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Abdus Salam

BornJanuary 29, 1926
JhangPunjabBritish Raj
DiedNovember 21, 1996 (aged 70)
Oxford, England, United Kingdom
FieldsTheoretical Physics
InstitutionsPakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)
Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission(SUPARCO)
Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology(PINSTECH)
Punjab University
Imperial College, London
Government College
University of Cambridge
International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)
Edward Bouchet Abdus Salam Institute
Alma materUniversity of the Punjab
Government College
St John's College, Cambridge
Doctoral advisorNicholas Kemmer
Paul Matthews
Doctoral studentsMichael Duff
Walter Gilbert
John Moffat
Yuval Ne'eman
John Polkinghorne
Masud Ahmad
Ghulam Murtaza
Munir Ahmad Rashid
Other notable studentsMunir Ahmad Khan
Faheem Hussain
Pervez Hoodbhoy
Abdul Hameed Nayyar
Known forElectroweak theory
Pati-Salam model
Pakistan's atomic program
Pakistan's space program
Notable awardsNobel Prize in Physics (1979)
Smith's Prize
Adams Prize
Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1979)
Sitara-e-Pakistan (1959)

Mohammad Abdus Salam[2] (Urduمحمد عبد السلام) (January 29, 1926; JhangPunjab, British Raj (present-day Pakistan) – November 21, 1996; Oxford, England)[3] was aPakistani theoretical physicistastrophysicist and Nobel laureate in Physics for his work in Electro-Weak Theory. Salam, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg shared the prize for this discovery. Salam holds the distinction of being the first Pakistani and the firstMuslim Nobel Laureate to receive the prize in the Sciences. Even today, Salam is considered one of the most influential scientists and physicists in his country.


Youth and education

Salam's father was an officer in the Department of Education in a poor farming district. His family has a long tradition of piety and learning.
At age fourteen, Salam scored the highest marks ever recorded for the MatriculationExamination at the Punjab University. He won a scholarship to the Government College, Punjab University, in Lahore. As a fourth-year student there, he published his work onSrinivasa Ramanujan.[4] He received his master's degree from the Government College in 1946. That same year, he was awarded a scholarship to St. John's CollegeCambridge University, where he completed a BA degree with Double First-Class Honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1949. In 1950, he received the Smith's Prize from Cambridge University for the most outstanding pre-doctoral contribution to Physics.
He obtained a PhD degree in Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. His doctoral thesis contained fundamental work in Quantum Electrodynamics. By the time it was published in 1951, it had already gained him an international reputation and the Adams Prize.[5]

Later career

He returned to the Government College University, Lahore as a Professor of Mathematics from 1951 to 1954 and then went back to Cambridge as a lecturer in mathematics.
In 1956 he was invited to take a chair at Imperial College, London, where he and Paul Matthews created a lively theoretical physics group. He remained a professor at Imperial until his retirement.
During the early 1960s Salam played a very significant role in establishing the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) – the atomic research agency of Pakistan – andSpace and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) – the space research agency of Pakistan, of which he was the founding director. Due to Prof. Salam's influence President Ayub Khan had the Nuclear Power Plant near Karachi (KANUPP) personally approved, against the wishes of his own Government[6]. Salam was also instrumental in setting up five Superior Science colleges throughout Pakistan to further the progress in science in the country. Salam was a firm believer that "scientific thought is the common heritage of mankind," and that developing nations needed to help themselves and invest into their own scientists to boost development and reduce the gap between the Global South and the Global North, thus contributing to a more peaceful world. Salam also founded the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and was a leading figure in the creation of a number of international centres dedicated to the advancement of science and technology.
In 1964, Salam founded International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, in the North-East of Italy. He was the Director of ICTP from 1964 to December 1993. The Centre has since been renamed to (The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics). In 1959, he became one of the youngest to be named Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 33. His dedicated personal assistant was Jean Bouckley
In 1998, the Government of Pakistan issued a stamp carrying his portrait as part of a series entitled "Scientists of Pakistan."[7]. He was a foreign fellow of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences [8]


Abdus Salam was a devout Muslim, and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community[9], who saw his religion as integral to his scientific work. He once wrote: "The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah's created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart."[5]
During his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Physics, Salam quoted the following verses from the Quran:
Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.
He then said:
This, in effect, is the faith of all physicists; the deeper we seek, the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze.[10]
In 1974, when the Parliament of Pakistan declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, he left Pakistan for London in protest.


The defaced grave of Abdus Salam in Rabwah
Salam died on 21st November 1996 at the age of 70 in Oxford, England after a long illness. His body was brought to Pakistan and kept in Darul Ziafat, where some 13,000 men and women visited to pay their last respects. Some 30,000 people attended his funeral prayers.
Salam was buried in the graveyard Bahishti Maqbara in Rabwah next to his parents' graves. Theepitaph on his tomb initially read "First Muslim Nobel Laureate" but, because of Salam's adherence to the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, the word "Muslim" was later erased on the orders of a local magistrate, leaving the nonsensical "First Nobel Laureate".[11]
Salam was responsible for laying the groundwork for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, initiating research on problems of waterlogging and salinity, and agricultural research. He played a crucial role in PAEC and SUPARCO, the National Space Agency of Pakistan. He helped Pakistan's scientists and engineers to be trained in nuclear applications and nuclear science.


In 1988, Government of Pakistan issued the stamp carrying the photo of Dr. Salam as a part of "Scientists of Pakistan."
Abdus Salam's work in Pakistan has been far reaching and influential. He has made extraordinary contributions to Pakistan's nuclear, space and missile programs. Therefore, in 1998, the Government of Pakistan issued a commemorative stamp to honour the services of Abdus Salam as part of its "Scientists of Pakistan" series.
Abdus Salam has been commemorated by Pakistan's noted and prominent scientists, who were also his students. Many scientists have recalled their college experiences. Ghulam Murtaza, a professor of plasma physics at theGovernment College UniversityLahore has said:
" When Dr. Salam was to deliver a lecture, the hall would be packed and although the subject was Particle Physics, his manner and eloquence was such as if he was talking about literature. When he finished his lectures, listeners would often burst into spontaneous applause and give him a standing ovation. People from all parts of the worldwould come to Imperial College and seeks Dr. Salam's help. He would give a patient hearing to everyone including those who were talking nonsense. He treated everyone with respect and compassion and never belittled or offended anyone. Dr. Salam's strength was that he could "sift jewels from the sand" [12].
Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, former PAEC chairman and a life long friend of Salam who previously served as a formerprofessor of nuclear physics at the Quaid-i-Azam University, recalls:
"Dr. Abdus Salam was responsible for sending about 500 physicists, mathematicians and scientists fromPakistan, for PhD’s to the best institutions in UK and USA" [1].
In August of 1996, former chairmen of PAEC and lifelong friends, Munir Ahmad Khan and dr. Ishfaq Ahmad met with Salam in OxfordUnited KingdomMunir Ahmad Khan (late), former PAEC chairman who headed the nuclear weapons and power program, said:
"My last meeting with Abdus Salam was only three months ago. His disease had taken its toll and he was unable to talk. Yet he understood what was said. I told him about the celebration held in Pakistan on his seventieth birthday. He kept staring at me. He had risen above praise. As I rose to leave he pressed my hand to express his feelings as if he wanted to thank everyone who had said kind words about him. Dr. Abdus Salam had deep love for Pakistan in spite of the fact that he was treated unfairly and indifferently by his own country. It became more and more difficult for him to come to Pakistan and this hurt him deeply. Now he has returned home finally, to rest in peace for ever in the soil that he loved so much. May be in the years to come we will rise above our prejudice and own him and give him, after his death, what we could not when he was alive. We Pakistanis may choose to ignore Dr. Salam, but the world at large will always remember him[12]."

Documentary film (Docufilm)

A documentary film on the life and science of Abdus Salam is in the works and will be directed by Sabiha Sumar[1] subject to collection of donations valued to $500,000.

Career in science

The road named after Abdus Salam inCERNGeneva
Salam returned to Pakistan in 1951 to teach Mathematics at the Government CollegeLahore. In 1952, he became the Head of the Mathematics Department of the Punjab University. In 1954, Salam went for a lectureship at Cambridge, although he visited Pakistan from time to time as an adviser on science policy to the Government of Pakistan. His work for Pakistan was far-reaching and influential. He was a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and work their as a chief scientist with his students, a member of the Scientific Commission of Pakistan, FounderChairman of Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission and Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of Pakistan from 1961 to 1974.
From 1957 onwards, he was Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London. From 1964 onwards, has combined this position with that of Director of the International Centre For Theoretical Physics, a research institution in Trieste, Italy.
Salam had a prolific research career in theoretical elementary particle physics. He either pioneered or was associated with all the important developments in this field. He also served on a number of United Nations committees concerning science and technology in developing countries.[5]. Many prominent scientists, which includes, Ghulam MurtazaRiazuddinKamaluddin AhmedFaheem HussainRaziuddin SiddiquiMunir Ahmad KhanIshfaq Ahmad, and I. H. Usmani, considered him as their chief mentor and a teacher. Abdus salam played a important and a crucial role in preparing and teaching of future Pakistani engineers and scientists in the field of mathematics and physics.

Pakistan's Space Program

It was Salam's advice to the President Field Marshal Ayub Khan, that led to the establishment of the national space agency of Pakistan. On16 September 1961Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) was established by an executive order. Salam was appointed its first chairman[13]. To provide the man power, Salam had sent numerous Pakistani scientists abroad. Salam also appointed Air Commodore (Brigadier-GeneralWladyslaw Turowicz, a noted Pakistani-Polish military scientist and an engineer, as Pakistan's rocket firing head.

Involvement in Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Programme

Abdus Salam knew the importance of nuclear technology in Pakistan. Salam was a central figure in Pakistan's nuclear program. Abdus Salam was responsible for establishing the nuclear research institutes in Pakistan. In 1972, Government of Pakistan learned about the India's nuclear weapon program. Former Prime minister, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, formed a group of nuclear scientists and engineers, initially headed by Abdus Salam. In 1965, the plutonium reactor Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor went critical under the leadership of dr. Salam. In 1972, Salam, as science advisor to the President, had arranged a secret meeting of nuclear scientists to meet Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Multan, which is known as "Multan Meeting"[14]. Few months after the meeting, Salam, along with Munir Ahmad Khan and Riazuddin, met with Bhutto in his residence where the scientists have had briefed Bhutto about the nuclear program. After the meeting, Salam and Munir Ahmad Khan were made the head of the nuclear program. Salam also had done the groundbreaking work of the "Theoretical Physics Group", which was initially headed by Salam till 1974[15].
In December 1972, two theoretical physicists working at the ICTP were asked by Salam to report to noted Pakistani nuclear scientist, Munir Ahmad Khan (late), then-PAEC chairman[16]. This marked the beginning of the “Theoretical Physics Group" or TPG. The TPG, in PAEC, was assigned to develop the theoretical designs Pakistan's nuclear weapon devices. The TPG team under the leadership of Riazuddin, who is also Salam's distinguished student, completed the work on the theoretical design of the Nuclear weapon device by 1977[16].


Salam's primary focus was research on the physics of elementary particles. His particular contributions included:


  • Nobel Prize in Physics (Stockholm, Sweden)(1979)
  • Hopkins Prize (Cambridge University) for "the most outstanding contribution to Physics during 1957-1958"
  • Adams Prize (Cambridge University) (1958)
  • Sitara-e-Pakistan for contribution to science in Pakistan (1959).
  • First recipient of Maxwell Medal and Award (Physical Society, London) (1961)
  • Hughes Medal (Royal Society, London) (1964)
  • Atoms for Peace Award (Atoms for Peace Foundation) (1968)
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Medal and Prize (University of Miami) (1971)
  • Guthrie Medal and Prize (1976)
  • Matteuci Medal (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome) (1978)
  • John Torrence Tate Medal (American Institute of Physics) (1978)
  • Royal Medal (Royal Society, London) (1978)
  • Nishan-e-Imtiaz for outstanding performance in Scientific projects in Pakistan (1979)
  • Einstein Medal (UNESCO, Paris) (1979)
  • Shri R.D. Birla Award (India Physics Association) (1979)
  • Josef Stefan Medal (Josef Stefan Institute, Ljublijana) (1980)
  • Gold Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Physics (Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Prague) (1981)
  • Lomonosov Gold Medal (USSR Academy of Sciences) (1983)
  • Copley Medal (Royal Society, London) (1990)

Institutes named after Abdus Salam


  1. a b -Dr Abdus Salam - The ’Mystic’ scientist
  2. ^ This is the standard transliteration (e.g. see the ICTP Websiteand Nobel Bio). Other transliterations include Abdus Salam; seeAbd as-Salam for more details.
  3. ^ Kibble, T.W.B. (November 1998). "Muhammad Abdus Salam, K. B. E.. 29 January 1926-21 November 1996"Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 44: 386–401.doi:10.1098/rsbm.1998.0025. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  4. ^ Abdus Salam, A Problem of Ramanujam, Publ. in: Math. Student XI, Nos.1–2, 50–51 (1943)
  5. a b c Abdus Salam Nobel Prize in Physics Biography
  6. ^ Contributions of Professor Abdus Salam as member of PAEC
  7. ^ Philately (1998-11-21). "Scientists of Pakistan". Pakistan Post Office Department. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  8. ^ List of Fellows of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979 - Banquet Speech
  11. ^ Isambard Wilkinson (2007-12-25). "Pakistan clerics persecute 'non Muslims'"Daily Telegraph.
  12. a b Chowk: Science: Dr Abdus Salam - The ’Mystic’ scientist
  13. ^
  14. ^ Rehman, Shahid (1999). Theoretical Physics Group, A Cue from Manhattan Project.
  15. ^ Rehman, Shahid (1999). Professor Abdus Salam and Pakistan's Nuclear Program.
  16. a b "Shahid-ur-Rahman Khan, Long Road to Chaghi(Islamabad: Print Wise Publications, 1999),pp. 37–39.
  17. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979"Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
  18. ^ Hélein, Frédéric (2008). "A representation formula for maps on supermanifolds". Journal of Mathematical Physics 49 (023506): 1 & 19. doi:10.1063/1.2840464
  19. ^ Lauren Caston and Rita Fioresi (October 30, 2007)."Mathematical Foundations of Supersymmetry"arXiv. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
  20. ^ A. Salam (1966). "Magnetic monopole and two photon theories of C-violation". Physics Letters 22: 683–684. doi:10.1016/0031-9163(66)90704-9.
  21. ^ Abdus Salam - Curriculum Vitae