Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate

This evening I noticed that a recent documentary about Abdus Salam, entitled Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate, has just appeared on Netflix, and I spent some time watching it. The title is a reference to Salam’s membership in the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, which in Pakistan has been declared heretical, and thus Salam not Muslim.

I enjoyed watching the film, and learned a lot I didn’t know about Salam, but there’s not a great deal in the film about his actual work in theoretical physics. While starting to write more here about the film based on some notes I took while watching it, I noticed that Matin Durrani last year at Physics World wrote an excellent detailed review of the film, and I recommend you consult that for more details.

Among those interviewed are Chris Isham and Michael Duff, who have interesting comments on what it was like to work with him. I was pleased to see that one old photograph had him standing in front of a blackboard that prominently featured “Unitary G-reps”.

Update: For another detailed review of the film, see here.

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5 Responses to Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate

  1. AcademicLurker says:

    I’ve been searching in vain for interesting things to watch on netflix lately. Thanks for mentioning this, I’ll probably check it out this weekend.

    All I know about Salam is what I read in Frank Close’s The Infinity Puzzle.

  2. Peter Woit says:

    AcademicLurker,
    A main goal of this posting was exactly to just point to this as something Netflix subscribers might want to look at. Also, since it’s about Nobel season, there’s a little justification for discussing something which largely was about a Nobel Prize. There’s a lot in the film about Salam getting the Nobel Prize, and the significance of that (including an amusing comment from Weinberg contrasting positively Salam’s outfit with the penguin suits everyone else was wearing). Almost nothing though in the film about Salam’s actual work on the electroweak theory. Close’s book is good for that, there’s also an old blog post here
    https://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=3972
    although the Dombey article it discusses seems to have an ax to grind.

  3. David Derbes says:

    In 1975 I had just come out of the Part III Mathematical Tripos exams. I did well, but not well enough to stay at Cambridge. I was shopped to Imperial, Durham and Edinburgh. Durham, through Euan Squires, seemed to me all Regge all the time, no thanks. At Imperial I met Tom Kibble who was the soul of gentle kindness. He took me twice to see Salam, separated by an hour or so. Salam was never in. I knew his work, but it seemed to me that he would be tough to work with if he couldn’t be found. I wrote to Kemmer at Edinburgh, and he invited me to travel north, where I had a chance to talk to Higgs. That went well, and in the fall I started working with Higgs. There is a bit more about Salam in Crease and Mann’s The Second Creation, and there is a Salam biography with the somewhat scary title Cosmic Anger by Gordon Fraser. It’s on my nightstand with another two dozen books. I’ve read a bit of it, but found it slow going. I really admire what Salam tried to do at the ICTP (a hell of a lot of the early supersymmetry stuff came out of there), and there is a touching story in Second Creation about Salam taking on Ne’eman as a research student.

  4. Anonyrat says:

    A story & interview published in Pakistan, Abdus Salam with Shahid Nadeem, originally published 1984; republished April 2019.
    https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153774

  5. Robert Delbourgo says:

    I knew Salam very well and from what I have been reading about this film it is a pity that his scientific achievements are largely skated over.

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