Theoretical Physicist Professor Abdus Salam was an Ahmadi Muslim who had the honour of winning the Nobel Prize in the field of physics in 1979. He was also the founder of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy.
On 11th May 1983 he presented a paper at a Symposium in Bahrain on the ‘Future Outlook of the Arabian Gulf University.’ Part II of this paper is presented below.
‘Allah is He who made (it possible) for you (to acquire) mastery over the ocean; thus (your) craft can ply thereon, with Allah’s command. Allah is He, who gives you subjection over all that is in Heaven and on Earth: Herein are Allah’s signs for a people given to reflection.’ (The Holy Qur’an, 45:13-14)
Science Transfer and Technology Transfer
Let me elaborate on this theme, for this is central to what l want to say. I shall illustrate through some historical, as well as recent, examples of how scientific research impinges on modem technology.
My first example is Faraday’s unification of electricity and magnetism, accomplished in the last century. Before Faraday, one thought of the electric and the magnetic forces as two distinct forces with no interrelation between them. Electricity was typified by the phenomenon of thunderstorms; magnets were bar-magnets, deflected by the earth’s magnetism. Faraday, experimenting in his basic sciences’ laboratory at the Royal Institution in London’s Piccadilly, discovered an amazing interrelation between these two disparate forces. Move an electrically charged object in the vicinity of a magnet, and the magnet suffers deflection.
The conclusion of this and similar experiments was inescapable and sensational. The magnetic force is not an independent force; electrically charged objects produce electric forces when they are stationary; they give rise to magnetic forces when moved. Electricity and magnetism had been united and unified – this was one of the greatest discoveries in physics of all times. And when Faraday was making his experiments, no one could have imagined that this simple physics discovery in a laboratory in a fashionable and dilettante part of London, would lead to the entire corpus of the electrical power generation.
Just to emphasise how relatively useless Faraday’s work was thought to be by his contemporaries, consider the assessment of one of them, Charles Burney, of the uses of electricity versus music. ‘Electricity is universally allowed to be a very entertaining and surprising phenomenon, but it has frequently been lamented that it has never yet, with much certainty, been applied to any very useful purpose…(while) it is easy to point out the human and important purposes to which music has been applied, many an orphan is cherished by its influence, and the pangs of child-birth are softened and rendered less dangerous.’
The story of unification of electricity with magnetism, continues with Maxwell who immediately followed Faraday. Maxwell asked himself the question: Faraday has shown that moving electric charges produce magnetic forces what would happen if electric charges were accelerated rather than moved with uniform velocity? Maxwell pondered theoretically on this question; he found Faraday’s equations were inconsistent – they had to be modified if electric charges were accelerating. By one of the greatest acts of intuition in intellectual history, he supplied the correct modification and discovered, to his amazement, that an accelerating electrically charged object must emit electromagnetic radiation. He could compute the velocity of this radiation – again to his surprise, this velocity turned out to be identical to the velocity of light, then known with fair precision from experiment. Could light be electromagnetic radiation, produced by accelerating electrical charges embedded inside incandescent matter? Could we accelerate electrically charged particles in the laboratory and produce light? Could we verify Maxwell’s theory directly in the laboratory?
A few years after Maxwell’s death in 1879, Hertz in Germany, carried out such experiments with accelerating electric charges. Every one of Maxwell’s predictions was found correct; the spectrum of Maxwell’s predicted radiation consisted, not only of light waves, but also, of waves of longer wave length-radio waves-as well as waves of shorter wave length – X-rays. Thus, from a single theoretical calculation done by an obscure professor at the Cavendish Laboratory – a laboratory endowed not by the State, but by a private individual, Lord Cavendish and his family – flowed the marvels of radio, television and the modem communication systems on the one hand as well as the medical facility to see through a human body with X-rays. These discoveries, we in Arab-Islamic lands employ in our service along with the rest of mankind, hardly acknowledging the debt humanity owes to that modest physicist, Maxwell, and his solitary calculations. Maxwell’s hundredth anniversary fell due in 1979; some six men congregated from the University of Glasgow at his grave and that was all the homage the world paid him.
My next example is that of fission. This is the breaking apart of a heavy overweight nucleus, like uranium, into two or more fragments, when impacted by a slow-moving projectile like a thermal neutron. No one was looking for it-no one suspected it. The great Italian physicist Fermi, working in the dingy laboratories of the Department of Physics at the University of Rome, could have found these fission fragments in the debris deposited in his test tube, for they were there. But he was not looking for such fragments and missed them. The phenomenon was rediscovered in Germany at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for basic sciences in December 1938 – not by physicists but by two nuclear chemists, Hahn and Strasseman. In their paper, the authors said, ‘As nuclear chemists who are close to physicists, we are reluctant to take this step that contradicts all previous experiences of nuclear physics.’ With this humble announcement began the age of nuclear energy for peace and for war. The equipment, the apparatus used, was so simple, even a humble laboratory in a poor Arab-Muslim country could have afforded it. Today, in the context of nuclear energy, European, American, Russian, Japanese and Chinese laboratories are experimenting with the phenomenon of fusion – the taming of the energy release in a hydrogen-explosion. These are at present laboratory experiments; as yet not commercial technology. The European nations have together created a joint laboratory – JET – at Culham in the UK. The UN Agency, IAEA, is projecting a joint device for the world; to my knowledge no Arab-Islamic nation has yet asked to join this project. With Russian help, Libya has had the foresight to set up a small Tokamak device in Tripoli for experimentation in this field, but has not yet created the modalities through which teams of experimenters from Arab-Islamic or African countries could come and use this device. The Centre at Trieste regularly provides theoretical workshops for this, led by men from the prestigious laboratories of the world; at present this provides one of the few entries for Arab-Islamic physicists to this field.
My next example is in the area of biotechnology. As is well known, the modern advances in genetics started with the unravelling of the genetic code by Watson and Crick. In the synthesis it has provided in giving the basis for all known life, this has been one of the most synthesising discoveries of the 20th century, possibly of all times.
This great discovery in biology was made at Cambridge in April 1953 by two contemporaries of mine, one American, the other British-working at the Cavendish Laboratory for basic physics. One of my American pupils for Ph.D. in theoretical physics, Walter Gilbert, with whom I worked on dispersion phenomena, was a neighbour of the genetic code’s American co-discoverer, J.D. Watson, in Cambridge. When Gilbert left me in 1956, after his Ph.D., both he and Watson went back to Harvard. The next time I saw my pupil, Gilbert, was in 1961 in the US. Assuming that he was still working on some problem on theoretical physics, I asked him what he was up to. He was somewhat sheepish; he said, ‘I am sorry, you will be ashamed of me; I am spending my time growing bacteria.’ Watson had seduced him for genetics. Gilbert soon discovered a most elegant technique for deciphering the genetic code. For this work, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980. In 1981 he left his chair at Harvard to found a company which exploits, among others, techniques of genetic manipulation to manufacture human insulin. This company is called Biogen and is registered in Switzerland. It went public recently. Apparently, Gilbert’s first investment in the company (of which he is President) was of US $4000; this is currently worth more than 14 million dollars.
Notice the mutuality of science and technology. Notice that the greatest discovery in molecular biology is made in a laboratory for physics, by men trained in the use of X-rays with fairly modest equipment. Notice Gilbert’s transition from research in theoretical physics to fundamental genetics and then to practical genetic engineering. The point I am trying to make is twofold: first, science and technology go hand in hand in modern times; second there is a premium placed on excellence and brain power in our rival civilisations. We must ask ourselves: do we provide like opportunities for our best young men, nurturing their talents for our civilisation, or do we leave them to wither away, or if they are strongly committed to science, to migrate and enrich the countries of Europe and America with their talents and their contributions?
Perhaps my examples appear too distant for comfort, though the biotechnological example is not all that far-fetched. Perhaps the intervening centuries of neglect of sciences have lured into us a feeling that we can never catch up in the creation of sciences, and that we need not even try. I started in my first example with Faraday’s and Maxwell’s unification of two of the fundamental forces of nature – of electricity with magnetism – in the last century. I said, from this unification flowed the age of electric power and next, the age of wireless communications. When a hundred years after Maxwell, in the nineteen sixties, my colleagues at Harvard, Glasgow and Weinberg, and myself independently took the next step of postulating a unification of two further forces of nature – of electromagnetism with the weak nuclear force of radioactivity – even the London ‘Economist’ took note and counselled perceptive businessmen not to ignore the likely economic consequences of this new unification.
Our theory had been indirectly confirmed through its con sequences for diverse phenomena in nuclear and atomic physics by 1978. This year, in January, the great joint European experimental laboratory at Geneva provided the direct confirmation of our theory.
We had predicted the existence of three mediators of the weak nuclear force W+, W– and Zºs. We had specified their expected masses as a consequence of the unification. The January experiment showed that W+ and W– indeed do exist, with precisely the predicted masses. This week the last particle, the Zº, has also been identified among the products of the collisions of protons and anti-protons in the 6 km accelerator at CERN. To obtain a beam of anti-protons the laboratory had to invent a new principle of ‘stochastic cooling’ of anti-protons and to execute this idea with a technical brilliance of the highest order at a cost of around 50 million dollars. This same laboratory is now engaged in building a new accelerator of 27 km circumference under the Jura mountains of Geneva for further experimentation with our theory. This will cost them half a billion dollars and will be completed by 1987. So far the only comment on these discoveries made by an Arab-Islamic journal was last month; this journal, published from London, accused me of following in my research on the unification of these fundamental forces, ‘the heretical Sufi doctrine of Wahdat al-Wujud’!
This journal has sagely counselled that we in Islam should not concern ourselves with advances in science. We should concentrate on imitative technology, assuming someone will sell it to us. This is what the Japanese are supposed to have done. We forget that the Japanese have already won four Nobel Prizes in science – three in physics and one in chemistry. Their base in fundamental sciences is as strong, or in some cases, stronger than in the West. We forget that it was this unspoken and unsung base on which they have built their innovative successes in technology. We forget that an accelerator like the one at CERN, develops sophisticated modern technology at its furthest limit. I am not advocating that we should build a CERN for Islamic countries. However, I cannot feel but envious that a relatively poor country like Greece has joined CERN, paying a subscription according to the standard GNP formula. I cannot rejoice that Turkey, or the Gulf countries, or Iran, or Pakistan seem to show no ambition to join this fount of science and get their men catapulted into the forefront of the latest technological expertise. Working with CERN accelerators brings at the least this reward to a nation, as Greece has had the perception to realise.
Let me close this part of my discussion about the mutual interrelation of science and technology with an example, nearer home, from the field of solar energy. This is a field where research is being carried out by the universities in the Gulf as well as in the North African and Middle Asian universities of the Islamic countries.
The basic problems, for example, with the development of cheaper photovoltaic devices, are material sciences problems. Solar energy is collected, and converted by materials that are optically or photo-electrically suitable. An optical convertor must use as little material as possible; how little is determined by the penetration depth of the solar light, and the drift-length of the ‘excited state’ on which the conversion is based. One can easily determine that the parameters entering these basic processes lead to thicknesses of material of the order of 1 micrometre. This then is the domain of thin films. Such films are cheap· to make, but there is no way to make them with the perfection of a single crystal. Thin films are polycrystalline or amorphous. And they carry a large density of defects. Up to now it is these defects which have limited the thin film devices to low conversion efficiencies. Thus, before any technological amelioration can come, one must solve the problems of basic solid state physics, of classifying the major defect phenomena, their effect on electron dynamics and problems of catalysis of the growth mechanism that makes these defects harmless.
What I am saying is that efficient photovoltaics do not depend on the engineers’ tinkering with solid state materials; the problem is one of solid state physics. And it is this problem of basic science which the Japanese solid state physicists have set themselves to solve systematically, before their counterparts in the USA or Europe. The Japanese will win this prize, not only because they are the more meticulous technologists, but also because they are the systematic physicists, with scientific facilities which, in many cases, are superior to what their rivals possess. The point I am making is that what the University of the Gulf will need, if it wishes in the long run to develop first rate research on photovoltaics, is a basic physics surface laboratory, in addition to technological support. The same sentiment was endorsed by the London ‘Economist’ which, in its issue of 27 September 1980, has this to say on the cherished mastery of solar energy: ‘If solar energy is to provide the solution to the world’s fuel crisis, that solution will not emerge from low-technology rooftop radiators – (which) rely on nineteenth century (science). A breakthrough (will) come from applying quantum physics, biochemistry or other sciences of the twentieth century. Today’s technology-based industries all depend on new science.’
I hope I have convinced you that in the conditions of today there can be no high technology without first-rate science. I suspect some of us believe that technology is neutral, while science is value loaded; modern science can lead to rationalism, or even apostasy – that scientifically trained men among us will ‘deny the metaphysical presuppositions of our culture.’ To such thinking, all I can say is – Do not fight the battles of yesterday when in the 9th and the 10th centuries the so-called ‘rational natural philosophers’, with their irrational and dogmatic faith in the cosmological concepts they had inherited from Aristotle, found difficulties in reconciling their concepts with their faith.
These battles were even more fiercely waged among the Christian schoolmen of the Middle Ages. This was inevitable as Maurice Bucaille has shown in his perceptive work ‘The Bible, the Koran and Science.’ The problems which concerned the schoolmen were mainly problems of cosmology and metaphysics: ‘Is the world located in an immobile place; does anything lie beyond it; is there more than one world; are the planets and stars carried around in physical spheres? Does God move the primum mobile directly and actively as an efficient cause, or only as a final or ultimate cause? Are all the heavens moved by one mover or several? Are the spheres moved by intelligences, or by some principle inherent in matter? Do celestial movers experience exhaustion or fatigue? Are all the spheres of the same nature? Are they concentric with the earth as common centre, or is it necessary to assume eccentric and epicyclic orbs? What was the nature of celestial matter? Was it like terrestrial matter in possessing an inherent substantial form and inherent qualities such as being hot, cold, moist and dry? The answers sought were either from an interpretation of the scriptures or from the authority of Aristotle.’ No wonder when Galileo tried, first, to classify those among the problems which belonged to the domain of physics, and then to find answers just to this class through physics experimentation, he was persecuted. Restitution for this is being made now three hundred and fifty years later.
I attended a special ceremony the day before yesterday in the Vatican when His Holiness the Pope, in the presence of 33 Nobel Laureates and 300 other scientists, declared: ‘The Church’s experience, during the Galileo affair and after it, has led to a more mature attitude…The Church itself learns by experience and reflection and she now understands better the meaning that must be given to freedom of research…one of the most noble attributes of man…It is through research that man attains to truth…This is why the Church is convinced that there can be no real contradiction between science and faith…(However), it is only through humble and assiduous study that (the Church) learns to dissociate the essentials of the faith from the scientific systems of a given age, especially when a culturally influenced reading of the Bible seemed to be linked to an obligatory cosmogony.’
In his remarks, the Pope stressed the maturity which the Church had reached in dealing with science; he could also have emphasised the converse phenomenon, the recognition by the scientists from Galileo’s times onwards, of the limitations of their disciplines – the recognition that there are questions which are beyond the ken of science. We may speculate about them, but there may be no way to verify empirically our speculations. And this empirical verification is the essence of science. We are humbler today than, for example, Ibn Rushd was a physician of great originality with major contributions in the study of fevers and of the retina; this is his claim to immortality in sciences. However in a different discipline – cosmology – he accepted the speculations of Aristotle, without recognising that these were speculations which future experiments may falsify. The scientist of today knows when and where he is speculating; he would claim no finality for the associated modes of thought. And even about accepted facts, we recognise that newer facts may be discovered which, without falsifying the earlier discoveries, may lead to generalisations; in turn, necessitating revolutionary changes in our concepts and our ‘world-view’. In physics, this happened in the beginning of this century with the discovery of relativity and quantum theory. It could happen again; when our present constructs could appear as limiting cases of newer concepts, still more comprehensive, still more embracing.
But even to know the limitations of our sciences, one must be part of living science; otherwise one will continue fighting yesterday’s philosophical battles today. Our men, through their demonstrated ability, must belong to that aristocracy of creators of science, where one is respected and all doors are opened if one deserves to belong to it. Like all aspects of human activity, what the Arab-Islamic Commonwealth needs are men – an elite class of them – who have shared in the pride of having created some parts of science. Our youth are craving to meet this challenge; it is this challenge which makes them migrate to Western universities and institutions. Trust them; they do possess the highest potential. If the new University of the Gulf will provide them with opportunities to create science and this, by definition, is the function of a university – they will never leave. And after providing them with these facilities, do not hustle them. It takes a decade or more of stability to build traditions of living science.
Steps Needed to Excel in Sciences
So then, how can we turn the pages of history back, and excel in science and technology once again? How can the new Gulf University ensure this excellence and attract these men back again?
In keeping with the obligations laid on us by the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet (sa), our society as a whole, and our youth in particular, must develop a passionate commitment toward bringing about a renaissance of the sciences. We must impart hard scientific training to more than half of our manpower; we must pursue basic and applied sciences, with l-2 per cent of our GNP spent on research and development, with at least a quarter to one third of this on pure sciences.
This was done in the USSR. This was done in Japan, after the 19th century Meiji revolution. And this is what is being undertaken today – in a planned manner, at a frantic speed – by the People’s Republic of China, with defined targets in space sciences, genetics, microelectronics, high energy physics, agriculture, and in the control of thermonuclear energy. There is a clear recognition in these societies that basic science is relevant science, that the frontier of today is tomorrow’s application and that one must remain at the frontier. They have realised that there is only one path to gaining ascendancy in science and technology – master science as a whole.
These societies are not seduced by slogans of ‘Japanese’ or ‘Chinese’ or ‘Indian’ science. They do not feel that the acquiring of science and technology will destroy their cultural traditions: they do not insult their own traditions by believing that these are so fragile. In this context, one may recall that the GNP of the Islamic-Arabic nations exceeds that of China, while their human resources arc not significantly smaller. And China has a lead of no more than a decade or so in the sciences over the lands of Islam.
Earlier, I spoke of patronage for the sciences. One vital aspect of this is the sense of security and continuity that a scientist- scholar must be accorded for his work. Like all humans, a scientist or technologist can only give of his best if he knows he will have security, respect and equality of opportunity for his work, and is shielded from all forms of discrimination, sectarian and political.
I have referred throughout to a commonwealth of science for the Islamic and the Arab countries. even if there may be no political commonwealth of these countries yet in sight. Such a commonwealth of science was a reality in the great days of Islamic science, when central Asians like Ibn Sina and al-Biruni would naturally write in Arabic. In those days, their contemporary (and my brother in physics), Ibn al-Haitham, could migrate from his native Basra in the dominions of the Abbasi caliph to the court of his rival, the Fatimi caliph, and be sure of receiving respect and homage – despite the political and sectarian differences that were no less acute then than they are today.
This commonwealth of science needs conscious articulation, and recognition once again, spiritually and physically, by both, us the scientists and by our governments.
Today we, the scientists from the Islamic countries, constitute a very small community – one hundredth to one tenth in size, in scientific resources, and in scientific creativity, compared to the international norms. We need to band together, to pool our resources, to feel and work as a community. We need the articulation of a compact conferring of immunity for, say, the next 25 years, during which those within this commonwealth of sciences, this Ummat-ulIlm [nation of scholars], would not be discriminated against on sectarian or national grounds.
To summarise, the renaissance of the sciences within an Islamic and Arab commonwealth is contingent upon five cardinal preconditions: passionate commitment, generous patronage, provision of security, absence of discrimination, and self-governance and internationalisation of our scientific enterprises.
What Steps can the New Gulf University Take to Nucleate and Sustain Such an Ummat-ul-Ilm?
Assuming that this will be a post-graduate university, it will strive, first and foremost, to create centres of research of international standards in basic sciences. These could emphasise mathematics, experimental solid state physics of micro-electronics and communications systems, and biotechnology, besides the regional disciplines of marine and desert sciences. The university will actively strive to link to it, through these centres, the best brains internationally, and in particular those from the Arab-Islamic Commonwealth. To facilitate these latter linkages, there will be Federation Agreements with institutes and groups of researchers in the six regions of the Arab-Islamic Commonwealth. The funds for the stay and the travel of teams of such researchers will be provided by the Gulf University. This is the pattern we follow in Trieste where we have federation links with 83 institutes in developing countries – 47 of these in the Arab-Islamic world-where we assign to researchers at each institute 40-120 days of visits at our expense. We have, in addition, for eminent individual researchers, a scheme of personal associateships based on merit; at any one time we have 200 associates, each appointee for a six year term. During these six years an associate may come to the centre thrice at times of his choosing, with a minimum stay of six and a maximum stay of twelve weeks. We pay the associate’s fare and his expenses in Trieste, but no salary. There are no formalities. The associate simply writes to say he is arriving. Such a scheme would be particularly valuable for men from the Arab-Islamic Commonwealth now working in the seventh region I mentioned – Europe and USA. These are the men whose presence at the campus of the Bahrain University will enrich it intellectually; they will bring it the newer ideas, newer techniques, newer trusts, with a minimum of delay. If the Gulf University can become a second home for these men, with a minimum of formality, it will have achieved a great deal.
I have mentioned an international laboratory in material sciences for Bahrain, with specialisation in microelectronics and modern electronic communications, including space satellite communication, to help also with the banking communications needed at Bahrain. Such a laboratory was in fact proposed for the University of Jeddah. The idea was to emphasise science transfer in addition to technology transfer and to create international laboratories, in the fields of material sciences, including surface physics and a laboratory with a synchrotron radiation light source. The facilities created would have been of the highest possible international order; the laboratories would have been open to teams of international researchers, who would congregate and work at Jeddah, just as they congregate now at the great laboratories in Hamburg, Geneva or Paris.
The project apparently has not matured, mainly, I believe, because it had sponsorship of a single rather than a consortium of Universities. I would hope that the project can be revived for the new Super Gulf University, thereby making it accessible to researchers internationally, and particularly of all the Gulf, as well as all the other universities in the Arab and Islamic countries.
I have also mentioned a super laboratory at Bahrain for biotechnology. In this context let me mention that the UNIDO organisation at Vienna is sponsoring an International Centre for this subject, like the Centre at Trieste. A competition is being organised for its location; six locations have offered facilities – these are Pakistan, India, Cuba, Thailand, Belgium and Italy. No Arab country has offered a location. If Lahore, in Pakistan, wins the competition, the UNIDO International Centre at Lahore would naturally have close links with the Gulf University facility at Bahrain.
Finally, I have emphasised an international centre for mathematics, with ramifications in computing sciences. As we all know the modern tradition in mathematics originated at the institutes in the Gulf Region, particularly in Baghdad in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, with the creation of algebra, trigonometry and analytical geometry. I do not see why we cannot create the same conditions of excellence today in mathematics and make Bahrain a world crossroads for this subject. As you probably know, one of the leading mathematicians in the world – currently a Professor at Oxford – who was awarded the most prestigious honour any one can aspire to in mathematics (the Fields Medal) is of Arab descent. I do not see why such men should not hold joint appointments between their European places of work and Bahrain and build up a modem school of mathematics here.
Let me conclude. Why am I so passionately advocating our engaging in this enterprise of creating knowledge? This is not just because Allah has endowed us with the urge to know, this is not just because in the conditions of today knowledge is power and science in application the major instrument of material progress; it is also because as part of the international world community, one feels that lash of contempt for us – unspoken, but still there – of those who create knowledge.
I can still recall a Nobel Prize Winner in physics some years ago, from a European country, say this to me: ‘Salam, do you really think we have an obligation to succour, aid and keep alive those nations, who have never created or added one iota to man’s stock of knowledge?’ And even if he had not said this, my self-respect suffers a terrible hurt whenever I enter a hospital and find that almost every potent life-saving medicament of today, from penicillin to interferon, has been created without our share of inputs from any of us in the Third World, or from the Arab-Islamic lands. The 20th century has been a century of great synthesis in science – the synthesis represented by quantum theory, relativity and unification theories in physics, by the Big Bang idea in cosmology, by the genetic code in biology, by ideas of plate tectonics in geology. Likewise in technology, with the conquest of space and the harnessing of atomic power. Just as in the 16th century when the European man discovered new continents and occupied them, the frontiers of science are being conquered one after another. Do you not feel as passionately as I do that our men in Arab-Islamic lands should also be in the vanguard of making these conquests?
I wish to conclude with two appeals – one to those responsible for creating the new university, and particularly, to the scientists among them: and the second to our rulers. First the science administrators. There are few scientists in our area, on whom you can build. This, however, would not be so if we could band together in an Ummat-ul-Ilm and create a genuine community for all Arab-Islamic lands. Believe me our situation is not that desperate, particularly if conditions are created to associate those from our lands working in the Seventh Region of Europe and USA, with our enterprise. I can only say, for all our present weaknesses, let us not be the less ambitious. Let our plans for our institution building be audacious. With ambition, and with involvement, will come competence, for this is Allah’s promise to all those who strive.
And finally, I wish to appeal to those responsible for our affairs and for funding this university and other projects I have spoken about. Science is important because of the underlying understanding it provides of the world around us and of Allah’s design; it is important because of the material benefits its discoveries can give us and finally because of its universality. It is a vehicle of cooperation of all mankind and in particular for the Arab and Islamic nations. We owe a debt to international science, which in all self-respect, we must discharge. However, the scientific enterprise cannot flourish without your generous patronage as in the past centuries of Islam. I am now living and working in a small city of one quarter of one million inhabitants. In this city is a Bank – Cassa di Risparmio – which donated 1.5 million dollars for the building in which the International Centre which I created is housed. This city has now pledged from its regional resources, 40 million dollars for the proposed UNIDO Centre for Biotechnology. I feel amazed at their perceptiveness, their love of science and eventually of technology. Shall our cities and banks not rival this example? The international norms of one to two per cent of GNP I have been speaking about would mean expenditures of no more than two to four billion dollars annually for the Arab and the same amount for the rest of the Islamic world on research and development, one quarter to one third of this spent on pure sciences. In 1973, the Pakistan government, on my suggestion, requested the Islamic Summit in Lahore to create at least one foundation for science for all lands of Islam equal in size to the Ford Foundation, with a capital of one billion dollars. Eight years later, in 1981, such a foundation was at last created but with just 50 millions promised and six million dollars paid up so far. I am sure a banking community like that at Manama alone could rival Ford’s benefaction if we really are serious about science. And this region has rich traditions in this respect. Imam Ghazzali, you may recall, paid a rich tribute in the 11th century, to the land of Iraq, when he said:
‘There is no country in which it is easier for a scholar to make a provision for his children.’ This was at the time when he was planning to become a recluse and to cut himself off from the world. We need not one such but a number of science foundations as in the West, run by the scientists themselves; we need international higher centres of learning within and without our universities, providing generous and tolerant continuity, for our men and their ideas. Let no future Gibb record that in the fifteenth century of the Hijrah, the scientists were there but there was a dearth of merchants and princes with their generous patronage to provide for the facilities needed for their work.
About the Author: Theoretical Physicist Professor Abdus Salam was an Ahmadi Muslim who had the honour of winning the Nobel Prize in the field of physics in 1979. He was also the founder of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy.