Lahore’s Love for Nobel Prizes
One city, six Nobel laureates
1. Rudyard Kipling
It was Rudyard Kipling, one of the best-known of the late Victorian poets and story-tellers, who set the tone by bagging the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907. As editor of the Civil and Military Gazette newspaper, he spent a considerable time in Lahore. Kim (1901), the story of Kimball O’Hara and his adventures in the Himalayas, is perhaps his most felicitous work. It was based on the setting of Lahore. It is to be remembered here that the cannon on The Mall in front of the Lahore Museum is called Kim’s Gun (aka Zamzama and Bhangianwali Toap) and it is named after the protagonist in the novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling, in whose childhood memoirs it is frequently mentioned. The novel opens with Kim straddling the gun. “He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher- the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum,” the opening lines read.
2. Arthur Holly Compton
Dr Arthur Compton earned the Nobel Prize in 1927 “for his discovery of the effect named after him.” He worked in Lahore’s Punjab University where he came in the academic year 1926-1927 as a Simon Guggenheim fellow and as a lecturer where he began his studies on cosmic rays. The Compton Effect is the increase in the wavelength of X-rays and other energetic electromagnetic radiations that have been elastically scattered by electrons; it is a principal way in which radiant energy is absorbed in matter. The effect has proved to be one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics, which accounts for both wave and particle properties of radiation as well as of matter.
3. Har Gobind Khorana
Har Gobind Khorana won Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968, along with Robert W. Holley and Marshall W. Nirenberg. They were awarded the prize “for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.” Khorana was born of poor Hindu parents on January 9, 1922 in a village called Raipur near what is today Kabirwala in South Punjab. Khorana’s father was a patwari. But despite lack of resources and poor educational facilities, Mr Khorana completed high school and went on to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from University of the Punjab in Lahore. In 2020, Government College University (GCU) set up a Research Chair in his name.
4. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
One of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar opened his eyes in Lahore on October 19, 1910. His father Chandrasekhara Subrahmanya Ayyar, an officer in Government Service in the Indian Audits and Accounts Department, was then in Lahore as the Deputy Auditor General of the Northwestern Railways. He won one-half of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1983 “for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars” – a theory that led to the currently accepted theory on the later evolutionary stages of massive stars.
It is to be noted here that Chandrasekhar was the nephew of Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930. Moreover, NASA’s premier X-ray observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, was named in his honor.
5. Dr Abdus Salam
Dr Abdus Salam won the Nobel Prize in Physics 1979 jointly with Sheldon Lee Glashow and Steven Weinberg “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current.” Abdus Salam was born in Jhang in 1926. His father was an official in the Department of Education. At the age of 14, he earned the highest marks ever recorded for the Matriculation Examination at the University of the Punjab, Lahore. He won a scholarship to Government College, Lahore, and took his MA in 1946. In the same year, he was awarded a scholarship to St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took a BA (honours) with a double First 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 also obtained a PhD in theoretical physics at Cambridge; his thesis, published in 1951, contained fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics which had already gained him an international reputation.
6. Dr. Adil Najam
Dr Adil Najam, the inaugural Dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, was a co-author for the Third and Fourth Assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); the work for which the scientific panel was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the public understanding of climate change science. Earlier, Dr Najam served as Vice Chancellor of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Lahore.
Adil’s father Lt. Col (retd) Imtiaz Najam hailed from an old family of Lahore. Their ancestral haveli is situated in Mori Darwaza. As an army child, he kept moving with his father, finally to attend the University of Engineering and Technology from where he earned his engineering degree and then proceeded to USA for higher education.