1979: Abdus Salam (1926-1996)

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 came to St John’s in 1946 to study Physics, gaining his BA in 1948 and PhD 1952, having previously studied at the Punjab University for a BA and MA (1944 and 1946 respectively). He was made a Research Fellow at St John’s in 1951 (while also being Professor of Mathematics at Government College, Lahore) and became a Teaching Fellow in 1954 whilst lecturing in Mathematics for the University. He left Cambridge in 1957 to join Imperial College, London, as Professor of Theoretical Physics, a post he held over 30 years, while also serving as founding Director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste from 1964.

As scientific advisor to the Government of Pakistan, he was at the forefront of scientific advancement – promoting and developing the research infrastructure of the country as well as making significant contributions to theoretical physics via his own work. He was the founding Director of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission and played an important role in Pakistan’s development of nuclear energy. He was associated with many of the major developments in particle physics, including grand unified theory, supersymmetry and electroweak theory, the latter of which garnering him his Nobel Prize.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1959, he, like many of the other Johnian Nobel Laureates, went on to reap many of its top honours: Hughes Medal in 1964, Royal Medal in 1978, Bakerian Lecture in 1985 and the Copley Medal in 1990. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of St John’s in 1972. In 1979 he was awarded Pakistan’s highest honour, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, and made an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 1989.