THE WORLD has seen very few Nobel Laureates, who built their scientific careers against heaviest possible odds, yet devoted much of their lives in serving the cause of mankind’s welfare. Prof. Dr. Abdus Salam stands at par with the historic giants of scientific discovery, and head and shoulders above those who deeply cared about humanity. He especially agonized over the predicament of billions in the developing world, who lead miserable lives in spite of the enormous strides towards human development taken in the West during the past couple of centuries. In the wake of this disparity and divide, he wondered why the leaders of the developing countries could not see what was as evident as the palm of their hands. With his sharp intellect, he condensed lengthy narratives of development economics and psychosomatic comparisons in one single phrase; the difference of people in the North and the South is merely a difference in their mastery of Science and Technology. With this prescription, he set himself the target of building scientific capacity of the under-developed countries. The impediments of this venture were not unknown to him; he himself had to cross the barriers of indifference and isolation. Unlike armchair intellectuals, he put his energies to practical work and used his enormous passion to bring about real change of mindsets. His story of scientific excellence and institution-building for the South is well known. The institutions, like ICTP and TWAS, have become the epitome of his grand vision. The world recognizes his genius and admits his stature as a visionary, who practiced what he preached.
In Pakistan, his legacy lives on in the form of outstanding scientists, who built their careers by experiencing the bohemian life at ICTP campus overlooking the calm waters of Adriatic Sea in Trieste. He will also be remembered for the institutions that symbolize his life-long ambition of turning the wheels of history and bringing the love of knowledge, tolerance and enlightenment to his native land. To him acquisition of scientific knowledge was the noblest of all quests. For this he has left with us the International Nathiagali Summer College, National Centre for Physics (NCP), Salam Prizes in basic sciences, and above-all, the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS).
As a realization of his ever-expanding agenda to instill scientific culture in developing countries, Salam wanted to up-scale his triumph at Trieste and looked for avenues of an autonomous Commission of the countries of the South, having a network of world-class R&D centres. Given more time, and support by those who never really shared his vision and drive, he could have established such centres from the scratch. In the end, he settled for connecting the existing R&D centres in different developing countries through their affiliation with COMSATS, setting the stage for a long-term South-South cooperation.
Salam lives on in his intellectual achievements and the excellent work of institutions he helped create.
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