبد السلام‎; pronounced [əbd̪ʊs səlɑm]; 29 January 1926 – 21 November 1996),[4] was a Pakistani theoretical physicist who, when he shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution toelectroweak unification,[5] became the first and only Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize and also the first Muslim to win a Nobel Prize in science.[6]

Salam was a science advisor to the Government of Pakistan from 1960 to 1974, a position from which he played a major and influential role in Pakistan’s science infrastructure.[6][7] Salam was responsible for not only major developments and contributions in theoretical and particle physics, but as well as promoting scientific research to maximum levels in his country.[7] Salam was the founding director of Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), and responsible for the establishment of theTheoretical Physics Group (TPG) in Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).[8] As Science Advisor, Salam played an integral role in Pakistan’s development of peaceful use of nuclear energy, and may have contributed to development of atomic bomb projectof Pakistan in 1972;[9] for this, he is viewed as the “scientific father”[2][10] of this programme in the views of the scientists who researched under his scientific umbrella.[11][12][13] In 1974, Abdus Salam departed from his country, in protest, after the Pakistan Parliament passed a controversial parliamentary bill declaring the Ahmadiyya denomination as not-Islamic. Even after his death, Salam remained one of the most influential scientists in his country. In 1998, following the country’s nuclear tests, the Government of Pakistan issued a commemorative stamp, as a part of “Scientists of Pakistan”, to honour the services of Salam.[14]

Salam’s major and notable achievements include the Pati–Salam model, magnetic photon, vector meson, Grand Unified Theory, work on supersymmetry and, most importantly, electroweak theory, for which he was awarded the most prestigious award in Physics – the Nobel Prize.[5] Salam made a major contribution in quantum field theory and advancement of Mathematics at Imperial College London. With his student, Riazuddin, Salam made important contributions to the modern theory on neutrinos, neutron stars and black holes, as well as the work on modernising the quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. As a teacher and science promoter, Salam is remembered as a founder and scientific father of mathematical and theoretical physics in Pakistan during his term as the chief scientific advisor to the president.[7][15] Salam heavily contributed to the rise of Pakistani physics to the Physics community in the world.[16][17] Even until his death, Salam continued to contribute to physics and tirelessly advocated for the development of science in Third-World countries.

Youth and education[ .]

Abdus Salam was born on 29 January 1926 in Santokdas in the Sahiwal District (but grew up in Jhang), to Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain and Hajira Hussain, into a Punjabi family which converted to Islam in the 12th century and had a long tradition of piety and passion for learning (his own grandfather, Gul Muhammad, was a religious scholar apart from being a physician).[4] Salam’s father was an education officer in the Department of Education of Punjab State in a poor farming district.

At age 14, Salam scored the highest marks ever recorded for the matriculation examination at the Punjab University.[19] He won a full scholarship to the Government College University of Lahore, Punjab State.[20] Salam was a versatile scholar, interested in Urdu andEnglish literature in which he excelled.[21] But he soon picked up Mathematics as his concentration.[22] Salam’s mentor and tutors wanted him to become an English teacher, but Salam decided to stick with Mathematics[23] As a fourth-year student there, he published his work on Srinivasa Ramanujan’s problems in mathematics, and took his B.A. in Mathematics in 1944.[24] His father wanted him to join Indian Civil Service.[23] In those days, the Indian Civil Service was the highest aspiration for young university graduates and civil servants occupied a respected place in the civil society.[23] Respecting his father’s wish, Salam tried for the Indian Railways but did not qualify for the service as he failed the medical optical tests because he had worn spectacles since an early age.[23] The results further concluded that Salam failed a mechanical test required by the railway engineers in order to gain a commission in Indian Railways, and moreover that Salam was too young to compete for the job.[23] Therefore, Indian Railways rejected Abdus Salam’s job application.[23] While in Lahore, Abdus Salam went on to attend the graduate school of Government College University.[23] He received his M.A. in Mathematics from the Government College University in 1946.[18] That same year, he was awarded a scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge, where he completed a BA degree with Double First-Class Honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1949.[25] In 1950, he received the Smith’s Prize from Cambridge University for the most outstanding pre-doctoral contribution to Physics.[26] After finishing his degrees, Fred Hoyle advised Salam to spend another year in the Cavendish Laboratory to do research in experimental physics, but Salam had no patience for carrying out long experiments in the laboratory.[23] Salam returned to Jhang, Punjab (now part of Pakistan) and renewed his scholarship and returned to the United Kingdom to do his doctorate.[23]

He obtained a PhD degree in Theoretical Physics from the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge.[27][28] His doctoral thesis contained comprehensive and fundamental work inquantum electrodynamics.[29] By the time it was published in 1951, it had already gained him an international reputation and the Adams Prize.[30] During his doctoral studies, his mentors challenged him to solve within one year an intractable problem which had defied such great minds as Dirac and Feynman.[23] Within six months, Salam had found a solution for the renormalisation of meson theory. As he proposed the solution at the Cavendish Laboratory, Salam had attracted the attention of Bethe, Oppenheimer and Dirac.[23]

Academic career[ .]

After his doctorate in 1951, Salam returned to the Government College University as a Professor of Mathematics where he remained till 1954. During the same period, he was the Chairman of the Department of Mathematics, and professor as well, at the University of the Punjab. As he became the chairman, Salam sought to update the university curriculum, making a course of Quantum mechanics as a part of undergraduate course.[31] This was soon reverted by the Vice-Chancellor, and Salam decided to teach an evening course in Quantum Mechanics outside the regular curriculum.[32] While Salam had mixed popularity in the university, he began to supervise the education of students who were particularly influenced by him.[33] As a result, Riazuddin remained the only student of Salam who has the privilege to study under Salam at the under-graduate and post-graduate level in Lahore, and Post-doctoral level in Cambridge University. In 1953, Salam was unable to establish a research institute in Lahore, as he faced strong opposition from his peers.[34] In 1954, Salam took fellowship and became one of the earliest fellows of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences. As a result of 1953 Lahore riots, Salam went back to Cambridge and joined St John’s College, and took a position as a professor of mathematics in 1954.[35] In 1957, he was invited to take a chair at Imperial College, London, and he and Paul Matthews went on to set up the Theoretical Physics Department at Imperial College.[36] As time passed, this department became one of the prestigious research departments that included well known physicists such as Steven Weinberg, Tom Kibble, Gerald Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, Riazuddin, and John Ward.

In 1957, Punjab University conferred Salam with an Honorary doctorate for his contribution in Particle physics.[37] The same year with help from his mentor, Salam launched a scholarship programme for his students in Pakistan. Salam retained strong links with Pakistan, and visited his country from time to time.[38] At Cambridge and Imperial College he formed a group of theoretical physicists, the majority of whom were his Pakistani students.

In 1959, he became one of the youngest to be named Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 33.[4] Salam took a fellowship at the Princeton University in 1959, where he met with J. Robert Oppenheimer[39] and to whom he presented his research work on neutrinos.[40] Oppenheimer and Salam discussed the foundation of electrodynamics, problems and their solution.[41] His dedicated personal assistant was Jean Bouckley. In 1980, Salam became a foreign fellow of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences.[42]

Scientific career[ .]


Abdus Salam lectures on G.U.T. at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute

Early in his career, Salam made an important and significant contribution in quantum electrodynamics and quantum field theory, including its extension into particle and nuclear physics. In his early career in Pakistan, Salam was greatly interested in mathematical series and their relation to physics. Salam had played an influential role in the advancement of nuclear physics, but he maintained and dedicated himself to mathematics and theoretical physics and focused Pakistan to do more research in theoretical physics.[23] However, he regarded nuclear physics (nuclear fission and nuclear power) as a non-pioneering part of physics as it had already “happened”.[23] Even in Pakistan, Salam was the leading driving force in theoretical physics in Pakistan, with many scientists he continued to influence and encourage to keep their work on theoretical physics.[23]

Salam had a prolific research career in theoretical and high-energy physics.[43] Salam had worked on theory of the neutrino — an elusive particle that was first postulated by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930s. Salam introduced chiral symmetry in the theory of neutrinos. The introduction of chiral symmetry played crucial role in subsequent development of the theory of electroweak interactions.[44] Salam later passed his work to Riazuddin, who made pioneering contributions in neutrinos. Salam introduced the massive Higgs bosons to the theory of the Standard Model, where he later predicted the existence of proton decay. In 1963, Salam published his theoretical work on the vector meson. The paper introduced the interaction of vector meson, photon (vector electrodynamics), and the renormalization of vector mesons’ known mass after the interaction.[45] In 1961, Salam began to work with John Clive Ward on symmetries and Electroweak unification.[46][47] In 1964, Salam and Ward worked on a Gauge theory for the weak and electromagnetic interaction, subsequently obtaining SU(2) × U(1) model. Salam was convinced that all the elementary particle interactions are actually the Gauge interactions.[48] In 1968, together with Weinbergand Sheldon Glashow, Salam formulated the mathematical concept of their work. While in Imperial College, Salam, along with Glashow andJeffrey Goldstone, mathematically proved the Goldstone’s theorem, that a massless spin-zero object must appear in a theory as a result of spontaneous breaking of a continuous global symmetry.[48] In 1960, Salam and Weinberg incorporated the Higgs mechanism into Glashow’s discovery, giving a it a modern form in electroweak theory, and thus theorised the Standard Model.[49] In 1968, together with Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow, Salam finally formulated the mathematical concept of their work.

In 1966, Salam carried out pioneering work on a hypothetical particle. Salam showed the possible electromagnetic interaction between the Magnetic monopole and the C-violation, thus he formulated the magnetic photon.[50]

Following the publication of PRL Symmetry Breaking papers in 1964, Steven Weinberg and Salam were the first to apply the Higgs mechanism to electroweak symmetry breaking. Salam provided a mathematical postulation for the interaction between the Higgs boson and the electroweak symmetry theory.[51]

In 1972, Salam began to work with Indian-American theoretical physicist Jogesh Pati. Pati wrote to Salam several times expressing interest to work under Salam’s direction, in response to which Salam eventually invited Pati to the ICTP seminar in Pakistan. Salam suggested to Pati that there should be some deep reason why the protons and electrons are so different and yet carry equal but opposite electric charge. Protons carry quarks, but the electroweak theory was concerned only with the electrons and neutrinos, with nothing postulated about quarks. If all of nature’s ingredients could be brought together in one new symmetry, it might reveal a reason for the various features of these particles and the forces they feel. This led to the development of Pati–Salam model in particle physics.[52] In 1973, Salam and Jogesh Pati were the first to notice that since Quarks andLeptons have very similar SU(2) × U(1) representation content, they all may have similar entities.[53] They provided a simple realisation of the quark-lepton symmetry by postulating that lepton number was a fourth colour, dubbed “violet”.[54]

Physicists had believed that there were four fundamental forces of nature: the gravitational force, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and the electromagnetic force. Salam had worked on the unification of these forces from 1959 with Glashow and Weinberg. While at Imperial College London, Salam successfully showed that weak nuclear forces are not really different from electromagnetic forces, and two could inter-convert. Salam provided a theory that shows the unification of two fundamental forces of nature, weak nuclear forces and the electromagnetic forces, one into another.[43] Glashow had also formulated the same work, and the theory was combined in 1966. In 1967, Salam proved the electroweak unification theory mathematically, and finally published the papers. For this achievement, Salam, Glashow, and Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. The Nobel Prize Foundation paid tribute to the scientists and issued a statement saying: “For their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current”.[5] In the 1970s Salam continued trying to unify forces by including the strong interaction in a grand unified theory.

Government work[ .]


The road named after Abdus Salam in CERN, Geneva

Abdus Salam immediately returned to Pakistan in 1960 to take charge of a government post that was given to him by President Field Marshal Ayub Khan. From her independence, Pakistan has never had a coherent Science policy, and the total expenditure on research and development represent ~1.0% of Pakistan’s GDP.[55] Even the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) headquarters was located in a small room, and less than 10 scientists were working on a fundamental concepts of physics.[56] Abdus Salam replaced Salimuzzaman Siddiqui as Science Advisor, became first Member (technical) of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Abdus Salam expanded the web of physics research and development in Pakistan by sending more than 500 scientists abroad.[57] In September 1961, Abdus Salam approached President Ayub Khan to set up the country’s first national space agency.[58] On 16 September 1961, through an executive order, Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission was established, in which Abdus Salam served as the first director.[58] Before 1960, very little work on scientific development was done, and scientific activities in Pakistan were almost diminished. Abdus Salam called Ishfaq Ahmad, a nuclear physicist, who had left the country for Switzerland where he joined CERN, to Pakistan. With the support of Abdus Salam, PAEC established PAEC Lahore Center-6, with Ishfaq Ahmad as its first director.[59] In 1967, Abdus Salam became a central and administrative figure to lead the research in both Theoretical and Particle physics.[16] With the establishment of Institute of Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, the research in theoretical and particle physics was engaged.[16] Under Abdus Salam’s direction, physicists tackled the greatest outstanding problems in physics and mathematics.[16] Another physicist, Raziuddin Siddiqui, established numerous physics research group and supervised research activities in the academic institutions of Pakistan.[7]Under the direction of Abdus Salam, research in physics reached a point that prompted worldwide recognition of Pakistani physicists.[7]

From 1950s, Abdus Salam had tirelessly tried establishing high-powered research institutes in Pakistan, though he was unable to do so. Abdus Salam moved PAEC Headquarters to a bigger building, and established research laboratories all over the country.[60] On the direction of Abdus Salam, Ishrat Hussain Usmani set up plutonium and uranium exploration committees throughout the country. In October 1961, Abdus Salam travelled to the United States and signed a space-cooperation agreement between Pakistan and United States. on November 1961, NASA started to build a space facility — Flight Test Range — in Balochistan where Abdus Salam served as its first technical director.

Abdus Salam played an influential and significant role in Pakistan’s development in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In 1964, Abdus Salam was made head of Pakistan’s IAEA delegation and represented Pakistan for a decade.[61] The same year, Abdus Salam joined Munir Ahmad Khan — Abdus Salam’s lifelong friend and contemporary at Government College University. Khan was the first person in the IAEA that Abdus Salam had consulted about the establishment of International Centre for Theoretical Physics, a research physics institution, in Trieste, Italy. With an agreement signed with IAEA, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics was set up with Abdus Salam as its first director. At IAEA, Abdus Salam had tirelessly advocated the importance of nuclear power plants in his country.[62] It was due to his effort that in 1965, Canada and Pakistan signed a nuclear energy cooperation deal. Salam had obtained the permission from Ayub Khan – against the wishes of Ayub Khan’s own government functionaries – to set up the nuclear power plant near Karachi.[63] In 1965, with the efforts led by Abdus Salam, the United States and Pakistan signed an agreement in which th U.S. provided Pakistan with a smallresearch reactor. Abdus Salam had a long dream to establish a research institute in Pakistan, for which he had advocated on many different occasions. In 1965, Abdus Salam andEdward Durrell Stone signed a contract for the establishment of Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology at Nilore, Islamabad.[64]

Space programme[ .]

Main article: Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission

Salam was the founder of Pakistan’s space programme as he was responsible for the establishment of the space research activities in Pakistan. In early 1961, Salam approached President Ayub Khan to lay the foundation of country’s first executive agency to coordinate space research.[58] On 16 September 1961, through an executive order, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) was established of which Salam was made its first and founder director of the agency.[58] Salam immediately travelled to United States, where he successfully signed a space cooperation agreement with United States Government. In November 1961, NASA built Flight Test Center (FTC) inBalochistan Province. During this time, Salam visited Air Force Academy where he met with Air Commodore (Brigadier-General) Wladyslaw Turowicz — a Polish military scientist and an aerospace engineer.[65] Turowicz was made the first technical director of the space center, and a programme of rocket testing of insued. In 1964, while in the United States, Salam visited the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and met with nuclear engineers Salim Mehmud and Tariq Mustafa.[66] Salam signed another agreement with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in which NASA launched a programme to provide training to Pakistan’s scientists and engineers.[66] Both nuclear engineers returned to Pakistan in few months and were inducted in Suparco.[58]

Nuclear weapons programme[ .]

See also: Project-706 § Organization and Pakistan and weapons of mass destruction

Salam knew the importance of nuclear technology in Pakistan, for the civilian and peaceful purposes.[67] But, according to his biographers, Salam played an ambiguous role in Pakistan’s own integrated atomic bomb project. As late as in 1960s, Salam made an unsuccessful attempt for a proposal for the establishment of nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, but it was deferred the matter on economic grounds by Ayub Khan.[67] According to Rehman, Salam’s influence in the nuclear development was lessened and diminished as late as 1974, and became critical of Bhutto’s control over the science.[67] But Salam personally did not terminate his connection with the scientists working in the Theoretical physics division at PAEC.[68] As early as 1972–73, he had been a great advocate for the atomic bomb project,[69] but subsequently took the stance against it after he fell out with Bhutto over the issue of Ahmaddiya denomination as non-Islamic.[69]

In 1965, Salam led the establishing of the nuclear research institute—Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology.[70] In 1965, the plutonium reactor Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor went critical under the leadership of Salam.[68] In 1973, Salam proposed the idea of establishing the annual college in order to promote the scientific activities in the country to the Chairman of PAEC, Munir Ahmad Khan, who wholeheartedly accepted and fully supported this idea. This led to the establishment of the International Nathiagali Summer College on Physics and Contemporary Needs (INSC), where each year since 1976 scientists from all over the world come to Pakistan to interact with Pakistani scientists. The first annual INSC conference was held on advanced particle and nuclear physics.

In November 1971, Salam met with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his residence, and according to Bhutto’s advice, Salam went to United States to evade the 1971 Indo-Pak winter war.[71] In 1971, Salam had travelled to the United States and returned to Pakistan with scientific literature about the Manhattan Project,[72] and calculations involving in the atomic bombs.[69] In 1972, the Government of Pakistan learned about the development status of the first atomic bomb completed under the Indian nuclear programme. In 20 January 1972, at the Multan meeting, Bhutto orchestrated to develop the deterrence programme.[73] Former Prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, formed a group of scientists and engineers, which was first headed by Salam.[74] In 1972, Salam, as Science advisor to the President, had managed and participated in a secret meeting of nuclear scientists with Bhutto inMultan, which came to be known as the “Multan Meeting“. At this meeting, only I.H. Usmani protested whose believed was that the country had no facilities nor talent to carry out such ambitious and technologically giant project at that time, whilst Salam remained quiet[75] Here, Bhutto entrusted Salam and appointed Munir Ahmad Khan as Chairman of the PAEC and head of the atomic bomb program, as Salam had supported Khan.[76] Few months after the meeting, Salam, along with Khan and Riazuddin, met with Bhutto in his residence where the scientists briefed Bhutto about the nuclear weapons program.[77] After the meeting, Salam established the “Theoretical Physics Group (TPG)” in PAEC. Abdus had led groundbreaking work at the TPG and was initially headed by Salam until 1974.[69][78][79]

An office was set up for Salam in the Prime ministers’ Secretariat by order of Bhutto.[67] Salam immediately started to motivate and gravitate scientists to begin work with PAEC in the development of fission weapons.[67] In December 1972, two theoretical physicists working at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics were asked by Salam to report toMunir Ahmad Khan, the scientific director of the program.[80] This marked the beginning of the “Theoretical Physics Group (TPG)”, reporting directly to Salam.[81] The TPG, in PAEC, was assigned to conduct research in fast neutron calculations, hydrodynamics (how the explosion produced by a chain reaction might behave), problems of neutron diffusion, and the development of theoretical designs of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon devices.[82] Later, the Theoretical Physics Group working under the leadership of Riazuddin, who was also Salam’s student, began to directly report to Salam, and the work on the theoretical design of the nuclear weapon device was completed in 1977.[83] Hence, Salam had led the groundbreaking work in the development of the weapons programme, with Khan. In 1972, Salam had formed the Mathematical Physics Group, under Raziuddin Siddiqui, that was charged, with the Theoretical Physics Group, to carry out the research in the theory of simultaneity during the detonation process, and mathematics involved in the theory of nuclear fission[84] Following the India’s surprise nuclear test —Pokhran-I — in 1974, Munir Ahmad Khan had called for a meeting to initiate the work on atomic bomb, which was attended by Salam and where Muhammad Hafeez Qureshi was appointed head of the Directorate of Technical Development in PAEC.[85]

The DTD was set up to coordinate the work of the various specialized groups of scientists and engineers working on different aspects of the atomic bomb.[77] The word “bomb” was never used in this meeting, but the participants fully understood what was being discussed.[77] On March 1974, Salam and Khan also established the Wah Group Scientist that was charged with the manufacturing materials, explosive lenses and triggering mechanism development of the weapon.[86] Following the setting up of DTD, Salam, along with Riazuddin and Munir Ahmad Khan, visited the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) where they held talks and discussions with senior military engineers led by POF ChairmanLieutenant-General Qamar Ali Mirza.[8] It was there that the Corps of Engineers built the Metallurgical Laboratory in Wah Cantt in 1976.[87] Thus, the Wah Group working under the DTD was charged with the material and triggering mechanism development of the weapon.[88] Salam remained associated with the nuclear weapons programme until the mid-1974, when he left the country after Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani Parliament.[89] His own relations with Prime minister Bhutto fell out and turned into open hostility after the Ahmadi community domination was declared as not-Islamic; he lodge a public and powerful protest against Prime minister Bhutto regarding this issue and gave great criticism to Bhutto over his control over the science.[69] In spite of this, Salam maintained close relations with the theoretical physics division at PAEC who kept him informed about the every status of the calculations needed to calculate the performance of the atomic bomb, according to Norman Dombey.[69] After seeing the Indian aggression inNorthern Pakistan, followed by massive troops rotation in Southern Pakistan, Salam again renewed his ties with the senior scientists working in the atomic bomb projects, includingIshfaq Ahmad and others, who had kept him inform about the scientific development of the program.[69] In 1980s, Salam personally approved many appointments and large influx of Pakistani scientists associateship program at ICTP and CERN, and engage in research with his students in theoretical physics with his students at the ICTP.[69]

In 2008, Indian scholar Ravi Singh also noted in his book that “in 1978, Abdus Salam with PAEC officials, paid a secret visit to China, and was an instrumental initiating the industrial nuclear cooperation between the two countries.”[75] Although, he had left the country, Salam did not hesitate to advise the PAEC and Theoretical and Mathematical Physics Group on important scientific matters, and kept his close association with TPG and PAEC.[90]

Advocacy for science[ .]

In 1964, Salam founded the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, in the North-East of Italy and served as its director until 1993.[91] In 1974, he foundedInternational Nathiagali Summer College (INSC) to promote science in his country.[92] The INSC is an annual meeting of scientists from all over the world to come to Pakistan and hold discussions on different aspects of physics and science.[92] Even today, the INSC holds an annual meetings, and Salam’s pupil student Riazuddin is its director since its inception.[93]

In 1997, the scientists at ICPT commemorated Salam and renamed ICTP as “Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics“. Salam had advocated for development of Science in third world countries, and attended various seminars in different countries. Throughout the years, Salam served on a number of United Nations committees concerning science and technology in developing countries.[30] Salam also founded the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and was a leading figure in the creation of a number of international centres dedicated to the advancement of science and technology.[94]

During his visit at the Institute of Physics of Quaid-i-Azam University in 1979, Salam had explained after receiving his award: Physicists believed there are four fundamental forces of nature; the gravitational force, the weak and strong nuclear force, and the electromagnetic force.[95] Salam was a firm believer that “scientific thought is the common heritage of mankind”, and that developing nations needed to help themselves and invest in their own scientists to boost development and reduce the gap between the Global South and the Global North, thus contributing to a more peaceful world.[96]

Although Salam had departed from Pakistan, he did not terminate his connection to Pakistan.[97] Salam continued inviting Pakistan’s scientists to ICTP, and maintained a research programme for the Pakistani scientists.[98] Many prominent scientists, including Ghulam Murtaza, Riazuddin, Kamaluddin Ahmed, Faheem Hussain, Raziuddin Siddiqui, Munir Ahmad Khan, Ishfaq Ahmad, and I. H. Usmani, considered him as their mentor and a teacher.

Personal life[ .]

Salam was a very private individual, who kept his public and personal lives quite separate.[4] He married twice, and at his death, was survived by three daughters and a son by his first wife, and a son and daughter by his second, Professor Dame Louise Johnson, formerly Professor of Molecular Biophysics in Oxford University. He married Johnson in 1968 in London.

Religion[ .]

Salam was “known to be a devout Muslim”,[30] and was a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who saw his religion as fundamental part of his scientific work. He once wrote:

“The Holy Qur’an enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.”[30]

During his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Physics, Salam quoted the following verses from the Quran:

Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure? Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.

He then said:

This, in effect, is the faith of all physicists; the deeper we seek, the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze.[99]

In 1974, the Pakistan parliament made a constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. In protest, Salam left Pakistan for London. Even after his departure, Salam did not completely terminate his connection to Pakistan, and kept his close association with the Theoretical Physics Group as well as academic scientists from Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).[95] Leaving Pakistan in protest was one of Salam’s greatest regrets.[100][dubious  discuss] At ICTP, Salam had launched series of post-research programmes for Pakistani academics with whom he had developed extremely close relations. In 1983, Riazuddin and Asghar Qadir returned to ICTP where they had joined Salam, and stayed with him until 1990.[101]

Death[ .]


The defaced grave of Abdus Salam at Rabwah, Punjab

Abdus Salam died peacefully on 21 November 1996 at the age of 70 in Oxford, England, from progressive supranuclear palsy.[102] His body was finally returned to Pakistan and kept in Darul Ziafat, where some 13,000 men and women visited to pay their last respects. Approximately 30,000 people attended his funeral prayers.

Salam was buried in Bahishti Maqbara, a cemetery established by the Ahmadiyya Community at Rabwah, Punjab, Pakistan, next to his parents’ graves. The epitaph on his tomb initially read “First Muslim Nobel Laureate”. The word “Muslim” was later obscured on the orders of a local magistrate, leaving “First Nobel Laureate”.[103] Under Ordinance XX,[104] Being an Ahmadiyya, he was considered a non-Muslim according to the definition provided in the II Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan.[105]

Legacy[ .]

His craving for nationalism is symbolized best by his wish to be buried in his own homeland… He loved his country and its soil. We projected him as a hero, a father, and role model for our young scientists…

—Masud Ahmad, on Salam’s legacy, [11]

Salam’s work in Pakistan has been far reaching and regarded as highly influential. Salam is remembered as his peers and students as the “father of Pakistan’s school of Theoretical Physics” as well as Pakistan’s science. Abdus Salam was a charismatic and an iconic figure, as much as a symbol among them of what they were working or/ researching toward in their respected field.[2][10][11] His students, fellow scientists and engineers, remembered him as brilliant teacher, and engaging researcher who would also influence among others to do the same.[43] Salam founded the Space Research Commission of which he served its first founding director in 1980s.[43] In 1998, the Government of Pakistan issued a commemorative stamp to honour the services of Salam as part of its “Scientists of Pakistan” series.[14] His alma mater, Government College Lahore, now a university, has a Chair in Physics and its Mathematical Sciences department named after him.[106] Despite the immense services he had done for Pakistan and the Government, he has been discriminated against because of his affiliation with the Ahmadiyya sect, which the Pakistan Government has denounced.[107] He has also made a significant contribution towards the recent success of search for the Higgs boson.[108]

However, Salam has been commemorated by Pakistan’s noted and prominent scientists, who were also his students. Many scientists have recalled their college experiences.Ghulam Murtaza, a professor of plasma physics at the Government College University and student of Salam has puts it:


A commemorative stamp to honour the services of Dr. Abdus Salam.

“When Dr. Salam was to deliver a lecture, the hall would be packed and although the subject was Particle Physics, his manner and eloquence was such as if he was talking about literature. When he finished his lectures, listeners would often burst into spontaneous applause and give him a standing ovation. People from all parts of the world would come to Imperial College and seek Dr. Salam’s help. He would give a patient hearing to everyone including those who were talking nonsense. He treated everyone with respect and compassion and never belittled or offended anyone. Dr. Salam’s strength was that he could “sift jewels from the sand””.[1]

Ishfaq Ahmad, former chairman of the PAEC and a lifelong friend of Salam recalls:

“Dr Salam was responsible for sending about 500 physicists, mathematicians and scientists from Pakistan, for PhD’s to the best institutions in UK and USA”.[1]

In August 1996, the former chairman of PAEC and lifelong friend, Munir Ahmad Khan and met Salam in Oxford. Munir Ahmad Khan (late), who headed the nuclear weapons and energy programme, said:

“My last meeting with Abdus Salam was only three months ago. His disease had taken its toll and he was unable to talk. Yet he understood what was said. I told him about the celebration held in Pakistan on his seventieth birthday. He kept staring at me. He had risen above praise. As I rose to leave he pressed my hand to express his feelings as if he wanted to thank everyone who had said kind words about him. Dr. Abdus Salam had deep love for Pakistan in spite of the fact that he was treated unfairly and indifferently by his own country. It became more and more difficult for him to come to Pakistan and this hurt him deeply. Now he has returned home finally, to rest in peace for ever in the soil that he loved so much. May be in the years to come we will rise above our prejudice and own him and give him, after his death, what we could not when he was alive. We Pakistanis may choose to ignore Dr. Salam, but the world at large will always remember him.”

In popular culture

Documentaries on Abdus Salam

Abdus Salam Documentary Film (working title)

Kailoola Productions LLC started formally researching and developing a documentary film on the science and life of Abdus Salam in 2004, two years after the producers had conceived of the idea. A fundraising teaser was released by Kailoola Productions to coincide with Salam’s birth anniversary on 29 January 2013. The post-production phase of this documentary film, pending funding, is estimated at US$ 150, 000. The anticipated release date is December 2013.

Abdus Salam: The Dream of Symmetry

Pilgrim Films released The Dream of Symmetry in September 2011. Their press release describes it as presenting “the extraordinary figure of Abdus Salam, who not only was an outstanding scientist but also a generous humanitarian and a valuable person. His rich and busy life was an endless quest for symmetry, that he pursued in the universe of physical laws and in the world of human beings.”


Dr. Salam’s genius was like a magic… And there was always an element of eastern mysticism in his ideas that left one wondering how to fathom his genius…

—Dr. Masud Ahmad, honoring Abdus Salam, [11]

In 1997, scientists at ICTP renamed the institute as The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in the honour of Salam.[109] Salam’s services have been recognised in Pakistan, as his students have openly spoken and stressed the importance of Science and Technology in Pakistan.

In 1999, per the recommendation of Ishfaq Ahmad, the Federal Government led the establishment of Salam Chair in Physics at the Government College University.[110] On 22 November 2009, the Director of Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics had gifted the original Nobel Prize Certificate original to his alma mater.[111] In 2011, GCU’s Salam Chair in Physics held a one day long conference that was attributed to Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam.[110] Salam’s students Ghulam Murtaza, Perviaz Hoodbhoy, Riazuddin and Tariq Zaidi discussed the life and works of the Nobel Laureate, and brought to light the achievement of Salam in Pakistan and in the Physics.[110] While covering the media converge on Salam’s tribute, the News International, called Salam as the “great Pakistan scientist”.[112]

In 1998, the Edward A. Bouchet-ICTP Institute was renamed as Edward Bouchet Abdus Salam Institute.[113] In 2003, Government of Punjab created the institute of excellence for the Mathematical Sciences, Abdus Salam School of Mathematics, in Salam’s Alma mater – Government College University.[114]

In 2008, in an opinion, Daily Times called Salam “one of the greatest scientist Pakistan has ever produced”.[115] The Dawn Newspapers published an interview with Zakir Thaver, one of the two producers of Kailoola Productions’ Abdus Salam Docufilm (working tile). In an  .orial, the Dawn Newspapers called Abdus Salam as “the greatest physicist that comes from Pakistan”.[116]

In the town of Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, near the headquarters of the Canadian branch of the Ahmadiyya Community, of which Professor Abdus Salam was a member, the community has named a street after his name. It is called Abdus Salam Street. Abdus Salam Street, on Google Maps

Additionally, there are 2 annual Abdus Salam science fairs held one in Canada, the other in the US. Each is organised as a National event for young scientists from the Ahmadiyya Community in an effort to motivate youth toward scientific endeavour Abdus Salam Science Fair Canada



Abdus Salam with Pakistani intellectual Syed Qasim Mahmood in 1986

In 1979, Salam was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Glashow and Weinberg, For their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current.[5] Salam received high civil and science awards from all over the world.[117] Salam is recipient of first high civil awards — Star of Pakistan (1959) and the Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1979) — awarded both by President of Pakistan for his outstanding services to Pakistan.[117] TheNational Center for Physics (NCP) contains a Abdus Salam Museum dedicated to the life of Salam and his work as he discovered and formulated the Electroweak Theory.[7] Below is the list of awards that were conferred to Salam in his lifetime.

  • Nobel Prize in Physics (Stockholm, Sweden) (1979)
  • Hopkins Prize (Cambridge University) for “the most outstanding contribution to Physics during 1957–1958″
  • Adams Prize (Cambridge University) (1958)
  • Smith’s Prize (Cambridge University) (1950)
  • Sitara-e-Pakistan for contribution to science in Pakistan (1959)
  • Pride of Performance Medal and Award (1959)
  • First recipient of Maxwell Medal and Award (Physical Society, London) (1961)
  • Hughes Medal (Royal Society, London) (1964)
  • Atoms for Peace Award (Atoms for Peace Foundation) (1968)
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Medal and Prize (University of Miami) (1971)
  • Guthrie Medal and Prize (1976)
  • Sir Devaprasad Sarvadhikary Gold Medal (Calcutta University) (1977)
  • Matteuci Medal (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome) (1978)
  • John Torrence Tate Medal (American Institute of Physics) (1978)
  • Royal Medal (Royal Society, London) (1978)
  • Nishan-e-Imtiaz for outstanding performance in Scientific projects in Pakistan (1979)
  • Einstein Medal (UNESCO, Paris) (1979)
  • Shri R.D. Birla Award (India Physics Association) (1979)
  • Order of Andres Bello (Venezuela) (1980)
  • Order of Istiqlal (Jordan) (1980)
  • Cavaliere de Gran Croce dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (1980)
  • Josef Stefan Medal (Josef Stefan Institute, Ljublijana) (1980)
  • Gold Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Physics (Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Prague) (1981)
  • Peace Medal (Charles University, Prague) (1981)
  • Lomonosov Gold Medal (USSR Academy of Sciences) (1983)
  • Premio Umberto Biancamano (Italy) (1986)
  • Dayemi International Peace Award (Bangladesh) (1986)
  • First Edinburgh Medal and Prize (Scotland) (1988)
  • “Genoa” International Development of Peoples Prize (Italy) (1988)
  • Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1989)
  • Catalunya International Prize (Spain) (1990)
  • Copley Medal (Royal Society, London) (1990)

Awards named after Salam

The Abdus Salam Award (also called as Salam Prize) is an award in natural and physical sciences, established to recognised the high achievements and contributions in physical and natural sciences.[118] In 1979, Riazuddin, Fayyazuddin and Asghar Qadir met with Salam, and presented the idea of creating an award to appreciate scientists, resident in Pakistan, in their respective fields.[118] Salam had donated the money he had won as he felt that he had no rightly use of the prize money.[101] It was endowed by Asghar Qadir, Riazuddin and Fayyazuddin in 1980, and it was first awarded in 1981. The winners are selected by a committee (consisted of Aghar Qadir, Fayyazuddin, Riazuddin, and others) of the Center for Advanced Mathematics and Physics (CAMP), which administers the award.[101]

The Abdus Salam Medal is presented by the Third World Academy of Sciences in Trieste, Italy. First given in 1995, the award is presented to the people who have served the cause of science in the Developing World.[119]


Salam’s primary focus was research on the physics of elementary particles. His particular contributions included:

  • two-component neutrino theory and the prediction of the inevitable parity violation in weak interaction;
  • gauge unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions, the unified force is called the “Electroweak” force, a name given to it by Salam, and which forms the basis of theStandard Model in particle physics;
  • predicted existence of weak neutral currents and W particles and Z particles before their experimental discovery;[120]
  • symmetry properties of elementary particles; unitary symmetry;
  • renormalisation of meson theories;
  • gravity theory and its role in particle physics; two tensor theory of gravity and strong interaction physics;
  • unification of electroweak with strong nuclear forces, grand unification theory;
  • related prediction of proton-decay;
  • Pati–Salam model, a grand unification theory;
  • Supersymmetry theory, in particular formulation of Superspace and formalism of superfields in 1974;
  • the theory of supermanifolds, as a geometrical framework for understanding supersymmetry, in 1974;[121]
  • Supergeometry, the geometric basis for supersymmetry, in 1974;[122]
  • application of the Higgs mechanism to the electroweak symmetry breaking;
  • prediction of the magnetic photon in 1966;[50]
  • Abdus Salam National Center for Mathematics (ASNCM), Government College University, Lahore, Pakistan. [1]
  • Abdus Salam Chair in Physics (ASCP), Government College University, Lahore, Pakistan. [2]
  • Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy.
  • Abdus Salam School for Mathematical Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan [3]

Institutes named after Abdus Salam[ .]

The Edward Bouchet Abdus Salam Institute (EBASI)