Born in Jhang in January 1926, Abdus Salam would become of the first Pakistani and the first Muslim to win a Nobel Prize for science, specifically in theoretical physics. His father was an official for the Department of Education of the Punjab State, so he didn’t go to bed hungry; and his family had a long tradition as religious scholars, and so were respected. When Abdus cycled home from Lahore at the age of 14, having gained the highest marks ever recorded for entrance to the University of the Punjab, the entire village turned out to congratulate him.
Needless-to-say, the boy Abdus won a full scholarship at the university; although interested in Urdu and English literature and comparative religion, he chose to study mathematics (a curious choice). At the age of 20, he completed his MA, and was that year awarded a scholarship at Cambridge; in 1950, he received recognition for the most outstanding pre-doctoral contribution to physics.
Returning to Pakistan in 1951, taking up the post of head of the Mathematics Department at Punjab University, intending to found a school for research, Salam soon realized what other young geniuses had – his hometown just didn’t have the opportunities available elsewhere. In 1954 he accepted a lectureship at Cambridge, but visited his native land often as an advisor on science policy; from 1961 to 1971, he was Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan. And for 40 years he was a prolific researcher and writer in theoretical elementary particle physics, culminating with a shared Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for his work on electroweak unification. Throughout, Abdus remained a devout Muslim – married twice and father of six – until he died in November 1996.