Scientists in STEM in Pakistan

Men of Science

Affirming Stephen Hawking, scientists are the torch bearers of society and thus science guides us towards the truth. Under that understanding a society that does not encourage imagination and questioning s automatically falls into an abyss of destruction and ignorance.

Here are five men from Pakistan who went against the odds in their lives for science and technology.

Abdus Salam (1926-1996)

Abdus Salam was a theoretical nuclear physicist. He was the first Pakistani to receive the prestigious Nobel laureate prize for his work in electroweak interaction theory. The theory explains that the electromagnetic force and the weak force which are apparently different are actually facets of a same force. It reveals that a new particle exists at extreme energies. The theory holds fundamental importance in particle physics and helps to better understand natural phenomena.

Salam’s brilliance from the beginning of his education won him a scholarship at Cambridge from where he graduated and took the path of physics. He returned to Government College University, Lahore, but to his dismay, realized that research was not quite encouraged here. So he returned back to Cambridge to complete his doctoral education in electrodynamics.

Throughout his life, he remained deeply concerned with the country’s attitude towards science and research. He put efforts to improve the access of people to scientific education in third world countries and helped establish Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission and the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant.

He quotes, “Developing countries must realize that the scientific men and women are a precious asset. They must be given opportunities, responsibilities for the scientific and technological developments in their countries. Quite often, the small numbers that exist are underutilized. The goal must be to increase their numbers because a world divided between the haves and have-nots of science and technology cannot endure in equilibrium. It is our duty to redress this inequity.”

Abdus Salam died at the age of 70 in Oxford, England and is respected by the scientific community throughout the globe for his work and efforts.

Abdul Qadeer khan (1936-2021)

Abdul Qadeer khan was a key person in helping Pakistan become a nuclear power. He was a nuclear physicist and a metallurgical engineer.

He acquired his education mainly in Western Europe and worked for the FDO laboratory in Amsterdam, an institute connected to URENCO plant. It conducted research into centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons grade material that can provide the explosive power to atomic bomb.

Upon returning to Pakistan, Bhutto gave him control over Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program and its success was achieved in 1978 in Khan’s laboratory.

Despite of landing into many controversies in his career, Abdul Qadeer Khan proved to be a hero in providing Pakistan its nuclear defense and security in Pak Indian rivalry.

Samar Mubarakmand (1942-)

Samar Mubarakmand is a Pakistani nuclear physicist, famous for heading the scientific team in Chagai nuclear tests.

He carried his MSc research in gamma spectroscopy, followed by the doctoral studies at Oxford, where he learned about linear accelerators under renowned nuclear physicist Dr. D. H. Wilkinson. After receiving his doctorate and experience, he returned to Pakistan and joined Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 1966.

Mand served as the founding chairman of National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) from 2001 until 2007. He launched the Missile Integration Programme in 1987 which was successfully completed in 2005. He also supervised development of the Shaheen –I ballistic missile, and the Babur cruise missile programs.

For his services to his country, he received Sitara e Imtiaz, Hilal e Imtiaz and Nishan e Imtiaz from Government of Pakistan.

Ishfaq Ahmed Khan (1930-2018)

Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed was a nuclear physicist and helped establish several research institutes in nuclear sciences in Pakistan. He worked at the CERN in 1960s and 1970s and made contributions in the theoretical development of the applications and concepts involving the particle physics.

 He was made the head of the Nuclear Physics Division at the secret Pinstech Institute during 1970s where he played a significant role in calculation work of weapons and theoretical work on the implosion method used in the weapons.

Since then he worked in the nuclear power sector that supports industrial development. He also provided his assistance in the atomic tests of Chagai that earned him fame. He has been awarded with Sitara e imtiaz, Hilal e imtiaz and Nishan e imtiaz. He died at the age of 87 in 2018.

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Pervez Hoodbouy (1950-)

“Without a culture of science Muslims will continue consuming technology without producing much.”

Pervez Hoodbouy is a nuclear physicist, an activist and an essayist who writes about freedom of speech and basic human rights. He focused his research career on quantum field theory, and particle phenomenology.

He taught at Quaid e Azam Universisty for 40 years and later at Lahore University of Management Sciences and Forman Christian College, Lahore.  He has made his contributions for education in Pakistan by leading translation work of books in Urdu that promote modernism, and emancipation of women. He also wrote ‘Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality’ and produced a documentary film “Pakistan and India under the Nuclear Shadow” and several other TV series for scientific popularity in the region.

He is awarded with several prizes which include the IEEE Baker Award for Electronics (1968); the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics (1984); and the UNESCO Kalinga Prize(2003)  for the popularization of science. In 2011, he was included in the list of 100 most influential global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine.

His writings are famous to be nonconventional and audacious, often times challenging local viewpoints and can be read on Dawn Newspaper.

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