Salam, Abdus

Salam, Abdus
▪ 1997

      Pakistani physicist (b. Jan. 29, 1926, Jhang Maghiana, Punjab, India [now Pakistan]—d. Nov. 21, 1996, Oxford, Eng.), shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics with Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Lee Glashow. Each had independently formulated a theory explaining the underlying unity of the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force, two of the four basic forces of nature. This so-called electroweak theory showed that the two forces are actually manifestations of a single fundamental force and laid the groundwork for the development of an as-yet-unachieved unified field theory, in which all four forces of nature (including the strong nuclear force and gravity) are described in terms of a single framework. Salam was the first person from an Islamic country to win a Nobel Prize. He received the highest scores ever recorded on an entrance examination to the Punjab University system and entered Government College at Lahore to study mathematics (M.A., 1946). Salam won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he took highest honours in mathematics and physics (B.A., 1949) and received a doctorate in theoretical physics (1952). He went on to teach in Pakistan (1951-54), but frustration at the dearth of research opportunities in his native land prompted him to return to Cambridge. In 1957 he became professor of theoretical physics at the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of London, and carried out research there until his death. Salam, who was interested in the education and professional development of scientists in Third World countries, helped found the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, a research institute set up to train young scientists from less-developed countries. He served as director of the institute (1964-93) and president (1994-96) and was involved in a number of international and national committees, such as the United Nations Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (1964-75) and Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission (1958-74). He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1959 and was the recipient of many awards, including the Copley Medal (1990).

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▪ Pakistani physicist
born Jan. 29, 1926, Jhang Maghiāna, Punjab, India [now in Pakistan]
died Nov. 21, 1996, Oxford, Eng.

      Pakistani nuclear physicist who was the corecipient with Steven Weinberg (Weinberg, Steven) and Sheldon Lee Glashow (Glashow, Sheldon Lee) of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics for their work in formulating the electroweak theory, which explains the unity of the weak nuclear force (weak force) and electromagnetism.

      Salam attended the Government College at Lahore, and in 1952 he received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge. He returned to Pakistan as a professor of mathematics in 1951–54 and then went back to Cambridge as a lecturer in mathematics. He became professor of theoretical physics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, in 1957. Salam was the first Pakistani and the first Muslim scientist to win a Nobel Prize. In 1964 he helped found the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste, Italy, in order to provide support for physicists from Third World countries. He served as the centre's director until his death.

      Salam carried out his Nobel Prize–winning research at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in the 1960s. His hypothetical equations, which demonstrated an underlying relationship between the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force, postulated that the weak force must be transmitted by hitherto-undiscovered particles known as weak vector bosons (intermediate vector boson), or W and Z bosons. Weinberg and Glashow reached a similar conclusion using a different line of reasoning. The existence of the W and Z bosons was eventually verified in 1983 by researchers using particle accelerators at CERN.

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Universalium. 2010.

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