Dr. Abdus Salam Centre for Physics – Why Not?

Dr. Abdus Salam Centre for Physics
Dr. Abdus Salam Centre for Physics

How do you judge a doctor? His professionalism, empathetic relationship with patients, easy accessibility and reputation. How do we judge level of humanity in a person? communication skills, empathy, loving and caring personality, trustworthy etc.

I believe that the religion of the doctor is a very personal attribute that does not bear reflection on his/her professionalism. Geography and personal beliefs become secondary matters for people of humanity. It is for this reason that Abdul Sattar Edhi, Mother Teresa and Hellen Keller are respected and loved by people across the world.

This brings me to my second question: if religion is not a barometer to judge a doctor, how then can it be a means of measurement to judge a physicist? Why is a person’s contribution to science not the single-most important factor in academic decision-making?

i ask these questions because when a few days ago Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave his approval for the National Physics Center in Quaid-e-Azam University to be renamed as “Dr. Abdus Salam Center for Physics,” a segment of people immediately went on a slanderous campaign that questioned not Dr. Abdus Salam’s scientific credentials but his religion!

For the benefit of all those who are offended by the dedication of the Center in Dr. Abdus Salam’s memory, let me highlight just a few of the contributions that make him the only deserving candidate for this – for lack of a better word – honour.

1. Founder of Pakistan’s Space Programme

Dr. Abdus Salam is credited to be the founder of Pakistan’s space programme as it is he who initiated space research-related activities in the country. In this realm he also signed an agreement with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in which NASA agreed to provide training to Pakistan’s scientists and engineers.

Thus, any and every advancement made in Pakistan’s space programme traces back to Dr. Abdus Salam for which, we should be rightly thankful to him.

2. Father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme

In 1971, Dr. Abdus Salam traveled to the U.S and returned home with literature reagrding the Manhattan Project, and calculations involved in atomic bombs. Later, in 1972, Dr. Abdus Salam, in his capacity as the Science Adviser to the President, arranged in a secret meeting of nuclear scientists with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Multan, famously known today as the “Multan Meeting”. Dr. Abdus Salam, along with two other scientists met with Bhutto in his residence where they briefed him about the nuclear weapons’ programme.

It was as a result of this meeting that the “Theoretical Physics Group (TPG)” was established. TPG became the hub of some groundbreaking work carried out by Dr. Abdus Salam who headed it until 1974.

Salam remained associated with the nuclear weapons programme until the mid-1974, when he left the country after Ahmadi were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani Parliament.

3. Contributions to Physics

Salam’s primary focus was research on the physics of elementary particles. Some of his  groundbreaking work includes:

  • Presentation of the 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 Dr. Abdus Salam, and which forms the basis of the Standard Model in particle physics
  • His prediction of the existence of weak neutral currents and W particles and Z particles before their experimental discovery.
  • symmetry properties of elementary particles; unitary symmetry
  • The Re-normalisation 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
  • Application of the Higgs mechanism to the electroweak symmetry breaking;
  • His prediction of the magnetic photon in 1966
4. Awards and Honours

In 1959 Dr. Abdus Salam was bestowed with the Star of Pakistan (Sitara-e-Pakistan) and in 1979 he was honoured by the Government of Pakistan with Nishan-e-Imtiaz. These awards were in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of Physics and his services to Pakistan.

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.

I started this piece with a question, I’ll also end with one: Dr. Abdus Salam remains Pakistan’s most prolific Physicist even after decades of his death. If his credentials do not warrant the Physics’ Center to be names after him, whose do?