Science, Medicine and Technology

Imperial College London Names Library After First Muslim Nobel Laureate in Science

Imperial College London

Muneeb Maaz, UK

Why is Pakistan’s greatest scientist, whose work led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson left out of its history books? Why has Pakistan’s first Nobel Laureate’s gravestone been censored? Why is it that despite this, one of the world’s top universities, thousands of miles away has decided to rename its library in his honour?

In a powerful statement of recognition and standing against discrimination, Imperial College London announced their intention to name the Central Library the Abdus Salam Library in the next academic year, recognising Dr Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Nobel Prize laureate in science. 

This move comes in a continued effort by Imperial to recognise some of the uncelebrated people of Imperial’s past. President Hugh Brady said: ‘Nobel winning Professor of Theoretical Physics Abdus Salam made a tremendous contribution to Imperial…It is right that we do more to celebrate this legacy. I hope the new Abdus Salam Library inspires many more people in the years to come.’

British Heritage: Professor Abdus Salam's Achievements Commemorated with Blue Plaque

Dr Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Scientist to win a Nobel Prize

Dr Abdus Salam belonged to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and as a result he faced fierce persecution in his home country of Pakistan. In 1974 The Pakistani Government declared Ahmadis Non- Muslims. This however did not deter Dr Salam from serving his nation, as he established the International Nathiagali Summer College in Pakistan that runs every year to this day. Yet the persecution also persists to this day; in recent years the Pakistani government removed Dr. Salam’s name from the physics department of Qaid-e-Azam university and even had the word ‘Muslim’ erased from his gravestone.

No matter the difficulties he faced, Dr Salam established his reputation for academic brilliance. After setting new matriculation records, he received scholarship after scholarship, first to the Government College University of Lahore then to St Johns College Cambridge where he received a BA with Double First Class honours.

Throughout his career Dr. Salam spearheaded advancements in the field of particle physics. His most remarkable feat was his 1979 Nobel Prize winning work, proving the electroweak unification theory, i.e. the inter conversion of two of the four fundamental forces of nature (Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic and Gravitational) which govern the behaviour of the fundamental particles that make up matter. 

His affiliation with Imperial College London goes as far back as 1957, a partnership that would lead to him and Paul Matthews setting up their renowned theoretical Physics department. 

For countless aspiring scientists, Dr Salam’s journey, overcoming barriers of religious persecution back home and racial prejudice in the west, has been a fountain of inspiration. This commemoration by the Imperial College London is certainly an inspiration for young aspiring scientist to know that no matter the circumstances, no batter the background, perseverance, hard work and indeed faith are can be the catalysts for great success. I know this first hand, because the same Dr Abdus Salam being commemorated by Imperial College London is who inspired me to embark on my journey studying Physics.

As we celebrate Dr Salam’s legacy, may his story inspire future generations to pursue excellence and defy barriers, making way for many more Abdus Salams to come.

About the Author: Muneeb Maaz is a UCL graduate Physicist and Energy Analyst with a keen interest in sustainability and scientific research.